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 28, 2009

THURSDAY SLICE O' PIE: The 8-Minute Mile

I have goodness to share, including more follow-up from the Primary Stages/women playwrights discussion of last week. I also would love to share with you how I benefitted from a perfect storm of exhaustion from travelling to DC, finishing my play in the middle of the night (35 pages in 9 hours!), thinking about the PS issue, hearing my play read in DC (which is about a woman artist), and talking to a compassionate friend over the weekend. All these ingredients delivered a walloping epiphany of the first order Monday night at 2:30am.

Then I got on a bus a few hours later and slammed back into NY.

Since I am swamped with desk-jockey responsibilities today, that post will have to wait.

I do, however, have time for a quickie.

Okay.

Eight minutes.

It takes me eight minutes to get from the subway to my front door at night. And it's never boring. I don't know if it matters what I was wearing this particular night, but I will tell you it involved 3-inch high red boots and a super cool jacket. In order, I encountered:

  • A bug-eyed man who lurched toward me and grunted hello as he crossed my path as if he were a zombie after my brains.
  • Another man who asked for food.
  • Another man kissed me from afar and mumbled something as he walked behind me.
  • A pantsless man lying on the sidewalk, with people leaning over him.
  • Three teenage boys sitting on a stoop.

It was not until I got inside my apartment (aka my nap-cubby) that I realized I had been parading my Chipotle food bag through my Dominican neighborhood the whole time.

I seriously don't know how to blend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

COMPS available for my reading in DC on Monday

Holla, DC friendlies.

Meant to do this 2 days ago, but it got set aside by the important Primary Stages discussion.

There's a special event this coming Monday in DC. It's a reading of a new play of mine that's based on the life of Italian Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola. It's part of Washington Shakespeare Company's reading series at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The reading starts at 7pm, and will last 90 minutes, for those of you not wanting to stay out too late on a school/work night. There will be a talkback afterwards.

This is the same play that got an airing at the Kennedy Center last fall in a reading of the first 40 pages. It's more fully developed now, and I can't wait to hear it out loud. I am blessed to have an AMAZING cast and director. I'm very excited about this, and would love to see as many of my DC friends in the audience as possible.

SOFONISBA
by Callie Kimball
directed by Dorothy Neumann
with Heather Haney, Barbara Klein, Joseph Thornhill, and Sunshine Cappelletti as Sofonisba Anguissola

MON 5.25 7pm
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005
202.783.5000 800.222.7270

$10 in advance, or pay-what-you-can at the door. Tickets may be purchased at www.boxofficetickets.com/wsc or 1.800.494.TIXS (8497).

IF YOU WOULD LIKE COMPS, please leave a comment here with the number of tickets you'd like and I will reserve them for you. Please please make sure if you reserve comps, that you make it to the reading! :-)

TO AUTOMATICALLY get notices of my events, please sign up for my mailing list. 26 emails in 2+ years, so it's not scary. :-)

Index of Posts Re: Primary Stages All-Female Season Response

For everyone's convenience:

The original post that drew so much attention, outlining an activist response to the news that some subscribers were refusing to renew subscriptions to Primary Stages because their '09-'10 season is three plays written by women. (http://tinyurl.com/pkajyd)

A response from Primary Stages verifying this assertion. (http://tinyurl.com/onxkvm)

A response filled with statistics sent by the original sender of the email that brought this to my attention. (http://tinyurl.com/p5gp98)

A phenomenally varied and long list of women playwrights that Adam Szymkowicz began in response to this, and to which people are adding dozens of names. (http://tinyurl.com/oc2vg3)

Submission statistics by gender from my work as Literary Manager for Red Bull Theater. (http://tinyurl.com/qv8qhc)

And, the shortest of all:

Why this issue is important to me. (http://tinyurl.com/pava66)

Why This Issue Is Important to Me

I am signed up for various news aggregates, and through them, I read about issues in the area of maternal mortality, mass rape, and fistula in developing countries.

Every.

Day.

And every day I am sickened and enraged; but above all, I feel helpless.

Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth or from complications of childbirth. That's 1,440 women each day. Dead.

An 8-year-old girl is living with fistula after being raped for two weeks by grown men.

In Liberia, Doctors Without Borders (as reported by Nicholas Kristof) states that, of 275 new sexual violence cases treated in the first four months of 2009, 61% of those sexually violent acts were committed on girls aged 12 and under. That's in four months alone. And those are just the cases that have been documented. By just one organization.

As anyone reading this blog probably knows, Lynn Nottage's play, "Ruined," produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play, which Nottage researched in the Congo, tells the story of a group of women living in a brothel, and how they manage the effects of sexual violence as a consequence of war.

