According to a recent study conducted by the Dramatist Guild, only 22 percent of plays produced in the United States are written by women.
For the past two years, a Los Angeles-based gang of female playwrights and theatre makers, The Kilroys, have been attempting to rewrite this narrative. Each year, the Kilroys publish The List, an inventory of the best new plays written by women and trans playwrights. Influential theater tastemakers from across the country join together to judge the plays and to select which ones will make it into the annual collection. Theater companies often fall into the pattern of looking for plays to produce from the same tried and true sources. When these companies neglect to seek out a diverse range of plays from a variety of sources, they perpetuate inequalities against lesser known female and trans playwrights.
The List serves as a new resource that allows theater companies to easily access high-quality, female-written plays that they can produce. Thus far, it seems that The List has been successful in convincing many artistic directors of theater companies from across the United States to diversify their repertoire of plays. Of the 46 plays on the inaugural edition of The List, 31 plays have been produced nationwide. The Kilroys hope that The List will continue to spark collective change in theater companies’ approach to season-planning.
There are so many obstacles that threaten to stand in the way of women-driven productions, many of which stem from unconscious biases that exist in the world of theater. While it has been proven that plays by women tend to do better at the box office on average, a majority of people have seen more examples of successful plays that were written by males. The Kilroys have a deep commitment to promoting gender equality both on and off of the stage by celebrating the voices of women who often go unheard. In order to achieve gender parity, the Kilroys advocate to flip the script for women in theater. The group emphasizes that there is a dire need to actively include women and minority groups into American theater.
Fortunately, the Kilroys are not the only organization working to promote women’s representation in theater. The Lilly Awards Foundation has helped to produce a reading series of plays from the first edition of The List. Following each reading, there is a feedback panel moderated by The Interval, on online journal that highlights today’s inspiring women in theater. The Lilly Awards Foundation has also worked closely with the Dramatists Guild to create The Count, a study on the productions by women from across the United States.
The Kilroys have already made effective contributions to re-imagining a world of theater where both men and women are recognized for their artistic work as playwrights. It will be exciting to see what other doors the Kilroys will be able to open for female playwrights in the theater industry.
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