i'm a white writer. in new york. original, no? i've been blogging since october 2002. this blog picks up in october 2008, when i moved from DC to NY...(and then I moved to Maine in 2012)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Statistics on Women Playwrights

Welcome back, people.

I appreciate so many people visiting yesterday's post (561 page loads, 376 unique visitors), engaging in discussion, taking action by buying season subscriptions (!), and sharing their responses here. I can tell by the continued jump in blog traffic that this issue interests a great many people, and that alone is very heartening for those of us who care and are directly affected by this issue.

For those of you just joining us, yesterday I posted an email that had been forwarded to me, encouraging people to take action and support Primary Stages' all-female playwright season by buying a season subscription, even if you are out of town. I posted it here and on Twitter. In the afternoon, Primary Stages responded, verifying that some subscribers had said the reason they were not renewing their subscription was because their season was plays by women.

Many people expressed a healthy skepticism yesterday, wanting more specific sources and statistics on the issue. Late last night I heard from the person who wrote the initial email suggesting that buying a season subscription to Primary Stages in response subscribers not renewing due to the all-female bill. I have pasted her information in its entirety below.

In a separate post, I am sharing my own statistics on script submissions, broken down by gender, to Red Bull Theater, where I am Literary Manager.

From the Sender of the Original Email:

A report of some negative audience responses to Primary Stages' all-female authored 2009-2010 season was mentioned on the International Centre for Women Playwrights listserve on May 8, 2009. On the listserve, there was an informal request from ICWP members for brainstorming about ways we might suggest to help garner more support for the Primary Stages season.
The "buying of a 2009-2010 season subscription and donating it to an emerging New York female playwright" campaign was a female playwright's response.

Some current facts about female playwrights in the U.S.:

From 1660-1680, women playwrights accounted for only 7% of the plays produced in London.-Donkin, Ellen. Getting Into the Act: Women Playwrights in London, 1776-1829. London: Routledge. Page 1

According to recent Dramatists Guild statistics, in 2007 & 2008, only “9-11%” of all productions in Regional, League of Resident Theatres [L.O.R.T.], and Off-Broadway theatres were written by women.- Garrison, Gary. “Numbers.” Dramatists Guild of America E-Flash. Newsletter to Members. 26 Feb. 2009.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck, in her 9 September 2008 essay for The Guardian entitled “Broadway’s Glass Ceiling” states that for the 2008/2009 New York theater season, plays penned by women constituted only 12.6% of the shows in New York venues. - Rebeck, Theresa. “Broadway’s Glass Ceiling.” 9 Sept. 2008. The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2008/sep/09/broadwaysglassceiling
“One hundred years ago, in 1908-1909, according to Internet Broadway Database, nearly 13% of new straight plays on New York stages were by women.”- Jordan, Julia. “Women Playwrights: Equality in Production.” The Dramatist. Jan/Feb 2009. Vol. II, no. 3. 36-37.

Rebeck cites the 1908-1909 data specifically at “12.8%.” That means in the 2008-2009 season in New York, there were .2% less female-penned shows than in 1908, at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is even more surprising when considering other related statistics, such as in 2000, the U.S. Census reported that females comprised 51% of the U.S. population.- Spraggins, ReneĆ©. “We the People: Women and Men in the United States.” Census 2000 Special Reports.” January 2005. http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/censr-20.pdf

And of course, it is worth noting that there are now thousands of female playwrights in the United States.

Women constitute 40% of the Dramatists Guild today; 2,230 females are members. - Garrison, Gary. “Numbers.” Dramatists Guild of America E-Flash. Newsletter to Members. 26 Feb. 2009

This 2,230 figure under-represents the actual number of female playwrights living in the United States, as many female playwrights cannot afford to be current members of the DG, and/or have not yet been “identified." So a conservative guess is there are 5,000 female playwrights or MORE in the United
States right now.

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