And that, dear readers, is where the intersection of art and social media grabs my attention the most: both art and social media, through artists and advocates, are tools through which we can, and must, give a voice to the voiceless.

We need to hear from women writers. In all fields. Playwriting and social media just happen to be my fields, and by finding and strengthening my voice in both, I begin to feel a little less helpless.

Statistics from My Work as Literary Manager

It occurred to me late last night, that as a Literary Manager, I have my own statistics I could count and share, since I keep a spreadsheet detailing all of the submissions we receive.

Of 118 submissions I've read in the last 6 months (when I came on board), 112 were written by playwrights whose names clearly indicated gender (or whose gender I happen to know).

Of those 112 scripts, 86 were by men, and 23 were by women.

Of the 86 written by men, I recommended 21 for a second read, and 2 for a must-read.

Of the 23 written by women, I recommended 9 for a second read, and 2 for a must-read.

I am horrible at ratio-figuring, but that's roughly 1 in 4 scripts by men that are of a quality I would recommend be considered for a production or reading, and roughly 1 in 2.5 scripts by women I would judge the same.

So the issue, at Red Bull Theater at least, is not one of quality, though we have an admittedly slim mission (Jacobean plays and adaptations of the same) that certainly has an impact on the gender of most of the playwrights we select.

If I meet you and you're a playwright, I'll pretty much always ask you to send me something, in case you happen to be working on an adaptation (that's rarely the case, but you never know what people are working on). (And if I forget to ask, please just send anyways, if you have something on-mission.)

The only part of my job where I am conscious of gender is in sourcing plays. I ask women to submit plays all the time, and yet I rarely get submissions from those same women. Or I'll hear of a female playwright whose work intrigues me, but the email link on their web page (if they even have a web page) is dead. I know that, as a playwright myself, I rarely feel like a script of my own is good enough to send out, and often I hear echoes of this from other women playwrights. I try to go the extra mile in encouraging women to submit, but once I am reading submissions, I am looking for the best material within the confines of our mission.

Those are my thoughts from that perspective.

List of Women Playwrights

Playwright Adam Szymkowicz began a thread on his blog in response to this issue, listing female playwrights whose work he would like to see produced more. He invited people to submit their own suggestions, and there are quite a few women on this list. Take a look.

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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Primary Stages Response

Here is the full response I received from Jessica Sadowski Comas, Director of Development for Primary Stages to this post about the news that subscribers are not renewing because their season exclusively features female playwrights. I have also pasted it in the comments section of the original post.

==============

Dear Callie,

Thank you for reaching out to me regarding Primary Stages upcoming 25th Anniversary Season. As you know, we are delighted to be celebrating this milestone anniversary with a season of new works, written by three very talented women, that we believe will be enjoyed and appreciated by audiences and participating artists. While there are several organizations that dedicate their work to female artists, we are aware that female playwrights have been under-represented in established venues and applaud efforts by any institution or individual to bring some balance to this issue.

To clarify, I can confirm that subscription renewals are progressing at a slower pace than they did last year, a trend that many American theaters are experiencing at this time. We have received comments from subscribers who have chosen not to renew for various reasons and, unfortunately, a few have indicated that our season of all-female playwrights is the reason. At the same time, we are gratified by an [sic] stronger positive response to our announcement. On behalf of Primary Stages, I apologize if there was any misunderstanding that led anyone to believe that all non-renewing subscribers were responding negatively to the gender of our playwrights.

Thank you to everyone who has rallied behind our season or who has purchased a subscription for a young, female playwright to attend our 25th Anniversary Season. If you have any more questions, feel free to write me back.

All best,
Jessica Sadowski Comas Director of Development
Primary Stages 307 West 38th Street, Suite 1510 New York, NY 10018 T: 212.840.9705 F: 12.840.9725 www.primarystages.org
25th Anniversary Season - New works by Cusi Cram, Charlayne Woodard, Lucinda Coxon

PLEASE TAKE A STAND: Subscribers Refusing to Renew for Primary Stages All-Female Season

5.21.09 12:25pm UPDATES to the post below:
=====================================

Yesterday I got the email below. I was unaware of subscriber resistance to supporting the all-female season of plays that Primary Stages is producing.

Women theatre-goers are asked to support all-male seasons All. The. Time.

If you believe, as I do, that hearing what women have to say is important, and that Primary Stages shouldn't be punished for producing them, then please consider buying a season subscription. It's $128. If that's too much, please consider joining forces with friends to purchase a subscription. Primary Stages has set it up so that, if you are out of town, you can donate your subscription to a female playwright in NYC.

Massive Understatement: It will take time to undo gender bias, to show the importance of hearing and strengthening the voices of women. Women are discounted and diminished all the time in the media and popular culture, whether it's politicians being criticized for being ambitious, mothers for working (or not--they can't win), etc. Women even diminish themselves and each other.

