If there were ever a field that should build solidarity but doesn’t, theater would be it. Playwrights are encouraged to compete for the privilege of association. Our bios are lists of institutions from which we borrow value; each name grants you permission to call yourself an artist. The structure of the industry invites exploitation and mistreatment. It limits the art we choose to make, as well as our relationships to one another.
Each insular world—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant—is beholden to the larger one, and reinforces the injustices that shape it. Last summer, hundreds of people pointed out the obvious: the theater world is systemically racist. Theaters scrambled to respond, and continue to come up short, as they tend to believe that a diverse staff and a diverse roster of plays are an end in itself. If this were true, We See You White American Theater would have a list of demands that is less than 30 pages long. These demands paint a pretty extraordinary picture of racism, exclusion and exploitation, but alongside it appears a tantalizing negative image. For me, it begs the question: Why are we asking institutions to be less racist, less sexist, less ableist, less greedy, instead of building the kind of inclusive structures we actually want?Read alum Molly Hagan’s full essay on Theater and “mutual aid” here.
Current playwright Catherine Weingarten just wrote a piece for the theater website Howlround. The piece is called “Creating Complex Female Characters” and discusses female character tropes and ways to break away. It also gives a little bit of writing advice for people who want to make their female characters a little more dynamic!
Here’s an excerpt:
Here is the kind of female character I want to see onstage: the flawed female character, the complex female character, the hot mess in search of something better female character. I want to go to plays and see women who aren’t “perfect” or “strong” but have humanity. In my own plays, I tell stories about myself and the women in my life. I love writing female characters with flaws because that’s real. I don’t want to go to a play about some perfect chick who does her nails and fights crime and has no insecurities (just thinking about that makes me wanna sleep). I write plays about girls who make really really bad choices (like sleeping with their karate teacher or therapist) and then have to figure out what to do next. Also, writing flawed women is way more fun for actresses to play since they have some meat.
Read the whole thing here
More about Catherine
Catherine Weingarten hails from Ardmore, PA also known as the area that inspired the preppy sexy TV show “Pretty Little Liars” and is a NYC friendly playwright. Catherine’s comedic plays delve into the societal pressure placed on young women to be both impossibly good looking as well as ridiculously intellectual, humble, kind as can be but sexy. Her plays usually include some hot fantasy sequences which helps attract the common man into the theater! She graduated from Bennington College in Vermont where she studied playwriting with Sherry Kramer. Her 10 minute sex fantasy play “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” was a National Semi-Finalist at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Her full length playwriting credits include: staged reading of Are You Ready to get Pampered!? produced at the Dixon Place, Less Than Rent and Last Frontier Theater Conference Playlab series; staged reading of This Car Trip Suckss produced by Piper Theater Productions; and Karate Hottie produced by West of 10th in NYC. She is currently the playwright in residence for “Realize Your Beauty Inc” which promotes positive body image for kids by way of theater arts. Catherine is thrilled to pursue her MFA at OU and thankful for the awesome opportunity for baller mentorship. catherine-weingarten.squarespace.com
Read Jason Half’s short, thoughtful article on the writing process and voice here!
Here is a little excerpt:
Writers might not spend a lot of time considering and defining their individual creative voices, and that’s probably a good thing. As often with the writing process, overthinking and overanalyzing can become a liability. But taking a few minutes to identify your own artistic voice may strengthen your future writing and offer a new perspective on previous work.
On the surface, a creative voice seems like an easy feature to spot. Stephen King’s voice is markedly different from Raymond Chandler’s, and Agatha Christie’s voice would likely not be mistaken by faithful readers with those of P.D. James or Ruth Rendell. Some of the elements defining voice are obvious signifiers, like narrative style or tone or type of story. Algorithms could be built, using word choices and genre structures and character types, which could reliably identify the data-driven aspects of voice. This one must be Charles Dickens. Hello there, Shakespeare.
More about Jason
Jason Half is a graduate of Ohio University’s M.F.A. Playwriting program. His stage plays have had readings in Chicago and Pittsburgh and performances in Maine, Ohio, and Minnesota. He is the recipient of the 2010 Scott McPherson Playwriting Award and, as writer and director, his film THE BALLAD OF FAITH DIVINE won the Best Feature award at 2009’s Colony Film Festival. His one-act play LOCKED ROOM MISERY has received productions at Marietta College and Washington State Community College in southern Ohio. Recently, two television scripts have been finalists in national screenwriting contests. Jason has taught film, theater, scriptwriting, literature and composition courses at colleges in West Virginia and southern Ohio.
MFA Playwriting alum Cecilia Copeland is in the journal HowlRound today discussing her play “R Culture,” and how we as playwrights and theater practitioners should consider framing our approach to rape culture. From her essay:
This question of how to deal with rape on stage without creating more “rape culture” is paramount as we, as artists, attempt to express our experiences, create space for conversations, and build opportunities for change. – See more at: http://howlround.com/rape-culture-on-stage-or-as-subject
Rachel Bykowski,our Chicago based first year MFA playwright, gives a thoughtful interview for TCG about her experience being a female playwright and her hope for more opportunities in the future for female identified writers.
Here’s an awesome quote from the interview:
“Theatre is not exclusive; it is inclusive. It is important for men to hear these conversations in order for them to understand how important parity is and how it strengthens their theatre community. While working with an all women theatre company, I have had the opportunity to engage in conversations with men who share our ideas and dream of true gender parity in theatre. The theatre companies, ensembles, and productions that have been created based off of conversations like that, are truly some of the most dynamic pieces of art I have ever witnessed and only strengthen the community at large because everyone is working together toward the same goal.”
Read the full interview here
Ira Gamerman, 2012 MFA Playwriting alum, has penned another provocative HowlRound piece. Read it. It may save your life in the current zombie apocalypse: http://howlround.com/bardcore-will-never-die-but-you-will. HowlRound is an important national journal focused on examining what role new live theater plays in our contemporary world; a previous HowlRound piece he wrote can be found here.
Gamerman also has won awards as a regular writer for The Truth, a popular audio-fiction-radio-play podcast. The Truth recently joined PRX’s Radiotopia, which is a new network featuring the best and most creative podcasts (99% Invisible, Theory Of Everything, Etc).
OU MFA Playwright Alum Sarah Katherine Bowden has a new essay “A Place In The Conversation: Portraying Disability Onstage on the popular theater website Howlround.
You can also check her website out at: http://sarahbowden.weebly.com/