Playwright Emily Schwend has won the 2016 Yale Drama Series prize for her play “Utility,” a family drama set in Texas.
Schwend will receive $10,000, publication by Yale University Press and a staged reading at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater. The play follows a mother’s struggle to keep her broken family afloat during difficult financial and emotional times.
Both runners-up are women: Sarah DeLappe for “The Wolves,” which follows a girls soccer team, and Nina Segal for “In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises),” which chronicles childbirth during the apocalypse.
The announcement of three female finalists for one of theater’s prestigious writing prizes is very welcome news –just a few months ago a study found that 63 percent of productions across America are written by white men.
When the 2015-2016 Broadway season kicked off last fall, there was much deserved uproar when a distinct lack of women writers were included among the announced productions. We noted that no new plays or revivals of plays by women were being produced on Broadway, and that the only musicals with female writers are the revival of “The Color Purple” and the new musical “On Your Feet!,” which uses mostly existing songs by Gloria Estefan.
American Theatre website published a list of the top 20 most-produced playwrights of the 2015-16 season, excluding Shakespeare, and only four of them were women. The behind the scenes numbers for women stage managers, designers or directors are equally as bad, with women underrepresented in most fields.
These dismal numbers persist despite the fact that women buy 70 percent of theater tickets, make up 60-70 percent of theater audiences and that statistically, shows written by women bring in more box office dollars than those written by men.
Thankfully, some theater companies are taking action. The National Theatre in London has set a target of achieving a 50/50 gender balance among its directors and living writers by 2021. Hopefully that kind of equality can one day come to Broadway too.
[via The New York Times]