Gender bias is hard for many people to even see, but for those of us who live with it, it is enough to push us toward rage and despair over the feeling of powerlessness. Those of us who believe this issue is important must support these playwrights, so that their work can be heard, and steps can begin to be taken towards understanding and strengthening the work of women, who have been marginalized in society far too long.

Please don't let this turn into an argument for theatres to further silencing women, as in, "Well, look what happens when you produce plays by women--no one comes! We can't afford that."

Thank you for listening. Here is a shortened link to this post for your convenience in spreading the word: http://tinyurl.com/pkajyd

======================




Dear Friends,

For the first time EVER in U.S. History, a theater in New York City is producing an entire season of all-female playwrights! This is fantastic news, right?

Especially since according to Dramatists Guild statistics, only 9-11% of the shows produced in 2008 in NYC and by professional regional theaters (Off-Broadway, Broadway, and LORT) were female-authored. That's right, only 9-11%. Note that no one even has an exact statistic! Gender bias is alive and well in the American theater.

Only, guess what? Word is out that some folks are complaining about this upcoming all-female season to Primary Stages and are not renewing their subscriptions. They say: "Why do a season of only women playwrights? And why haven't I heard of these women?"

The fact is that 100 years ago, the statistic was HIGHER in New York City for productions of the works of women playwrights than it was just last year (12.8% in 1908, 12.6% in 2008 ). You can't hear of women playwrights if they aren't getting any productions! And in 100 years, it's gotten worse, not better.

It's time to take a stand.

A subscription to the Primary Stages costs $128. I have purchased one season subscription as a political/artistic show of support for Primary Stages and in symbolic sisterhood with female playwrights; my ticket is being given to a young female playwright in New York City, so that she can enjoy their season in my stead.

I know we live in extraordinarily pressing times at every level. But if you, too, care about the voices of women being heard in the American theater, please consider donating to Primary Stages to show support for their 2009-2010 season of female playwrights. The thought is this: if we show enough theaters in the USA that people care and will pay for plays by women, then other theaters might seek to do the same--or at least bring the slate of their seasons to a more 50-50 equitable level in terms of representation of female playwrights! Women are 51% of the U.S. population, after all.I know $128 is a lot of money. Even if you can't afford $128, perhaps join in with a group of friends, and collectively sponsor a ticket for a young female playwright (or a New Yorker of your choice) to experience the Primary Stages season, too--and take a stand against gender bias in playwriting in the U.S.

You can mail donations to:
Jessica Comas, Director of Development, Primary Stages, 307 West 38th Street, Suite 1510, New York, NY 10018

You can e-mail Jessica at:
jessica@primarystages.org.

You can also check out their season at primarystages.org, and don't miss their "Support" page which lists all of their programs.

Feel free to forward this information to anyone. I would appreciate you taking out my name from the e-mail header if you do forward it, so that the total focus is on the content.

Sincerely,
[name redacted at sender's request]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

TWEETABLES: The Velveteen Rabbit Edition

I'm almost real.


Checklist for My Transformation into a Real New Yorker

COMPLETED
Foil a mugger.
Get a cool-sounding job.
Give directions in the Village.
Have stuff stolen from my room.
Ditch self-deprecation.
Buy extravangantly priced footwear.
Do standup.
Move 3 times in 4 months.
Never cook at home.
Get impossibly lost on the subway.
Pay people to do my laundry.
Laugh at a rat climbing stairs.
Laugh at a guy puking on the subway.
Hold my own in a roommate-story contest.
Get my super to hate me.


PENDING
Be an unwitting drug mule.
Fall for someone who lives somewhere embarrassing.
Get swindled.



I'm soooo close I can taste it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

So Grateful.

Rats Spotted on the Subway Today: 4 (1 big + 3 little)

I am meeting so many awesome people in NY. People are very open here and so smart and creative and interesting. It's also really pushing me to put myself out there more with my own projects that I want to do. Before (and this will sound strange to those of you who know me), I sort of sat back and let things come to me. Yes, I produced my own plays and got projects going for other people, but I didn't go knock on doors and say Hey, Here I Am And This Is What I Want To Do. It was a hellluvalot easier for me to produce my own stuff than to ask someone else to produce my work.

I've been very naughty about posting here. There is still a plan for me to get the occasional substantive post on here about the things I care more deeply about. Right now I'm scrambling to get all my work done, and it's taken a full six months to get my feet under me with all the moving around I had to do at first, learning the ropes at my new job(s), and navigating my way around a new city. But I'm getting my bearings, and I'm dreaming big. Which of course means there will be disappointments big, but I'm ready.