Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Breakdown: Which Gender Wrote More Plays and When

AMERICAN THEATRE: Catalyzed in part by the creation of the Kilroys List in 2014, which helped put the catchphrase “gender parity” front and center in the U.S. theatre field, last year we did our own count of who’s writing the plays on our stages, breaking down authors by gender in the 2015-16 season. We also tallied the eras in which plays were written, reasoning that if we corrected for earlier ages in which women’s voices were effectively silenced or shut out, the ratio of female to male authors might look better for plays written more recently.

9 comments:

Katherine Sharpless said...

This article and the data presented in it were really interesting and thought provoking. I think it would be even more interesting to see data from the past few decades and compare how gender disparities have improved. Furthermore I would like to applaud American Theatre for including data on collaborative works and works from gender queer writers in their study. Not a lot of data has been collected on minority playwrights, but the work American Theatre has done is a good start. There is still a large gap between male and female playwrights this year, but there is around a 7% decrease in the gap from last year. It is also worth mentioning that there is a smaller gender gap in new works compared to revivals, while the percentage of plays cowritten remains the same between the two categories. Hopefully AT will continue to conduct and publish more studies.

Sabrina Browne said...

Like @Katherine said, this article was very thought provoking. As a woman today, especially as a woman working in theatre today, I am pleased to see that the numbers do show that there seems to be less of a discrepancy between male and female playwrights being produced. All across professional fields studies show that women are making progress and are receiving credit and recognition than in the past, but better doesn't mean fixed. There is still a major gap between the amount of male and female playwrights getting work produced. I would also like to acknowledge AT for including genderqueer writers. Not only does it make the information more inclusive, but the addition and acknowledgment adds another ounce of accuracy to the study. I hope to see more studies like these with higher percentages for female and genderqueer writers.

Sarah Boyle said...

Sure, the gender gap has gone down from last year and is even lower in new works, but it is still a significant gap. I would be interested in seeing a gender breakdown of professional playwrights or individuals who studied playwriting in college. Basically, I would like to know where the biggest gender gap is (for new plays). Are more men studying playwriting, working as professional playwrights, or getting their works produced? At what point do other genders not seem to be receiving the same opportunities? When it comes to classic plays, I am not as concerned about the gender gap. For a lot of history, if you weren’t male, you didn’t have much of a chance of getting published. It’s too late to fix that disparity. I think the focus should be on ensuring other genders can get their works produced today.

Chris Norville said...

How do I produce my best work and achieve stoical change at the same time? Producing work that pays, that is revolutionary and cool will brook no obstacle. But social change must happen in order for us to progress. How? I will use an example. If I am asked to hire someone for a position, there are a number of considerations I will make. Assuming I have no prejudices I will hire one of my friends, assuming they are qualified, if that is not possible, I will hire the most competent person I can get. What have I done here? If I say that the most competent person I can get is probably a white male, there is the assumption that I think women or other races are less competent. Not so. If I make a race/gender blind choice based on competency, the probability that I hire a white male for a technical field is disproportionally large. I have not brought race and gender into it all, yet I have supported the status quo, I have inhibited change. I do not wan to inhibit change, I want to foster it, but my higher goal is to produce the best I can. If someone tells me that the good of the society is more important than the code I have built for myself and they are in conflict, then I will say it is the duty of society to crush my dreams, not my duty to submit them. If I am asking an impossible question of how to produce the most and best possible, and further social ideals which I agree with, so be it.

Monica Skrzypczak said...

It’s good to see that so many new plays are being written by women and are actually getting produced. Sometimes I feel like the biggest articles about the gender parity make it seem like either there should have already been more female written plays and why aren't we already just producing those instead. But so many female written plays have been lost to history so to pick a play that already exists is to have a majority of male written plays. Of course you can go in and only look at female playwrights, but that does narrow the choices which could be really detrimental to theatre (most theatres) that have to pick plays that will make them money so they can continue operating. It’s really nice to see this article acknowledge that and show that of new plays there are more female playwrights- and obviously the goal is to have way more, but that will take time. You can’t expect completely even gender distribution in just a few years, which is what I feel like a lot of these articles are expecting.

Angel Zhou said...

The visuals given by this article really effectively display just how little comparative influence females have on the theater in the modern day. As a female in both business and computing, I have gotten a view of the gender imbalance in my own fields - these inequalities are padded, however, by the existence of multiple organizations and conferences dedicated purely to women: for example, Business Today's Women in Business conference and the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing.

As pleased as I am to see that the overall ratio of male-to-female author ratio has gone down, there is still a huge discrepancy between male and female writers. I almost feel as though the author of this article was a little too upbeat about the relatively minuscule change in ratio from last year to this year. A shift from 67:21 to 63:26 is marginal when you are looking at a pool of about 1,700 writers - that's still over 700 more male authors than female authors! The improvement is promising, but definitely not anywhere near substantial. I hope that, in say a decade, this changes greatly for the better to include more of both females and those who identify as genderqueer. The compilation of data in this article - e.g., new plays, revivals, classics and their respective split of male/female/cowritten/genderqueer authors - makes the uneven gender split incredibly blatant. Articles like these need to be promoted more so that everyone can visually see the issue of gender inequality in authorship and begin to actively pursue equality in the field.

Mary Frances Candies said...

First off I am so excited that the statistical analysis included a gender queer section! I am also equally as excited that there was a note on the graphic explaining how transgendered playwrights were included in the gender category that they identify as. As soon as I saw this article I prepared myself to be offended by a rigid binary analysis. Upon seeing the attempt for gender inclusivity, I was very pleased and excited. I was also excited by the breakdown and explanation of the graphic's statistics. There is nothing worse than a graphic that does not take time to further explain itself for those who are curious.
As many have stated, it is pleasing to see that the overall ratio of male to female authors has gone down, but it is simply not satisfactory. It is time that we come more drastically upon equality. Or better yet, an unbiased playing field.

Taylor Steck said...

This article is important for representing the different genders within the theatre community. Not only does this article celebrate female playwrights, but also features a gender queer section in their statistics. As a woman in theatre, this was an inspiring article to read and to feel represented in, despite the fact that this article focused on playwrights and I'm a designer. Regardless, I'm excited to see how the ratio of male to female playwrights is evening out, and it'll be interesting to see how gender equality and representation escalades in the future.

Cassidy Pearsall said...

Something that stood out to me was that 64% of plays being produced were new plays. I wish we could see a breakdown of what genders the authors were of the new plays vs. older plays. I have a very hard time thinking of plays written before 1970 by women, and I find that really terrible. I am glad the gender gap is not as bad as I anticipated, but still, I think more can be done to include women from young ages so a larger amount of women can grow up into careers of writing like men. I also think this study could be improved by showing the racial breakdown of the races of the authors being produced right now, as white men often have a huge monopoly on the arts, despite it being a "safe haven" for marginalized groups.

All in all, while their is progress being made, I think a lot of people think "we're good now," we don't need to keep trying. I don't know if we will ever get to a point where we will have true equality because of the historical implications of maleness and whiteness.

CMU School of Drama