This month's issue is on the topic of volunteerism and features outgoing ICWP Treasurer Suzanne Rakow and the woman who has graciously offered to take her place, playwright Rita Barkey.
January Spotlight: Suzanne Rakow
by Suzanne Richardson
Suzanne Rakow's serving eight years as ICWP treasurer was significant in itself. I was especially intrigued when I found out that she is not even a playwright, just an avid reader and supporter of women playwrights. It got me thinking about volunteerism and why many women, including myself ,volunteer.
Welcome New Treasurer: Rita Barkey
Q: Congratulations on becoming ICWP's new treasurer! What are you most looking forward to taking over this role?
A: Carrying on the fine work that Suzanne Rakow did before me.
Q: How did you learn about ICWP? What inspired you to volunteer?
A: It was pure serendipity. Paddy Gillard-Bentley (Flush Ink Productions) put out a call for scripts, and when I read that she loved to see ICWP membership on resumes, I checked out the ICWP website. I may not have submitted a script that day--but I did become a Sister/Mister! In 2013, I became an active member when volunteers were sought to help research theaters for the 50/50 Applause Awards. I can read German, so I thought that might be useful.
Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment volunteering for ICWP?
A: Watching the 50/50 Applause Awards video and knowing that I participated in the research that helped make it happen.
Q: Do you volunteer anywhere outside of ICWP? How do you feel volunteering has impacted your work, if at all?
A: I currently volunteer at the local food bank. I’m not sure if volunteering has impacted my work directly, but it helps keeps me connected to the world.
Q: When did you become a playwright?
A: I started writing plays in my 20s. I’d taken poetry workshops as an undergraduate, but because my poems were dialogue driven, I suspected I might be a dramatist at heart. When my plays began to be produced at the Bloomington Playwrights Project (an Indiana nonprofit dedicated to new plays), I knew I’d found an artistic home. I started to volunteer behind the scenes because I believed in its mission, and eventually I became the literary manager as well as its treasurer. Years later, when the ICWP Board sought a new treasurer, I knew I had experience to offer.
Q: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
A: No rituals to speak of beyond a mug of coffee and “bum glue.” My plays usually begin with a vision of a scene, and the questions follow: Who are these people? What are they doing? And why? Then I write a LOT of drafts. Recently I’ve been writing some historical plays in connection with 365 Women A Year: A Playwriting Project, so I’ve had my share of researching to do as well.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright?
A: Go to the theater. Read plays. And get involved. I’m not an extrovert, but theater is at its heart a communal act. It requires reaching out. For example, when I moved to Montana, I signed up for The Missoula Colony--a two-week conference dedicated to the craft of plays. When I met the other writers, I found out that they, too, were wondering if we could workshop year round. And so the Zoola Playwrights collective was born. Why not? Let’s just do it. That’s at the heart of volunteerism.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights has a volunteer program that affords members (and some non-members) the opportunity to participate in committees, do independent research, assist with the operations of the organization and be creative. If you are interested in volunteering for ICWP, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Elana Gartner, at email@example.com
Articles of Interest
by Patricia Morin & Elana Gartner
Why Do Women Volunteer?
People volunteer to develop new skills, to build networks (social or work), to feel useful and remain active. There are a few others but those are the top ones.
Susan Ellis, volunteer management guru, says the question of why people volunteer is not simple.
"Education is the single best predictor of volunteering. People with a Bachelor's Degree or higher volunteer the most, 42.8%, compared to those with an Associate's Degree, 27.7%, those with a High School Diploma, 16.7%, and those with less that a High School Diploma, 9%."
Women volunteer more than men, but not by much. (Men 22.2%, Women 28.4%)
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,
This month's issue is on the topic of women and humor and features ICWP president Karen Jenyes and vice president Lucia Verona.
December Spotlight: Lucia Verona, ICWP Vice President
by Suzanne Richardson
Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write?
A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies.
Lucia Verona is a Romanian playwright, novelist, short story writer, translator and ICWP vice president. Since 2011, she has been part of a team with the aim of translating all of Shakespeare's works and it was for this endeavor that she won the Romanian Writer's Union highest literary honor in August of this year.
"Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself." Lucia Verona
Question: When did you start playwrighting?
Answer: In 1976 or 1977, I don't remember exactly. I wrote my first three plays together with my husband, H. Salem, who was a playwright and a fiction writer. Two of them were performed, one in Bucharest as a musical comedy, the other in another town. We also wrote sketches, monologues and short plays for radio and television. My first play written alone was in 1989; it was translated to French and had a public reading in the theatre Essaion in Paris in 1990. Now I have lots of plays, some performed on stage, others had public readings. Almost all were published.
I also write fiction, novels and short stories. Since 2010 I been writing mystery fiction as well.
In addition to writing, I am also a translator, from English, French and Hungarian to Romanian. I translate novels, poetry and, of course, plays. A few years ago I became part of a team with the aim to translate all Shakespeare's work. I have already translated six plays and am working on the seventh.
Q: When you write, do you focus on developing characters first, or the plot?
A: That depends on what I want to say and how. Sometimes the plot is more important, sometimes one character "asks" for further developing. I found that characters have a way of developing themselves, almost without my help, and they can alter the initial plot. Most of the time they are right.
A: No rituals. I think a lot - all the time - about the play or novel I want to write. I research if necessary, then I only need two or three days without pressures of any kind (no bills to pay, no friends to meet, no invitations to the theatre), then I can start. After the first pages, I usually (but not always) write the ending to be sure not to lose my way. However, sometimes I have to change the ending.
I write usually at night and in the morning. I write better when I am on holiday because I am freed from any cares. I think the best place to write is on airplanes. There the only problem is that smoking is not allowed.
Q: How did you learn about ICWP?
A: I was browsing the Internet for some resources, saw the ICWP website and I thought it could be interesting to be a part of an international organization. So I wrote. It was Mags who answered and offered me a service membership. This happened in 2006, if I remember correctly.
