Facing anger, NYC theater company adds female-written play

AP News
Posted: Aug 21, 2015 5:17 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The Manhattan Theater Club, one of New York's foremost nonprofit theater companies, has added a play written by a woman to its upcoming season in the face of criticism that seven of its upcoming offerings were all penned by white men.

The company said Friday that this spring, it will produce "The Ruins of Civilization" by the British writer Penelope Skinner, but said the deal had been in the works for over two months and pointed out that 4 of its 8 plays last year were written by women.

The lack of diversity in the company's announced slate frustrated theater leaders who pointed out that the mission of the Manhattan Theater Club was to create "productions as broad and diverse as New York itself."

Critics included the playwrights Kristoffer Diaz and Paula Vogel, who took to Twitter this week to ask the theater's artistic director, Lynne Meadow: "For a woman in theatre who attended Bryn Mawr, where is your sisterhood?"

Skinner's play will join the theatre company's Broadway and off-Broadway roster of Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love," David Lindsay-Abaire's "Ripcord," Richard Greenberg's "Our Mother's Brief Affair," John Patrick Shanley's "Prodigal Son," Nick Payne's "Incognito," Nick Jones's "Important Hats of the Twentieth Century" and Florian Zeller's "The Father."

Frustration over the lack of women playwrights chosen to have their work onstage has lately gotten more attention. According to The League of Professional Theatre Women, only 28 percent of productions were written by women during the 2013-14 Broadway and off-Broadway season.

Meadow, who has been artistic director since 1972 and frequently directs, has championed women playwrights in the past, including Amanda Peet, Margaret Edson, Kia Corthron and Lynn Nottage. She won the Lee Reynolds Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women.

The Interval, a website trying to raise the media profile of women in theater, found that of the 11 new plays that made it to Broadway last season, only one was written by a woman.

Victoria Myers, editor of The Interval, wrote in an email message Friday to The Associated Press that she was happy a work by a woman was going to be added this season to the Manhattan Theater Club's slate, but wished people would be as enthusiastic about supporting female artists as they are in calling out sexism.

"I definitely think it's good that people are making an effort to say sexism in theatre is wrong, but I think the other half — the actually celebrating of women succeeding — is equally important and that's what I don't see happening that much in a lot of theatre media."


Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits