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Suggestions from My Question About Federal Funding for Arts Entities That Don't Attempt to Produce Men and Women Equally

Posted by DataWood on May 27, 2014 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

(This is an excerpt from the letter I sent to the board members of ICWP - International Centre for Women Playwrights after our 2014 nomination season.)

Frustration and discouragement during the nominationseason drove me to post a question on social media:  Should We Question Federal Funding for Arts Entities that Do Not Make An Effort to Achieve Gender Parity?  Yes, we had a record-breaking number ofnominations this year, but for every theatre that was eligible to be nominated,there were easily 50 others that did not come close to gender parity.  In many instances, there were theatres with season after season that included zero plays by women.

There were a lot of comments, as you might imagine, andI have been vilified and reviled more than I care to share.  Still some good came of the discussion.  Here are the best of the suggestionsgenerated from the long and involved discourse which followed:

A)    Contact theatre sponsors directly and ask them to offer additional funding if theatresproduce plays by at least one woman per season. (Notice, this does not say, ask the sponsor to take money away from thetheatre if it refuses.  This option wasconsidered quite combative and negative. I’m willing to start nice.) 

This could be a time-consuming and difficult process if we use the small, local individual approach.  I suppose we could propose it to the membership and ask if they would volunteer to approach localsponsors.  We could also send out arequest in the form of a press release. Perhaps some papers would run the request, and it would reach companiesthat fund local theatres.  Wouldn’t it begreat if the NY Times ran a piece asking theatre patrons to sweeten the potwhen women’s plays are part of a season?

 

B)    Create a database of women’s works, which we have, and make it available to artistic directors who want to achieve parity but don’t know where to look.  We have the database, although I’d like to see volunteers fill in any and all known plays from deceased women as well as living female playwrights.  This will make the database more comprehensive.  We must then promote the database ~ perhaps a short article or a letter to the editor of TCG and The Dramatist?  We need to explain the problem and offer our database as the solution.  Perhaps we could mention the idea of sponsorsoffering additional funding to theatres which include women in the letterand/or article.  (Kill two birds with one stone!)

Is the database in good technical shape? 

Can it be searched by non-members? 

If not, may we change that so it can be searched by non-members?

 

C)    Consider backing the creation of a consortium of investors on Broadway specifically for the production of women’s plays.  All investors would know up front that each play would be produced, written, and directed by women.  Investors could bemale or female, but all productions would be completely headed by a team of women.

This one takes money and serious commitment, but I’d love to see an all-female team beat the socks off the competition!

 

Most people felt certain that approaching lawmakers to discuss equal opportunity laws for NEA funding would take years and lead toa lot of negative pushback.  Someexpressed certainty that artistic directors would resent being told which plays to use and would not put their whole heart into doing good productions of playsby women.  This is probably accurate but terribly sad.  As we decompress from nomination season and move forward, I would like to see us discuss the three suggestions outlined here and see if we can move forward with an action plan after our upcoming board meeting.

 

Should We Question Federal Funding for Arts Entities that Don't Attempt to Produce Men and Women Equally?

Posted by DataWood on May 27, 2014 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Any time I write about the disparity between the number of male playwrights being produced to female playwrights, I always have to steel myself for the inevitable recriminations and accusations from unhappy men in our community. Trust me, I've heard them all, so please don't bother telling me how unfair it is for women to get a boost.

As Co-chair of the 2014 ICWP 50/50 Applause Awards, which recognize non-female centric theatres for achieving gender parity in a given season, I hate to report what a dismal year it's been for women writers. I looked at one theatre yesterday that had done 10 productions last season, and only one of those was written by a woman. Our volunteers have been scouring the internet and coming up with almost no theatres that qualify. If we hadn't opened the nomination process this year to the public, we might have about half the nominations we had last year. The numbers are depressing and frustrating.

So imagine my response when the discussion turned to equal rights and federal funding. Oh yes, my friends, many, many US theatres that only produce plays written by male writers are receiving a big chunk of your federal money to stay open. Years ago when federal funding for sports in colleges was challenged because male sports were getting all the money and there was nothing for women, Congress was forced to make changes that allowed for more scholarship sports for women ~ an equal amount of federal money now goes to fund women's college sports as it does for men's. The NCAA is a shining example of equality in action and a beacon of opportunity for women.

So, why not approach the federal government concerning their ongoing funding of arts entities that have been proven to be skewed toward men. I have never been a feminist, and I don't consider myself an activist, but when I see dozens, even hundreds of organizations in this country producing nearly nothing written by women, and I know that most of these organizations are benefiting from my tax dollar, it makes my blood boil. Would I go to D.C. to ask why this is allowed? You bet your boots I would. And should we, as women playwrights, question the ridiculous imbalance in plays produced by men and funded by our own government? You're darn tooting we should.

A lot of people have been uncomfortable about this topic for a long time, ever since the outstanding study done at Yale in 2009, but nothing has changed. Perhaps it's time to turn things up a notch!


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