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Centre Stage

A blog for women-related theatre issues worldwide.

  • 22 Nov 2018 11:57 PM | Jenni Munday (Administrator)

    By Coni Koepfinger

    Women’s History Month 2018


    Earlier this year there was lots of breaking news about sexual assault and misconduct in the film, television and radio industries, as well as in politics and blue collar work force.  #MeToo stories abounded but no one was talking about the theatre industry.  We have our own “casting couch” stories to tell!  I posted a tweet disclosing my own #MeToo story and wondered why weren’t other theatre people posting, or identifying themselves as theatre people.  I decided to organize an event specifically bringing out #MeToo stories from theatre women during Women’s History Month (March) 2018 and put out a call for  #MeToo tweets, scenes and monologues in the theater industry.  To my knowledge, I was the first to put out such a call specifically to the theatre community in New York, if not nationally.


    In response to my call for #MeToo tweets, scenes and monologues, I received not just stories from the theatre industry, but also dance, music, and visual arts.  Entries came from states outside of New York, as well as an anonymous posting about misconduct occurring at a theatre company that I spotted on Facebook.  Dominique Sharpton-Bright, daughter of Reverend Al Sharpton, contacted me asking if she could be a part, offering the National Action Network’s House of Justice to hold the event.  The event was live streamed for those who could not physically attend. 

    #MeToo Theatre Women Share Their Stories was a reading of tweets, monologues, music and scenes on the subject of sexual assault or sexual misconduct within the theatre industry. Some notable stories include those of Tedx’s Amy Oestreicher; (James Toback victims) Karen Sklaire Watson, Shani Harris, and Selma Blair (one of the “Silence Breakers” and Time magazine’s People of the Year).  Rounding out the writers sharing their stories were: Raquel Almazon, Anonymous, Nora Cole, Farzana Datta, Emma Goldman-Sherman, Yvette Heyliger, Prudence Wright Holmes, Penny Jackson, Coni Koepfinger, Martha Patterson, Jane Schlapkohl, Susan Shaffer, and songwriter Germaine Shames.  These readings on the subject of sexual assault or sexual misconduct within the arts industry were followed by a power point presentation on harassment prevention in the artistic workplace, as well as preventative action steps led by Akia Squitieri of Creating Safe Spaces.  Rehearsal space was made possible by a grant from League of Independent Theatre.

    At the National Action Network's House of Justice


    The response was tremendous and immediate.  All who were gathered seemed bonded together in a common concern and desire to create safe spaces. As a result of the success of this event, I was invited to present a workshop at National Action Network’s National Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel held during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).  #MeToo: From Testimony to Prevention featured selected monologues written by yours truly, Raquel Almazan, Anonymous and Janet Schlapkohl; a power point presentation about sexual harassment in the workplace by Aimee Todoroff of League of Independent Theatre; a distinguished response panel including: Rachel Dart of Let Us Work Project, Jenna Chrisphonte of the Dramatists Guild and Lillian Gallina of Actors Fund of America; followed by open sharing from the audience, a Q & A, and handouts with contact information of agencies and service organizations working in the area of harassment in the workplace. 

    At National Action Network's National Conference at Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel


    I have been invited to participate in New York City’s first #HealMeToo Festival founded by Artistic Director Hope Singsen and presented, in part, through Kori Rushton and IRT Theater’s Residency Season. “From March 27 to April 14, 2018 (Sexual Violence Awareness Month) the #HealMeToo Festival will present multi-disciplinary works in development, creating an intersectional space for conversation, learning and laughter that sparks resilience and growth. Workshops and live panel podcasts will raise critical questions about cultural change and explore many approaches to healing: from activism, to bodywork, to the latest therapeutic advances, to creative writing, art, music and dance.”  Contact me (Yvette Hiliger) for more information about this festival which answers the question, “What’s next?”


