Kris Vosler

International Playwright


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

Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:25 PM

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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