Q: How did you get involved in the Bucharest Writers' Association?
A: I have been a member of the Romanian Writers Union since December 1989. I coordinated the Bucharest playwrights' branch for about ten years, organizing also the Dramatists' Club every month; now there is somebody else, but I am still on the board.
Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters? Do your past studies of music and opera have a large influence on your writing?
A: I am not sure. Certainly from life, though some of my best characters are entirely invented. Also, I have a few real life characters in some of my books. I cannot speak about a large influence of my musical studies on my writing, but my best-known character in fiction is a famous opera singer, a coloratura soprano who plays detective in her spare time. She appeared first in a play, then in two novels and a lot of short stories. Whether it means the influence of studies or something else I cannot say and, in my opinion, it is not important. It is only the result that counts.
Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write? (Comedy, drama, fantasy, etc.)
A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies. But sometimes in the end there is drama, too, or even death.
Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment as a playwright or writer in general?
A: I have many such moments - awards, performances, reviews of my books, directing a play, meeting my readers, and reading in schools. I would say though, the moment I am most proud of happened on August 31, this year: Together with my fellow translators, I got the Romanian Writers Union Award for my translations of Shakespeare, the highest literary award. Or really, it might be my best moment as a writer has been this period since 2011, when I started translating Shakespeare, which is fabulous. Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright?
A: It is difficult to give advice. I would say to a beginner playwright - woman or man: Go and see as many plays as you can. Also, and maybe more important, read all the plays you can find, starting with Aeschylus and Sophocles to the present-day authors. Don't forget what Chekhov said: If you see a shotgun in the first scene, it must shoot before the end of the play.
To young women playwrights I would add: competition is harder for a woman, don't give up!
Welcome New Members
Antonia Brancati, Rome, Italy
Theatre runs in my family: my mother was famed actress Anna Proclemer and my father was the great novelist and playwright Vitaliano Brancati.
After living and working for years on and around the stage, in 1991 I become a Literary Agent for the theatre, representing in Italy, just to name one, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter.
In 1993 my first Play Preoccupazione per Lalla (They All Worry about Lalla) was staged with a good success at Teatro Politecnico in Rome. Since then, I have never stopped working as an agent, a translator and a playwright.
My plays have been often published both in volumes and on theatrical reviews.
In 2012 she is one of the founder of CeNDIC (National Centre of Italian Contemporary Playwrights)
A Dangerous Passion is the first Play I wrote contemporarily in Italian and English, while following a seminar held by Donald Freed.
Representative Play: PAST IMPERFECT (AKA I Would Prefer Not To)
M. Darlene Carson
M. Darlene Carson is the founder and visionary of Words to Life Drama Ministry (WTLDM). The theater company has a mission to evangelize the community for Christ through thought provoking, entertaining and inspirational plays. In each production, we seek to effectively inject biblically based messages in a way that reaches the heart of people and preserves the integrity of biblical text, messages and the Body of Christ.
WTLDM has been presenting live theatre for over 20 years. Though we are a community drama troupe, we strive for excellence and professionalism in all that we do. We promote and nourish community spirit, providing mutual support and encouragement to individuals, other ministries and cultural arts groups.
The curtain rose on WTLD Ministry's first production in 1986 and its original and produced dramas include: Ain't No Half-Step'n; Those Sorry Sain'ts; The Promise; A Wing and A Prayer; Shut Up In The Church; Saints and and Ain’ts; Love Knots; Love Knots, Too!; That’s Life!; and Preacher, Preacher!
Stephanie Lenore Kuehn
Are Women Funny? Yes We Are. And That's Not Funny.
An article in the November, 2015, The Atlantic magazine, “The Plight of the Funny Female” by Olga Khazan explores several aspect of women and humor. An interesting experiment by Laura Milkes at the University of California San Diego brings to light another instance of how women see themselves in comparison to men.
Men make so many joke-attempts, in fact, they are assumed to be funnier—even when they’re not. After they had finished captioning, the students in Mickes’s study filled out a questionnaire about how funny they thought others would find their captions, and also whether they thought men or women were the funnier sex in general. Male participants said that, on a scale from one to five, their cartoons were an average of 2.3 in funniness. The women gave themselves a 1.5. Even worse, 89 percent of the women and 94 percent of men responded that men, in general, are funnier.
In a follow-up experiment, Mickes asked a new set of participants to read the captions generated by the first group and guess the gender of the writer. Both men and women misattributed the funnier captions to male writers.
To read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/11/plight-of-the-funny-female/416559/
ICWP tackled that same question in their 2014 contest, “Are Women Funny?” Jacqueline Goldfinger and Jennifer MacMillion co-wrote the play “Enter Bogart” for young actors, especially for girls. “No one is perfect and none of them "fit in" yet everyone is exuberantly marching to the beat of their own drum. So much of “Enter Bogart” is about embracing who you are, even if you love science, or old pop culture references, or wear headgear, or like to sing everything you say instead of speaking--it's all good if it's who you are and you're not hurting anyone else.”
ICWP President Karen Jeynes was recently in New York to attend the Emmy Awards as head writer for Puppet Nation ZA. Puppet Nation is a satirical comedy caricaturizing politicians and other celebs and was nominated in the Comedy category.
ICWP interviewer asked the question: What makes you laugh?
Jenn: I like smart, character-driven comedy. I grew up watching a lot of I Love Lucy and the Carol Burnett Show … I also think earnestness is refreshingly funny, (too many people are too jaded these days!), and larger than life characters. My wobbly special needs cat makes me laugh. People that don't take themselves too seriously make me laugh. Underdogs of all kinds have huge comedic potential (hint: we're all underdogs!). Comedy is the stuff of life, and its all around, so I'm always laughing.