    Bridge to Baraka, my solo show was selected for the United Solo Theatre Festival, “the world’s largest solo theatre festival” Emboldened by the 1960s Black Arts Movement yours truly, Yvette X, stakes her claim as a female dramatist coming of age during the ongoing fight for parity for women in the American Theatre. The play empowers artists of all stripes to tell their own stories their own way, and to get those stories to the masses “by any means necessary.”  One audience member sent me an email saying, “Good job!  The combination of your fine craft of writing, your open-hearted and captivating delivery...  the performance had me engaged from start to finish”.   I received such a great reception to the show; I decided to try my hand at setting up a tour!  To this end, I enrolled in Theatre Resources Unlimited (TRU) Producer Development and Mentorship Program’s Master Class with Broadway producers Jane Dubin and Rachel Weinstein.   A long-time producing artist, my actionable goal for the class is to set up a viable tour of Bridge to Baraka to begin during the 2019 – 2020 season. 

    What a Piece of Work Is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women, a collection of plays written by yours truly and edited by Alexis Greene, delivers a power-packed collection of plays for leading women (and the leading men who love them!). Ideal for professional actors, directors, designers and producers seeking new projects, as well as students of the theatre and lovers of politics, drama and activism! Artistic essays, critical reviews, production cast lists, as well as selected photographs and lead sheet music by composer Larry Farrow, illuminate the work of this producing artist and educator. The book is available in paperback or e-book from your preferred bookseller.  Mine is the Drama Book Shop which has signed copies!

    And finally, I am pleased to announce that I have been named the official representative of the Founding Alumni of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a premiere performing arts high school in Washington, DC.  This is a full-circle moment for me, as I was honored to server as senior class president and was valedictorian of the first graduating class (1977) during the school’s formative years. 

    YVETTE HEYLIGER is a playwright, producing artist, educator and activist. She is the recipient of AUDELCO Recognition Award for Excellence in Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwright Award and Dramatic Production of the Year.  She received Best Playwright nomination from NAACP’s Annual Theatre Awards. Author of What a Piece of Work is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women, she has also contributed to various anthologies including, Performer’s Stuff, The Monologue Project, Later Chapters: The Best Scenes and Monologues for Actors over Fifty and 24 Gun Control Plays. Selections from her play, Autobiography of a Homegirl, appear in Smith and Kraus’ The Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2003 and The Best Stage Scenes 2003.  Other writings: The Dramatist, Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre and Performance, Black Masks: Spotlight on Black Art, HowlRound, and a new blog, The Playwright and The Patron. After many years in front of the footlights, Heyliger returned to the stage as a solo-artist in her first one-woman show, Bridge to Baraka. From this one woman show came two spin-offs, The Pen Instead of the Gun and I Am That Bear. Memberships: Dramatist Guild, AEA, SDC, AFTRA-SAG and League of Professional Theatre Women.  A partner in Twinbiz™, now celebrating its 30th year, she is the co-recipient of the first National Black Theatre Festival Emerging Producer Award. She has a BA and MA from New York University; an MFA in Creative Writing - Playwriting from Queens College; and a Master of Theatre Education from Hunter College (pending). She was an Obama Fellow and is a founding member and longtime volunteer with Organizing for Action.  As a citizen-artist, she has worked on many issues including: gun violence prevention, equal opportunity and pay for women artists, and most recently, the #MeToo movement.  Yvette lives in Harlem, USA.

  • 08 Nov 2018 3:16 PM | Jenni Munday (Administrator)

    Amy Drake talks about theater with playwright Patricia Rumble

    What inspired me to become a playwright?  I was pregnant with my son, talking to the head of the children’s theatre program at Main Street Theater in Houston.  I mentioned that I was reading some folktales and one that interested me in particular was a Russian folktale “Go There I Know Not Where, Fetch That I Know Not What.”  He said, “That would make a great children’s show, can you write that?”  I said, “sure.”   Of course, I had never written a real play in my life.  But I was interested in writing.

    Although I had no official training in writing plays, I had taught German and wrote stuff for my students.  In fact, the first thing I ever wrote was in German, “Goldilocks und die drei Baeren.”  My students got first place for the German competition with the Goldilocks sketch.  It was also my first time directing, which I discovered is not something I really like to do. 

