The Tony Award nominations were handed out this morning. The thing I noticed immediately is that not a single play written by a woman was nominated. Turns out the problem is that a woman couldn’t be nominated because NOT A SINGLE WOMAN-WRITTEN PLAY WAS PRODUCED ON BROADWAY THIS SEASON. Granted, the pool for new plays is not huge. There were only 10 produced in total. But still. Where are the women?
And don’t fucking tell me that women are not writing plays that are not “good enough” to be on Broadway. Annie Baker won the Pulitzer Prize for The Flick. It played off-Broadway at Playwright’s Horizons and will be re-opening for a commercial run, albeit still off-Broadway. The other two finalists for the drama Pulitzer were also written by women. The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George was also at Playwrights Horizons (they are clearly doing something right), in addition to Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s musical Fun Home. (Please tell me why this isn’t on Broadway.) And Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined never made it to Broadway. It ran for months and months off-Broadway and was spectacular.
While the plays above are successful and will most likely have productions elsewhere where the writers can earn some money, we all know the big money is made on Broadway. When women can’t get to the top tier of any profession, they can’t develop careers over time and end up having to work other jobs. Then we lose their voices. Theatre is not a place where many people can have full-time careers, but it should be a place where women and people of color have a fighting chance. But theatre remains a white boys’ club, and the yearly Tony Award nominations starkly illustrate that problem.
And let’s look at the musicals. No woman was nominated for best book of a musical and no woman was nominated for best original score (music and lyrics), and yet somehow Woody Allen still gets a nomination. There is one woman, Leigh Silverman, nominated for directing a musical for Violet (no woman was nominated for best direction of a play), and yet Susan Stroman was snubbed for her direction of Bullets Over Broadway (she did get a nod for choreography.) Other top-tier female talents who were snubbed include Marsha Norman and Lynn Ahrens.
The interesting thing about this picture is that it’s women who are fueling Broadway audiences. A recent NY Times piece estimated that the Broadway audience was 68% women. Theatre is desperate to get more guys in the seats, especially at male-targeted musicals like Rocky. Based on that article, Broadway’s desperation is palpable. There is a lot of money at stake, and shows are closing because they can’t figure out how to appeal to straight men, and they can’t convince the women to bring the men.
Broadway needs women to survive, and yet routinely devalues women’s perspectives and creative contributions. It’s mind-boggling.