The theme of “underdogs”, “not taking themselves too seriously”, and “larger than life characters that are still grounded in something identifiable” are qualities that Puppet Nation ZA, a comedy South African TV show, imbues, and for which our President, Karen Jeynes, is lead writer. The show was nominated for an Emmy in the “humor” category this year.
Puppet NationZA is satirical puppet show first produced in 2008 by Both Worlds, a Cape Town, a South African production company. The show is a daily and weekly satirical news program in the form of a mock puppet television newscast and features on both the web and TV. ZANEWS features key local and international political figures and celebrities. “Make humor and not war,” is its motto. You can see some of the shows here:
Karen has a “passion for personal relationships, a fascination with chaos theory, and a penchant for the comedy in everyday life. Her work includes: Vaslav, Everybody Else (is fucking perfect), The Happy Factory, I’ll Have What She’s Having, sky too big, Getting There, The Best or Nothing, and Laying Blame, as well as several short plays and monologues in the ICWP Singular Voices. I have asked to interview her by asking some questions relevant to her work and humor, as a TV puppet-show writer and playwright.
November Spotlight: Debbie Tan
Debbie Ann Tan is a playwright currently living in Manila. While originally studying Marketing Management and working as a copywriter, she went on to get her MFA in Creative Writing from De La Salle University. She picked a professor who also wrote plays professionally to advise her in her studies, and after two years she completed her thesis: a trilogy of plays entitled “Yin Yang Trilogy.” “Fate’s Line” – one part of the trilogy – went on to win several awards. Other accolades include Two Palanca Memorial Awards for her plays “Time Waits” and “Teroristang Labandera” (translated from Filipino as “Terrorist Laundry Woman”) and numerous publications including “Balunbalunan Bingibingihan” (translated from Filipino as “Gizzard, Playing Deaf”) and a collection of English Plays in 2012.
She is a fellow of the 6th Ateneo-NCCA National Writers Workshop, and currently teaching at a college level. Debbie is also a freelance writer, editor, graphic and web designer, and amateur 3D animator. Be sure to check out her website athttp://dwritersgrievances.thoughts.com.
In Debbie's own words, "I would really like to thank ICWP for their acceptance and renewed sense of purpose, as well as Margaret McSeveney for her support and publishing my article on the ICWP website, Elana Gartner for being a good leader and letting her participate in the committee for the 50/50 Awards, Sandra deHelen for giving valuable advice for a play which needed feedback from an international point-of-view (sorry, Sandra, the play has not seen the light of day yet, in its right time, perhaps!), and a special thanks to the generosity, patience and kindness of Debbie Weiss, Coni Koepfinger, Cynthia Morrison, Nancy Gall-Clayton, Diane Grant and Jennie Redling who have contributed their works to my textbook project."
Q: When did you start playwriting? When would you consider the beginning of your professional career as a playwright?
A: As an amateur in my third year of high school I wrote a haunted house radio play for English class, and then a play about misfits for Filipino class my first year of college. While I really wanted to be a writer, I went on to study BSC-Marketing Management for practical reasons since the impression was it was ‘easier’ to get a job with a business course. This was not entirely true in the Philippine-political and economic landscape of the 1990s. After going into advertising as a copywriter and dabbling as a journalist for several newspapers (I was definitely not a hardboiled journalist, I wrote supplementary articles and feature articles), I was antsy.
I went to the United States for soul-searching impinging my presence on my relatives. Two of them were scared stiff that I would just try my luck in the US and be an undocumented worker. In four months, I came to a resolution to come back to Manila and try my luck applying to De La Salle University for the MFA program in Creative Writing. It must have been fate, because I went in for an interview with the chairperson with my portfolio in hand, and in less than thirty minutes I was processed and ready to start classes for the first semester.
Graduate school was not easy; I had to take a lot of the core courses in literature to fulfill the basic requirements. I had classmates who were already creative writers, and had met people who would look down on me and other newbies. I had one traumatic experience with a Canadian writer/visiting professor for fiction writing who gave me the only low grade I had, causing me to miss a medal at graduation. She did not like my murder mystery and said I had grammatical errors, which was true since I’m not a native English speaker. I loved murder mysteries, and that was a sock in the gut. Coupled with a magazine editor I worked for who told me I was a terrible writer and to quit studying since it was of no effect to me, I almost did quit school. I definitely did quit that magazine job. I went to one of my professors to quit, but he told me, “Don’t worry too much about grammar, that’s why we have editors.” He was my teacher in editing, among other subjects, and remains to this day my respected mentor. I didn’t quit school, and later discovered the intricacies of playwriting.
By the time I was thinking of a thesis in 2000, I picked a known professional playwright to be my adviser. I had thought of a niche for myself since there were only a handful of female playwrights, and no playwright writing about the modern Chinese Filipino (also known as Tsinoy) in the country. The definition is, I’m Filipino – born and raised – but I have Chinese blood. Being Chinese has a lot of implications here connected to the history of the Philippines. (read more : www.wormenplaywrights.org/25-year-blog/1454173)
It took me two years to write my thesis, a trilogy of plays I called “Yin Yang Trilogy” under a meticulous mentor, now friend. He also brought me to a writer’s group where we read and critiqued plays in a workshop style setting. Finally I said, “Enough is enough,” and submitted my thesis for defense and passed in 2002. I won awards for a monologue and one of the plays in the trilogy, “Fate’s Line” through a small writer’s group that was affiliated with a theater company then. That play also got me a grant which would then publish it into a chapbook: my first solo book.
From 2005 to 2010, I participated in a labfest showcasing new, experimental and original Filipino plays. Within that period of time I won two national awards for one act plays and had three plays commissioned for several institutions, beginning my professional career as a playwright.