    Back to Main Street Theatre. So, I turned in my play, which now was called The Archer and the Princess.  Main Street said yes that they would produce my play but not for nine more months.  Three days after Main Street said yes, I had my son and while waiting those nine months for my second child I wrote A Mother Goose Comedy and Aesop’s Funny Fables.

    My degree is in Biology and German, but I have read many, many plays and gone to the theatre often. I taught myself how to write comedy sketches by taping the Carol Burnett show and then transcribing the funny sketches in a teleplay format.   For a year I wrote for the late Comedy Workshop in Houston in 1988.

    How did I get my work to the stage? A lot of cold calls in the beginning, which meant I was always on the outside looking in. In order to motivate myself to finish a project, I would find competitions and use the deadline for the competition as my deadline for writing the piece.   I won a few children’s play competitions in the beginning of my writing career.

    I don’t think of myself as a woman playwright, I think of myself as a playwright.  I also think of myself as a business person. Go where you’re not.  By that I mean, join business groups.  You will be the only playwright and people will be intrigued. Do readings of your work but work with good actors. Enter competitions and submit to competitions and workshops.  Also, help others. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I hope that helps.  This is my sage advice from my thirty years of writing.  Break a leg.

    Patricia’s play, BREAKING OUT OF SUNSET PLACE, runs Jan 24 and runs thru Feb. 10, 2019 at the Queensbury Theatre in Houston. Tickets are available at She also has five published plays and five works in progress: Stuck in RV Land to premier in Port Arthur Texas at the Max Bowl August 16 and 17, 2019, Crazy the Musical premiering in San Angelo TBA in 2019 A Shamrock in Vietnam premiering at the Bastrop Opera House TX in March 2020 Cowboy and Cajun drama Au Revoir Cher Bébé (Goodbye Sweet Baby). In 2019 her publishing and production company Check out Patricia’s PlayItStore here:

    (Images above are 1. Patricia Rumble with Donna Cole; and 2. Patricia Rumble with one of the staff at Dramatic Publishing)

    You can contact Amy Drake at:

  • 24 Oct 2018 3:25 PM | Jenni Munday (Administrator)

    By Patricia L. Morin

    I was drawn to the relationship between gender parity in theatre and publishing through my work with the International Centre of Women Playwrights (ICWP), of which I am the president. We had just completed our 2017-2018 50/50 Applause Award honoring theatres that promote women playwrights around the world on an equal or greater basis to male playwrights. ICWP’s mission is to connect, inspire, and empower women playwrights to achieve equity on the world stages.

    Let’s take a short look at what has happened in gender parity over 2017 and 2018 thus far. 

    In January, 2017, the first Women’s March, one of seismic proportions (over 4,000,000 women), created a tsunami of awareness and solidarity that flooded major US cities, as well as other cities throughout the world. Women were taking a unified stand.

    Actress America Ferrera, during the march, said, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families.” January, 2017

    This march was repeated again in January, 2018

    The #MeToo movement spurred on more resistance by women. What began in October 2017 rocked the film, media, publishing, and theater industries across the world–when actresses started using the #MeToo hashtag on social media to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It followed on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations.

     Leigh Anne Ashley, writing in Writer’s Digest said“There seems to be no genre that has not been impacted by women finally feeling able and welcome to tell their stories. A recent Google search with the words “#MeToo articles” returned 6.6 million results. To those of us who have been paying attention, seeing the internet filled with so many women’s voices, including so many new voices, is a remarkable thing. I’ve noticed a shift in my writing; I feel gutsier and less apologetic.” “The #MeToo Movement and Its Impact on Women’s writing.” March 29, 2018

    Yet, women playwrights struggle …

    Industry still has a long way to go, Centre for Women Playwrights finds.


    The Playwrights Guild of Canada reported that for the 2017 season in that country, productions by male playwrights continued to dominate — 64%, which was the same as 2016.

    The National Voice, a publication of The Australian Writers Guild, reported that, of 95 shows surveyed for 2017 that included Australian playwrights — including those staged by state theater companies — 56% were written by men.

