A discussion of the startling lack of female creative forces on Broadway this season.
By Ryan Bogner (Producer, Wingnut)
I'm going to shy away from doing my typical style of post and address an issue I came across when taking a cold hard look at the current Broadway season.
Here are a few shocking facts about Broadway in 2010-2011:
Of the 39 Tony-eligible plays and musicals that opened this season, only 5 were directed by women.
Think that's bad? Of the 9 new musicals that have a Tony-eligible original score only one, Roundabout's The People In the Picture, in the form of Lyricist and Bookwriter Iris Rainer Dart, has any kind of female song-writing presence. Besides Rainer Dart, the only female bookwriting presence is in Sister Act's co-bookwriter Cheri Steinkellner.
There were no new plays on Broadway this season by female playwrights.
The show that comes the closest is Emma Rice's adaptation of Brief Encounter, which she also directed. It should also be noted that of the few new shows that were either directed or partially written by a woman, all but two were produced at Not-For Profit Theaters.
So what is the commerical theater's beef with female writers and directors? and does it even matter that they aren't equally represented?
According to the Broadway League's own demographics survey from last season, 69 percent of the people buying tickets for Broadway are female.
You would think perhaps commercial producers would do well to have a female perspective on board if their target ticket-buying audience is mostly women.
Though the facts could point to outright sexism...it seems highly unlikely, I would venture to guess the problem stems more from the increasingly risk-averse producing climate on Broadway.
Producers have tremendous pressure to raise a considerable amount of money from their investors with a very slim chance of return. As such they often turn to known commodities when assembling their creative team...and unfortunately there are just a greater number of male writers and directors with a proven track record.
This of course becomes a vicious cycle and a catch-22 in the worst way. How do female writers and directors make their mark if they aren't given a chance? And how will their numbers grow if producers don't make a concerted effort to foster new female talent?
The talent is definitely out there. We just aren't seeing it on Broadway.
Recently the Theater Development Fund did a massive study on playwrights and new plays which they published in their fantastic book OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE: the Life and Times of the New Play. In their survey of produced playwrights they discovered that "when separated by gender, male and female playwrights report no significance in the number of plays produced" The book notes that the difference is in the SCALE of the productions. Men are the ones getting produced at larger institutional theaters, and on Broadway...as is evident in this current season.
If you haven't read this fantastic book pick it up here.
I'd find it interesting for someone to mount an extensive study on the lives and livelihoods of women in creative positions in the theater. I do think the landscape is changing for the better, with more and more women getting their plays produced and more female directors providing recognition, but it would be interesting to have some quantitative data on the subject...especially on the difference in royalty income and scale of their produced shows.
What are your feelings on the state of the female playwright or director in this country? Anyone reading this from SDC or the Dramatist's Guild want to weigh in with statistics? How should the theater-makers of the world start to address this problem? To that end do you even think it IS a problem that there's a seeming gender disparity? Comment below...I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Follow Ryan on Twitter by clicking here.