A: It varies from play to play. In “Fate’s Line,” it was the characters first: the Chinese Filipino family centering on the mother, Si Ling, and her daughter, Fate. The magic realism plotline just happened, I was writing in a zone – like three days of waking up and just writing. For “Teroristang Labandera” (Filipino, translated “Terrorist Laundry Woman”), it was both the character of the burned out laundry woman, and at the same time, the plot of her kidnapping the clothes of the Chinese Filipino family tied in with elements of magic realism. I was also in the zone for this one. I had this vision of talking clothes.
With “Balunbalunan Bingibingihan” (Filipino, translated “Gizzard, Playing Deaf”), it was more plot first. This was my first play that didn’t involve any Chinese Filipino characters. The title kept replaying in my head for months, thus the gizzard of a chicken (cooked) becomes the metaphor for love between the prostitute and her booker lover.
A: I’m not a prolific writer. I cannot churn out writing like some of my friends who have lots of books. I gestate with ideas. How I write is, I feel it in my gut. Those plays and even short stories, poems, essays that I write, which I don’t struggle with, I feel from the gut, from the soul, and thus I can continue nonstop (stopping for breaks, yes). It doesn’t happen very often, or not as often as I want when I’m so aligned with what I’m writing. Other times it’s a struggle, because I don’t like any loopholes to the plot. Thus, I do it the disciplined way, like make the outline, objectives, goals, etc. When I struggle writing, I take a lot of breaks. I like playing computer games and do crafts: origami, loom bands, other crafts. Also, since I’m not a full-time writer, I don’t have the luxury to concentrate on developing a story because I need time. Thus, I’m not prolific.
Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters?
A: I take public transportation. I eavesdrop on people, sorry. There was the scene in the laundry woman play that I got from a jeepney conversation between two college boys. If one doesn’t know the context of their conversation, it was pretty violent. They were planning how to kill, kick, and box. Of course, they were talking about a video game, so that scene and faux pas drove the laundry woman to the edge.
Other characters are exaggerated versions of myself and some of my family, while other characters, like the prostitute, come from research and from my interviews with real prostitutes when I was in college. Still more are profiles, like I had a character of a fake scholar in “Mga Babaeng Toobright” (Filipino, translated “Toobright Women”), a parody on Fullbright scholars (not an insult to Fullbright, but rather the profile of someone who thought she is the “end all be all” because she studied abroad).
I want to say that I try to seek the truth in people, thus when I’m writing, I have to be sincere and get into the characters as people. They have to talk to me. It’s also very important to me to be kind to my characters. I don’t like to do gratuitous deaths just for plot’s sake. I don’t like to ‘victimize’ my characters. It’s hard to explain, but even if the character is bad, I will always show the humanity in her or him. Funny thing is, when the laundry woman play was staged, people sympathized with her. This was unexpected. I knew I also gave her justice; even though she is a terrorist, in a sense, she had a story to tell.
Lastly, my plays are women-centered because there are so few strong women characters and different women voices.
A: I look like a serious person, but I’m full of comedy. But my comedy is not the ‘har-har-har-har’ comedy. I like to use lines as kickers or punchlines, some snide and sarcastic quips. Definitely, I like fantasy, the real and unreal merging while also logical and cohesive. And the reader or audience will buy into it, and even think, “Is that true?” I also think I specialize in one act plays; I know the structure and flow so well as I write. I’m challenging myself to make a SUCCESSFUL full length play.
A: I actually have several, as usual, going with my other long answers (laughs). It was very rewarding when I got published in Philippine PEN, when I got my first collection of English plays published in 2012, and receiving two national playwriting awards (Palanca Memorial Awards in 2007 and 2008). I would also have to say some of my favorite rewarding moments were my firsts: my first publication in a corporate magazine, then in a national newspaper, first play published, first awards, seeing my play staged for the first time, hearing laughter to the lines I wrote, and those first claps and cheers.
Summing up from all this though, the moment that is most rewarding is when I’m able to write from my soul.
France-Luce Benson, USA
France-Luce Benson earned an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. Her plays have been produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre where she is an honored Lifetime Member, Adrienne Arsht/City Theatre of Miami, Crossroads Theatre, The Fire This Time Festival, The Billy Holiday Theatre, and New Perspectives Theatre among others. She has also had readings and workshops at Primary Stages, Classic Theatre of Harlem, and Victory Gardens Theatre’s inaugural Ignition Festival. Awards and Honors include: Winner of the National Award for Short Playwriting, (Risen from the Dough 2015); The Kilroys List- Honorable Mention(Boat People2015); Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission(The Devil’s Salt) Alfred P. Sloan Award for original screenplay( Healing Roots); National Black Theatre, I Am Soul Residency Finalist; Kenney Center ATF Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award (Honorable Mention-Fati’s Last Dance, 2008); three time scholarship recipient at Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and two time Schubert Fellow. She has just been published by Routledge Press, and is currently a professor at St. Johns University. Visit www.francelucebenson.com
Chris Caffrey, USA
Mariana Catalina, USA
Mariana Catalina is a playwright, performer, and director based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work centers around reviving a holistic approach to theater, exploring how the essential elements of voice, body, and psyche move, interact, and evolve. Originally from San Francisco, she studied theater at UCLA. She is currently writing and developing a new work. For more information, please visit tooth-tongue.com
Suzanne Richardson, USA
Suzanne Richardson has been involved in theater since her high school days, writing for theater since her sophomore year. After graduating in 2007, she went on to study theater at Stephens College in Columbia, MO and then finished her degree at Lindenwood University. Some of her favorite shows she has worked on have been "The Country Wife", "Fiorello", "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", and "The Dixie Swim Club." During her college career, she participated in her college's improv troupe - the Happy Tuesday Players, started up a Sketch Comedy group, and wrote several plays which were later produced in the new play production company she started, The Backstage Productions." She is currently a board member at the High Springs Community Playhouse and is always looking for more ways to get involved.