    Women are uniting worldwide, walking side by side on a road now more traveled, a path that is growing longer and touching many countries. At the urging of feminist and journalist Caroline Criado Perez, a statue of Millicent Fawcett was placed in London’s Parliament Square in April. In the foreword to the Fawcett Society report “Sex & Power 2018″, Perez writes: “Finally, we have to stop pretending that the path to equality is out of our hands. Power is never given freely. Liberty is never achieved by chance. It is achieved by design. So let’s start designing it.”


  • 19 Oct 2018 9:14 AM | Jessie Salsbury (Administrator)

    Alex Ates on October 10th, 2018 has proudly proclaimed that the 'Dawn of the Female Playwright is Upon Us' in their article for backstage. The most recent list of the most produced playwrights is decidedly more female than it has been in past years. As the article states: 

    American Theatre magazine, the trade publication for Theatre Communications Group, released its statistics for the most-produced plays and playwrights working in the United States today. 

    This year’s list features work that is largely female-powered. Out of the 11 plays listed, eight were written by women. And even the most-produced play, Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” features almost all-female characters. With only three male playwrights on the complete list, the publication reports a historic proportion. Further, on the list of most-produced playwrights in the country, there are six playwrights of color—another notable advancement for a field which has often been criticized for being predominantly white.

    Though this is a banner year for women produced plays and female protagonists, the celebration feels short lived. In an article from American Theatre from September 2017, Rob Weinert-Kendt writes that the more things change the more they stay the same. 

    The long arc is bending towards gender inclusion and gender parity, but we would have reason to despair. Writers are still majority male and cisgender. In researching gender parity, there is limited numbers available on gender inclusion outside of cisgender males. The production list is still very long on male driven work. 

    The breakdown is greater than zero, and the breakdown of female playwrights continues to grow, but we are far from gender parity, and far from a range of gender expression in plays being produced.

    If this is a dawn of the female playwright, we are slipping out of the night, and just beginning to see the fruit of our labor. Our work that we do, the fight to see an increase of female writing, is in its infancy. 

    It is not midday, it is not afternoon, it is simply the dawn of equality. There have been strides and improvements, but a long way to move towards equality. 

    On Twitter, I have made the call that for 2020 all theatres and organizations must commit to promote only female playwrights. 

    If it is truly the dawn of the female playwright, it's time for theatres and decision makers to put their money where their mouth is. Let's push for women to be produced, and not stop where we are now. 

    Everyone knows there is a problem, but it's difficult to fix when no one wants to take a risk to fix it. 

    Imagine it. If in one cycle, during one theatre season, we only saw female written work around the world, how would that change the landscape? 

    A new dawn indeed. 

  • 12 Jun 2018 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    We are thrilled to be announcing the recipients of the 50/50 Applause Awards of 2018. 

    62 theatres in Australia, Canada, Finland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, United States, and Wales received awards. 103 theatres were nominated.

    See the full Press Release here:

    The Celebration video has been posted on Youtube.

    Many thanks to the volunteers who helped to research, vet and check eligible theatres around the globe and who provided proofreading assistance. 

    Rita Barkey

    Sandra Dempsey

    Amy Drake

    Maureen Gustafson

    Lawrence Morin

    Patricia L. Morin

    Sharon Wallace

    Karin Williams

  • 06 Jun 2018 4:53 AM | Anonymous

    Women are being excluded from the stage. It’s time for quotas

    Julia Pascal

    Theatre is devoted to male narratives, and only a fifth of artistic directors are female. We need to impose a 50/50 gender split.

    t’s a century after some British women were allowed to vote, and a statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett is being unveiled in Parliament Square, so why is women’s presence on the English stage still unequal to men’s?

    In a recent survey, the Sphinx theatre found that just a fifth of English theatres were led by women, who between them control just 13% of the total Arts Council England (ACE) theatre budget. This week, the feminist campaigning organisation the Fawcett Society called for quotas to get more women into key positions, after its Sex and Power Index revealed startling gender disparities in the public arena. The situation in theatre, where I have worked all my life, is a startling gauge of the marginalisation of women.

