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Study Shows That More Plays Written by Women Are Being Staged

Study Shows That More Plays Written by Women Are Being Staged

One month ago the women responsible for bringing “Fun Home” to the stage made history at the 69th annual Tony Awards. Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron became the first all-female writing team to win a Tony for Best Original Score. A study released this week heralds more good news for women in theater — more female playwrights are having work produced than a decade ago. 

“The Count,” led by playwrights Marsha Norman and Julia Jordan, studied 2,508 productions at nonprofit theaters nationwide, which, as The New York Times points out, “remain the breeding ground for bigger productions.” “Fun Home,” for example, was hatched at the Public Theater in NYC before moving to Broadway. “The Count” shows that over the past three seasons, approximately one-fifth of the productions were written by women — 22 percent, to be exact.

While 22 percent doesn’t sound like an especially encouraging number, keep in mind that a 2002 report from the New York State Council on the Arts revealed that female playwrights were behind 17 percent of productions. Norman called the five percent increase “significant,” noting that “[i]f that could continue, we could get to where we need to be, which is parity.” 

Unfortunately at this rate of growth — five percent in 13 years — parity won’t be achieved for over 65 years. Still, the fact that the numbers are getting higher is a good thing. The numbers improving at a faster rate would be even better. 

“We wanted to create a baseline and to document the change,” explained Jordan. From now on, “The Count,” which was funded by the Lilly Awards and the Dramatists Guild, will be released annually. 

The number of productions varied quite dramatically by city. In Chicago, for instance, 36 percent of productions were written by female playwrights, whereas Portland, Oregon featured only 17.5 percent. It will be interesting to follow “The Count” on an annual basis to see which — if any — cities are consistently progressive when it comes to producing female playwrights and those that fall short of national averages. 

Jordan previously spearheaded a 2009 study by economist Emily Glassberg Sands that suggested “women faced more barriers than men in the theater world.” The numbers from “The Count” indicate that this is the case. 

[via The New York Times]

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