Christine Toy Johnson, USA
CHRISTINE TOY JOHNSON is an award-winning writer, actor, director and advocate for inclusion. Her plays and musicals have been developed at such places as the Roundabout Theatre Company, Crossroads Theatre, The Barrow Group, CAP21, The Weston Playhouse, Gorilla Rep, and Leviathan Lab. A collection of her written work is included in the Library of Congress Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection. Other plays and musicals include THE NEW DEAL, PAPER SON, INTERNAL BLEEDING, ADVENTURES OF A FAUX DESIGNER HANDBAG, THE SECRET WISDOM OF TREES, GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, MY BOYFRIEND IS AN ALIEN (AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT) (with Bobby Cronin), ANTONI & AN WEI (with Jason Ma), DIARY OF A DOMESTIC GODDESS (with Kevin Duda), RIDING OUT THE STORM (with Michael Mott), and the screenplay NO WAVE WITHOUT WIND (with Charles Randolph-Wright). Christine is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Certificate of Screenwriting Program at NYU. She was honored with the Rosetta LeNoire Award for “outstanding artistic contributions to the universality of the human spirit in American theatre” from Actors’ Equity Association, in 2013. For more information, please visit www.christinetoyjohnson.com.
Naomi Westerman, UK
Actress, screenwriter and playwright, also runs the all-female theatre company Little but Fierce which specialises in Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work.
Articles of Interest
"If life worked like the theatre, four out of five things you ever heard would have been said by men," Marsha Norman.
"Women have lived half of the experience of the world, but only 20% of it is reported in theaters," The Dramatist Guild.
The Count was a collaboration of the Dramatists Guild and the Lilly Awards. It looked at American theaters for three seasons to determine the number of productions by women playwrights and a further breakdown of the ethnicities of those playwrights. This article, in the Dramatist Guild Magazine delves deeply into the status of women in theatre, and the many inequities between men and women playwrights.
An interview with playwright, Susan Lieberman, "Women in the Chicago Theatre", touches on the numbers of women playwrights, gender parity, and equalizing the "playing field". "Men dominating the production process in theatre," Lieberman states," is similiar to men dominating the decision-making roles in business."
Denise Gough: Let Female Characters be Flawed Too
“I am playing one of the most flawed, broken, damaged, brilliant, human women, and I haven’t felt that people have found it difficult. If anything they’re crying out for it.”
Member Spotlight: Donna Hoke
by Debbie Miller
Donna Hoke lives in Buffalo, New York. She’s the Western New York representative for the Dramatists Guild. Her website is at DonnaHoke.com and she also writes a blog.
Q: Did you start out as a journalist and then branch out into children's pieces and then to playwriting? Or, was it in a different order? Also, how did you "come to" playwriting?
A: I didn't really do creative writing until college. I enjoyed it, but I went down the journalism road. I've only written the one official children's book and that was shortly before I wrote my first play. It may even be what got me back to fiction, because I don’t think I realized I wanted to be a playwright as much as I thought, “I should write a play,” and the impetus for that came from Road Less Traveled Productions.
When I moved back to Buffalo, I started going to a lot more theater because it was affordable and there was easy parking. I bought a subscription to Road Less Traveled Productions, whose mission was to present world premiere plays by Western New York playwrights. They offered the Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop, and, at the time, that was the vehicle through which they developed plays for production. Since they produced everything, I thought it might be cool to see a play on stage, so I wrote one, and writing it was such a revelation, like "Ah! Why did I ever waste my time on poetry and short stories? This is what I should be doing." I never realized I could write a ninety-page anything. I was hooked.
I sent a play to the workshop but that same year, they not only changed their mission so that they didn’t exclusively do world premieres, but they also had more applicants than they'd ever had, which raised the bar. I got in and they didn’t produce my play, but by the following year I had written two more and they did produce one of them. And that’s what started the ball rolling.
Q: Can you tell me about being an ensemble playwright at Road Less Traveled Productions? Do you work with actors there, for example, in developing your plays?
A: The development process at Road Less Traveled Productions is undergoing some changes right now, but yes, there is development. For example, my play, “Safe,” which will get its world premiere in March 2016 has benefited from multiple readings, work with the ensemble dramaturg, and early casting so that we can do scene workshops with the director.
Q: Do you prefer writing full-length plays or one-acts? Ten-minute plays? Monologues?
A: I don't have any one-acts; I find that a very difficult length. That thirty to forty-five minute length is elusive for me. I do, however, have a few dozen ten-minute plays and while I prefer digging into a full-length, the ten-minutes really did wonders for my self-confidence when I started writing them because I got productions, which made me believe I was doing something right. They also paved the way to some full-length productions, so I'm a big believer in them.
Q: Do you write mainly comedy, drama, or a combination of the two?
A: I don't think of myself as a comedy writer, but I wrote two ten-minute plays that were comedies and I expanded them both into full-length plays. The rest of my plays you'd put in the drama category but none of them are without humor.
Q: Can you tell me about a character that you enjoyed writing?
A: It's actually a group of characters. After I wrote the first scene of “On the Roof,” which was originally going to be about the owner of a 1950s New York City gay bar, I realized that I was going to have to populate this bar. In the final draft, there are five guys who are regulars at Mitzi's and I fell in love with them all, but most particularly with Cruz, the macho Puerto Rican bartender, and Levi, the Jewish musical theater composer. I really missed those characters when I was done writing it, because I was so proud of them all. When we did the reading, I was able to cast them all with some of my favorite Buffalo actors.
Arlette Thomas-Fletcher, Maryland, USA
Arlette Thomas- Fletcher is a visionary and brings energy and enthusiasm to everything she does. Currently Arlette is the only African American female director, writer, producer to produce a feature length western film in the mid Atlantic region. She is an author, writer, screenwriter, playwright, actor, singer/songwriter, director and producer. She has been in the entertainment industry for more than twenty years as she began acting at a very young age. Arlette is the prolific writer/playwright of more than 15 plays 9 of which are full length. The play “Two Sisters” was selected to be in the One Act Battle at the Dc Black Theater Festival at Busboys and Poets. Her play “Daddy Where Are You?” sold out at the Dc Black Theater Festival. Arlette’s plays did so well at the Dc Black Theater Festival that she was featured one year for both her plays “Daddy Where Are You?” and “A Form of Godliness .