    The Conference of Women Theatre Directors and Administrators began auditing the number of females on stage in the 1980s. That we are nowhere near equality, almost 40 years later, was only too evident at the Olivier awards this month, when the prizes for best director and best new play went to men. When women do not have equal representation in theatre, it is impossible for them to have an equal chance of winning prizes. The Equal Representation for Actresses campaign group is among those pushing for change, but the male ruling elite refuses to share power.

    Postwar British theatre declared itself to be the vanguard of a more equal society. From 1956, a new wave known as the “angry young men” celebrated working-class playwrights, directors and actors. Male rage was hailed as a revitalising force. Women’s rage was not. However, this working-class male movement never gave women equal opportunity. Sixty-two years later, female talent remains un-nurtured.

    Even today, female playwrights and directors are atypical. Shakespearian gender-swapping has been mooted as a partial solution. One example is Michelle Fairley playing Cassia at London’s Bridge theatre. However, such theatrical novelty only serves to distract from the main issue – the absence of contemporary dramas reflecting the complexity of women’s lives. Cross-gender casting fails to question the over-representation of dead and living male playwrights. It does not address the fact that half our contemporary creative world is missing.

    Why aren’t more women active demonstrators against this injustice? One reason is a justifiable fear of blacklisting. Some of the privileged theatrical knights who have led our flagships, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, have opposed gender parity. Consequently, women, who must seek male directorial approval to be employed, have dared not speak their name.

    There are structural reasons for marginalisation. Drama schools educate female graduates to expect lower employment levels than their male peers. The actors’ union, Equity, the majority of whose members are female, rejects calls for equal representation. Most important of all is the position of ACE. This unelected quango crushes female ambition by boxing women into a category called diversity. This term reduces women – the majority of the population – to a minority. This promulgates the lie that females are diverse and males are mainstream. Orwellian double-talk maintains male dominance.

    The exclusion of women from equal employment at all levels flouts both civil and human rights. The theatre is a serious, international political platform. It is a parliament of the arts, a form of soft power and a cultural territory as important as any physical land mass. With this abnegation of female flair, audiences are robbed of the full human story. These audiences are 65% female. There has never been a female artistic director of the National Theatre or Royal Shakespeare Company. Sir Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre for 12 years, until March 2015, never directed a play by a woman during that time. Women may occasionally appear as actors, directors and playwrights, but the English stage is devoted to worshipping male narratives. Where are the histories of our mothers, sisters and grandmothers?

    In December 2017, the recently appointed chair of ACE, Sir Nicholas Serota, announced a 50-50 male-female split on its national council. What we need now is 50/50 employment for female actors, directors, playwrights and creative artists.

    We may hate the concept of a quota system but decades of disenfranchisement mean that female artists and audiences have been cheated. When women’s human rights are acknowledged on the English stage, and when theatres are equally shared among expert professionals of both genders, only then can we say that our theatre is truly national and democratic.

    Via the Guardian 

  • 03 Mar 2018 5:23 AM | Anonymous

    Nominations are coming in for the ICWP 50/50 Applause Awards. 

    Theatres and theatre fans are nominating theatres around the world that are achieving 50/50 gender equity for female playwrights. 

    We are encouraging everyone who enjoys live theatre and wants to see that plays by women playwrights are given the same ratio of productions, promotion and reward as plays authored by male playwrights. 

    It is not only important for the female playwrights themselves that their work is shown on main stages of theatres around the globe, but it is also important for society that the stories, points of view and aspirations find a place in the cultural landscape of every nation.

    Lauren Gunderson introduced the 2018 Awards with this encouraging video. 

    The Deadline for Nominations for the 50/50 Applause Awards is March 15. Guidelines and nomination form can be found here

  • 04 Sep 2017 2:03 AM | Anonymous
         In the news, the policy directive on reinstating the ban on transgender soldiers from serving in the military was issued to the Pentagon from the President of the United States. Add to that the recent White House fallout regarding the violence in Charlottesville by white supremacist and neo-Nazis, race relations and equality for the LGBTQ have been set back from progress. Theater should be a powerful voice to counter these dangerous regressions. Geva Theater Center with the Blackfriars Theater's current production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" boldly showcases the casting of women for all roles even for the male characters. The set and atmosphere is a speakeasy in the 1920's with flowing background jazz music and five original songs for the play.

