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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

(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.

 

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