Arlette has received awards for scriptwriting and directing from Accolade Awards, TIVA awards, Silver Telly Award, and many others. Some of her credits include performing in productions such as “A Raisin in the Sun”, Me Nobody Knows, and A Form of Godliness, The Mystery Date, and You’re Not Alone, The Day The Aces Got Trumped, Milgram and The Fast Walkers. Now her achievements include several award winning short films such as“Assault In Brooklyn and “The Mystery Date”.”The Remodel Zone” , and “Blessing In A Storm. “ Also among her credits are award winning music videos called “You’re Not Alone,” “God Has My Back”, “Like A Star”, “Let Me Go” and many others.Her music videos have won many awards such as the Global Music Awards, Communicator Awards, Accolade Awards, and Beat 100 Award. She is also an author of Poetry for The Soul an inspirational poetry book. She has two feature length indie films in post production “The Lonesome Trial”, “Where’s Daddy?”.
Arlette is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a Masters Degree in Business program. She also holds a Bachelors degree in Christian Education from Family Bible Ministries Institute, College, and Seminary.www.fruitsofthespiritproductions.com www.shiningbrightproductions.com
Francesca Rizzo, New Jersey, USA
Francesca Rizzo is an award-winning East Coast writer, director and actress working in theater and film. A New Jersey State Council on the Arts Distinguished Artist Fellow, her theatrical work includes two solo plays, Dames Like Her and The Cherry Sisters: True Stories From the Kitchen Table, both garnering critical acclaim in NJ and NY. Earlier NYC productions include Good in Bed, True Tales of Seduction, Hold That Tiger and The Return of Jonesy. She developed and directed Fia Perera’s Neurotic in New York and Lori Kaye’s The Girls Room and was co-founder of The Perfectly Frank Writers Theatre, a downtown performance venue that brought 32 new works by emerging performance artists to the NY stage.
During this time, she freelanced as a writer-producer for Nickeodeon, MTV and PBS/WGBH, eventually writing and starring in the Nick At Nite ‘s award-winning satirical video, How to Be Donna Reed. She entered the filmmaking world by adapting her stage play, Sullivan’s Last Call into a sexy little film about celibacy that went on to win awards at festivals here and abroad.
She continued making films and went on to become president of the non-profit, CineWomenNY, a contributing writer for Guerrilla Filmmaker magazine and the curator of The World According to Girls, Beyond the Babe and Cinema-Femina, unique independent film screening series in the New York/NJ area.
Her current project is adapting her solo play, Dames Like Her into Dames Like Us, a hilarious ensemble comedy for actresses over 50 that crushes stereotypes and proves that one should never underestimate women of a certain age. www.francescarizzo.com www.dameslikeher.com
Delta Donohue, USA
Lorraine Midanik, California, USA
Theatre Reward Members*
Tessa Hart, The Bread & Roses Theatre, UK
Nathan Motta, Dobama Theatre, USA
James Sweitzer, Cherry Lane Theatre, USA
*50/50 Applause Award Recipients receive a free 6-month organization membership
Messages from Members
“Notes and Quotes: The D.C. Women’s Voices Festival”
by Laura Shamas
The travel gods smiled on me this fall, and I’ve been able to catch several new plays that are part of the historic D.C. Women’s Voices Festival, currently running in the U.S. capital. The Festival’s mission is one that I support: “To highlight the scope of new plays being written by women, and the range of professional theater being produced in the nation’s capital,” as part of “the largest collaboration of theater companies working simultaneously to produce original works by female writers in history.”
About fifty-two world premieres of female-authored plays and musicals are being produced by 48 D.C. area theaters, a mix of large and small companies (Equity and non-Equity); the launch party was on September 8, and the last show closes on Nov. 22, 2015. ICWP’s Patricia Connelly is one of the playwrights included.
I am unable to see even 1/10th of the shows being offered, so I don’t consider myself an expert about the Festival in any way – just a lucky pop-in attendee. Here are some of my informal impressions, with quotes from some of the amazing artists involved in the Festival.
1) WITCHES VANISH by Claudia Barnett
The first play I got to see in the Festival was Witches Vanish by Claudia Barnett, directed by Deborah Randall at Venus Theatre. This play features The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a metaphoric theatrical entity who witness (or sometimes cause?) vanishing women, in real life and in literature. As playwright, Barnett asks: “Why do women vanish?” With elements of puppetry, dance and fascinating vignettes, Barnett’s script interweaves scenes about “lost” women; it runs 90 minutes without an intermission. I admired the all-female cast.
I asked Barnett for her thoughts about her play and the Festival: “Witches Vanish gives voices to women who’ve disappeared throughout time—both by telling their (fictionalized) stories and by explicitly naming them in a series of chants between scenes. Given the common theme, it fit the Festival perfectly.” Claudia Barnett is the author of No. 731 Degraw-street, Brooklyn, or Emily Dickinson’s Sister: A Play in Two Acts, published in October by Carnegie Mellon University Press.
2) CHIMERICA by Lucy Kirkwood
The next play I saw related to the Festival was Chimerica by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood. Although it was not an official part of it, it was scheduled to “coincide” with the Festival. This is Chimerica’s U.S. premiere. The title refers to the domination of the U.S. and China in modern geopolitics, covering a span of twenty years. A photographer’s iconic photo taken in Tiananmen Square becomes a catalyst for a mystery that spans generations and cultures. The two-act play, masterfully directed by David Muse, at the Studio Theatre, is ambitious, powerful and quite moving. Kirkwood’s approach was cinematic in style and epic in scope; I find myself still reflecting about Chimerica more than a month after seeing it.