         From Jeff Spevak's article in the Democrat & Chronicle (D&C), Blackfriar's artistic and managing director Danny Hoskins said that the line-up of productions "paid attention to the social and political climate we live in." He wanted to give voice and empower the women in the community.

         From Susan Trien's article in D&C, she quoted "Twelfth Night" director Alexa Scott-Flaherty explaining her idea, "In Shakespeare’s time, men played all of the female roles, like Cleopatra and Juliet, and (audiences) accepted it." She wanted to make the story more accessible to their patrons with a fun atmosphere and Shakespeare's role reversals with women running the show.

    Everyone who once studied or are studying in all girls' and all boys' schools do surely know that in stage productions, they play all roles, they don't go out and just hire the other gender roles. Thus, it shouldn't be a big deal if women play male characters or men play female characters. However, in the face of "encouraged" bigotry and misogyny (by powers-that-be), the voices and exposure of minorities, people of color, diverse women of ages and body types must be at the forefront to spread the messages of tolerance, acceptance and equality. Gender issues in any way or form must again become a political statement.
  • 23 Jul 2017 12:15 PM | Anonymous

    The Kilroys (a volunteer organization) and International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) have one common goal: the focus on and empowering of women playwrights. If ICWP has The 50/50 Awards, The Kilroys has The List. This 2017's The List recommends 37 diverse plays written by women of color and transgender men and women in the United States; these new plays are either un- or under-produced (once or twice).

    According to founder Ms. Annah Feinberg in answer to my email, "... we hope that The List is a tool that they (the playwrights) can use while advocating for themselves, and that their supporters can use while advocating for them. It's a stamp of approval that, at least anecdotally, has helped writers move forward in their careers." It can indeed be a source of pride for the chosen playwrights because the ones who nominated them for The List are artistic directors, literary managers, and other theater professionals. "We try to garner as much attention possible for The List itself, which helps bring attention to the writers on it," wrote Ms. Feinberg. 

    In the American Theatre article, The Kilroys Are Here With More Plays by Women, The List functions as a resource for directors and producers looking for good writers. The Kilroys also encouraged women and transgender playwrights to list their plays in the New Play Exchange so that their works can be known to theatre professionals and their subscribers. The List began in answer to the impression and remarks of theatre and artistic directors that there were few women playwrights and a dearth of new works.

    Upon reading the summary of the 37 endorsed plays, it is striking how interesting and relevant they all are. There are issues set in different countries but their themes are universal; there are re-telling of Greek myths; there are political and social issues, some are based on actual events; and there are diverse family dramas. The effort to come up with a list for women's works is laudable, but it is regrettable that everyone has to wait for theatre companies and/or producers to bring these beautiful works onstage. The Kilroys, composed of 13 very accomplished women, has looked where no one normally looked: into the periphery of women/trans playwrights of color in the US. If only there could be more networking, resources and organizations with sustained plans to publish and produce new works by women/trans playwrights then women's works can gain momentum year after year. -dalt                


    The Kilroy's. (2017). The List. Retrieved July 18, 2017 from  /list-2017/

    Tran, D. (June 23, 2017). The Kilroys Are Here With More Plays by Women. Retrieved July 18, 2017 from

  • 11 Oct 2016 1:39 PM | Anonymous

    DTC ( Darlinghurst Theatre Company) of Sydney Australia, has taken steps to ensure that its 2017 Season showcases the works of female playwrights and theatre artists in equal measure with male playwrights. They have also funded a festival of works by female playwrights as a development opportunity. 

    The findings are reported by Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) an organisation set up a year ago to monitor the employment of female writers and directors by Sydney Theatres

    WITS co-founder Maryann Wright said, " Not only has DTC's changed attitude manifested in their 2017 programming, but DTC also offered invaluable in-kind support to give a platform to Sydney's best Independent female theatre-makers by housing WITS' inaugural women's theatre festival, Festival Fatale, in October this year. DTC has set an impressive example for the rest of the industry, and showed that with initiative, parity can happen almost instantly." 

    Read the full article here

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