Strides and setbacks for women on stage and screen
March 6, 2016 12:00 AM
Jennifer S. Altman for The Washington Post
Playwright Lynn Nottage
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In Hollywood as in the theater, women are reacting to revelatory statistics by finding new ways to get their stories told.
Last month came the announcement of We Do It Together, a new film production company backed by screen heavweights such as Jessica Chastain, Juliette Binoche, Freida Pinto, Queen Latifah, Ziyi Zhang and director Catherine Hardwicke.
The company was formed in reaction to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interviewing dozens of female directors about the discrimination they face in both film and television. Women currently receive 16 percent of the episodic TV directing jobs and last year directed fewer than 5 percent of the major studio movie releases, Deadline.com reported.
Meryl Streep last year funded a Writers Lab to develop screenplays by women over age 40. In its first year, the lab received more than 3,500 submissions.
In the world of theater, strides in gender parity within the past year have been interrupted with reminders of how much catching up there is left to do.
Lack of women’s voices became an issue in Ireland last year when its Abbey Theatre announced a celebration of the company’s centenary. When the 10-play schedule was introduced with no women writers and just two women directing, The Irish Times wrote, “It reflects the continuing neglect of women’s key role in Irish history. More importantly, perhaps, it highlights the difficulties that face women working in Irish theater today.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, 51, has described theater as the “last bastion of segregation,” but while in London last month to receive the Susan Smith Blackburn prize for female playwrights, she noted that progress has been made. As one of three black women shortlisted for the international award, she told the UK Guardian newspaper that there was a current generation of black female playwrights who are “making up for lost time.”
“Up till now our stories haven’t been heard,” she said.
Also in recent weeks, the solo show “thatswhatshesaid,” created and performed by Erin Pike and written by Courtney Meaker, was performed in Seattle using only female dialogue and stage directions from the most-produced plays in America during the 2014-15 season. Of the top 11 plays (there was a tie), two were by women.
The show “thatswhatshesaid” is billed as “a brutal theatrical exercise in isolation … a way to distill and clarify the modern theater’s intended role for women.”
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960.
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