3) IRONBOUND by Martyna Majok
Ironbound by Martyna Majok, directed by Daniella Topol, at Round House Theatre was the next show I caught in the Festival. Majok, who was born in Poland, is an award-winning playwright on the rise (New Play Network Smith Prize, David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, among others). Majok was inspired to tell the story of Darja, a Polish immigrant who works as a caretaker and factory-laborer, because “poor women” are misrepresented in our theatres; Majok commented in an interview: “I wanted to see my own story on stage.” With a cast of four, Ironbound is a 90-minute tour-de-force that takes place mostly at an urban bus stop. We learn in real time and flashbacks about the key points of Darja’s life and relationships, from 1992 - 2006. It’s ultimately about the bond between mother and son, and the meaning of love.
Ironbound will open next in New York in March 2016, again directed by talented Topol.
4) INHERITANCE CANYON by Liz Maestri
Playwright Liz Maestri’s play Inheritance Canyon, directed by Lise Bruneau, and produced by Taffety Punk Theatre Company, was the next play I saw.
Inheritance Canyon is a zany, thought-provoking look at a scientific experiment and the meaning of life. It takes place in a canyon near a desert, and involves three friends: Shell (Esther Williamson), Sal (Teresa Castracane) and Gary (James Flanagan). They witness a mysterious explosion, and then are put under medical surveillance, a sort of limbo-quarantine, for the rest of the play. The show, in two acts, runs about two hours, with an intermission.
And speaking of intermission, the character switch that happens (during it?) between the first Shell and the other Shell (Gwen Gastorf) was theatrically fun at the top of Act Two. One of the meta-themes in Maestri's play was "performance" in modern life: if we "perform" a function (or pretend to), does that mean we become it, Maestri wonders?
I asked Maestri for her thoughts on the Festival: “The Festival is churning things up, causing trouble, changing lives, starting conversations, and catapulting new art into the world. I'm proud to be part of it.”
5) QUEENS GIRL IN THE WORLD by Caleen Sinnette Jennings
Playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings has two plays in the D.C. Women’s Voices Festival. Jennings’ one-person show Queens Girl in the World, directed by Eleanor Holdridge and produced by Theater J, is the last piece that I saw.
Dawn Ursula plays every character in the piece. Queens Girls in the World depicts, in two acts, what it was like for a studious, bright African-American girl to grow up in the Civil Rights era, and to live through its violent days. By the end of the play, Jackie’s parents are so fed up with life in America that they move to Nigeria. Everything about the production is top-notch, and the super-talented Dawn Ursula is unforgettable.
One thing I’ve been tracking is the number of excellent female directors working in the Festival. I asked Eleanor Holdridge, the head of the MFA Directing Program at Catholic University, about this: “It's a thrilling bi-product of the festival that so many women directors are being brought along for the ride. For my female directing and playwriting students, I find the season a wonderful inspiration for what enriching strength that women theatre artists can bring to the art form in America.”
6) MORE, PLEASE:
I tweeted an inquiry several days ago, to ask if the D.C. Women’s Voices Festival might become an annual event. They responded: “Great question. At this point it's still too soon to say. We'll keep you posted on any updates.” In Holly L. Derr’s recent Howl Round post about the Festival, Nan Barnett mentions plans for a post-Festival handbook that could be used as a guide by other cities to mount their own versions of this kind of festival. Yes, please!
Martha Richards, Founder and Executive Director of Women Arts, attended the first industry weekend in the Women’s Voices Festival, and was part of a panel on October 4th. Richards notes the Festival’s significance: “Gender parity activists have been looking for ways to reach our goal of 50/50 by 2020, and large-scale festivals like this provide a perfect mechanism to push our numbers up quickly. I predict that the Washington role model will inspire theatre women all over the world to create similar festivals.”
D.C. Women’s Voices Festival – womensvoicestheaterfestival.org
“Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Getting a Piece of Real Estate” by Jami Brandli - http://lafpi.com/2015/09/womens-voices-theater-festival-getting-a-piece-of-real-estate/
“Something is Afoot in Washington, D.C.” by Holly L. Derr - http://howlround.com/something-is-afoot-in-washington-dc
The Women’s Voices Festival Weekend Recap by Holly L. Derr - https://www.facebook.com/Holly.L.Derr/posts/455673024557206
“Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington is An Energizing Showcase” by Charles Isherwood, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/theater/womens-voices-theater-festival-in-washington-is-an-energizing-showcase.html
“Putting Women in the Spotlight” by Nelson Pressley, Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/a-stage-of-their-own/2015/08/26/b6ac7886-4a94-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html
Also read member Aphra Behn's 3-part article in Howlround about the Women's Playwright's International's Conference in South Africa. ICWP President, Karen Jeynes, is a resident of South Africa and helped host the conference.
Strong Roles for Women
Much ado was raised when Mags McSeveney posted a link to this Independent article about strong females roles make audiences uncomfortable.
"In the 25th year of CSC's Women Playwright Series, the Centenary Stage Equity main-stage season now boasts 70% of its primary theatre season penned by women authors. A member of the National New Play Network, CSC subscribes to the 50/50 in 2020 movement.."
Yours for engaging, innovation, and equitable theater,
September Spotlight: Shirley Barrie
Shirley Barrie is a Toronto, Ontario playwright, scriptwriter and producer. Her play, “I am Marguerite” directed by Molly Thom, played at the Alumnae Theatre from April 10 through 25, 2015. Shirley is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada. She was nominated for Best Toronto Playwright in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Best of Toronto Reader’s Choice Awards. She works as a story and script editor, and as a dramaturge for theater.
Learn more about Shirley at her website: www.shirleybarrie.ca
Q: How long have you been writing plays?
A: Professionally, I first contributed lyrics and sketches for musical theatre revues that the Wakefield Tricycle Company (now the Tricycle Theatre) toured to community centres, colleges and theatres in England beginning in 1974. The first play I wrote on my own was “The Adventures of Supergranny and the Kid” in 1978.
Q: Do you have a writing routine?
A: I have to get into the writing ‘frame of mind.’ I can’t just switch on a dime from the ‘business of playwriting’ for example, to the creation of the play, or from analysis and support for others to creation. I wish I had a sure fire method of switching hats and finding the right zone. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning up my desk. Sometimes I can happily ignore the "To Do" list. Other times I have to take a bite out of it before I can settle into writing. Sometimes reading over what I’ve done is enough to get me back into the work.
Q: Do you develop character first or plot first or something else?
A: In the past I’ve often been asked to write a play about a particular subject: garment workers, women and violence, history of mental health treatment. In these cases, the subject comes first. If I start with the subject I have to work through that until I find the characters.
For the most part, when I initiate a project myself the driver for the play is a character—although I am often attracted to the character(s) because of issues, ideas, and concerns that have been floating around in my mind. Most of my plays for adults have featured characters from history.
Q: When you start a play, do you use any of the following to generate character: improvisation, free writing, monologue writing?
A: Probably the closest thing to what I use is free writing. I keep notebooks for each play. They used to include a lot of research, but now since a lot of that is done on-line, the notebooks contain reminder research, character notes, bits of dialogue, behavior rationale, options for action, character descriptions, crazy ideas, outlines of scenes, and/or notes to myself.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about playwriting?
A: Getting it right. I marvel now at how much I wrote, how quickly and in what pressure cooker circumstances in my early days as a playwright. But for me, it doesn’t get easier. It gets harder, largely because I expect more of myself now.
I have two quotes on my bulletin board. One (I can’t remember where I found it) is “Great goddess of creativity, I will take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.” The other is from a keynote address David Henry Hwang gave at the 2013 AGM of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, “If you never fail, you’re not working hard enough.”
Tasha Partee , New York, USA
TASHA NICOLE PARTEE is a New York City-based playwright and Virginia native. Since 2011, Tasha has worked with the Off-Broadway Hudson Guild Theatre Company, teaching literacy through drama and dance, as well as performing as an actor and dancer in company productions. She has numerous choreography and stage management credits with the Off-Off Broadway Onomatopoeia Theatre Company, as well as thirteen years experience as a middle and high school theatre director. Her writing has been featured by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, the Hudson Guild Theatre Company, and on numerous middle, high school, and college stages. Tasha was a founding member of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Women’s Project, providing opportunities for women in theatre since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Educational Theatre (New York University) and a BFA in Theatre Education (VCU).
Violet O'Valle, Fort Worth, USA
I have enjoyed a long career in educational and semi-professional theatre, having begun my career as a Drama Director at Houston area high schools. I hold a B. A. from the Department of Drama And Dance at the University of Houston, and M. A. and Ph. D. degrees in British Literature, with an emphasis on Irish drama, from Texas A&M University. I am the founding Producer/Director of Pantagleize Theatre Co in Fort Worth, Texas, which produces plays from international cultures, especially those represented in our home state. I divide my year between Texas and Ireland, and my own play writing has been heavily influenced by both cultures. I am also an enthusiastic poet, a college instructor, and a student of all literary genres and all facets of theatre.
Rachana Pandey, Varanasi, India
I belong to Varanasi, the city of Ghats. Varanasi is an ancient city of the state Uttar Pradesh in India. My research area is Indian English drama, theatre and feminism. I have been engaging classes at Centre for Women’s Studies and Development (CWSD), Faculty of Social Sciences at Banaras Hindu University for three years (2012-2015). Feminism is a cause, a social duty, I believe. During research I have written a few poems and engaged in translating plays from English to Hindi but these are not yet published. I have joined the forum of 300 playwrights to explore the new voices, to interact, to grow, to contribute and to search my own voice among all.
Khai Dattoli, Los Angeles, USA
Originally from Wisconsin, Khai Dattoli has spent the past twelve years in Los Angeles writing and performing comedy. The USC graduate has worked in film, webseries, and stand-up, but her greatest passion has been bringing original comedies to the theatre. Dattoli has had four of her plays successfully produced in Los Angeles. The latest, "Off Book," is currently playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywod, and this summer also brings her writing debut in NYC with Theatre 68's production of "Off White," the first in her series of "Off Comedies."
2015 50/50 Applause Award
This year ICWP has honored 60 theaters in nine countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Scotland, Sweden and the United States. Our recipients range from small or new theaters to well-established larger theaters. We are thrilled that one third of the list are repeat recipients who have demonstrated gender parity in two or more seasons, indicating an increased awareness and commitment to women playwrights from the larger theater community.
See the entire list and the bilingual video on our website.
President: Karen Marijke Jeynes, South Africa
Vice President: Lucia Verona, Romania
Vice President: Sophia Romma, USA
Secretary: Sharon Wallace, USA
Treasurer: Rita Kniess Barkey, USA
First Annual DC Women's Voices Theater Festival
The Festival official site
Women's Voices Theater Festival home page.
New York Times article
The Golden Age for Women in TV is Actually a Rerun
"Comedies created by women came into vogue in the late 1980s, exploded in the early ’90s, went mainstream in the mid-90s and were shoved into the back of the closet around 1997. It took another decade before the next show solely created by a woman — Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” — made it back into the elite Emmy inner circle….."
Member Spotlight Alan Woods
Alan L. Woods is a retired teacher of theatre at Ohio State University and an active dramaturg in Columbus, Ohio who says he's been a member of ICWP "since at least 1990 or thereabouts."
Q: What do you write?
A: I write short plays for seniors and prequels/sequels to Shakespeare.
Q: Where have your plays been produced?
A: In academic and senior theatre companies in the United States, Canada, Japan, and South Africa.
Q: What does writing plays teach you about yourself as a writer?
A: Writing plays forces me to listen to the characters as their voices are highly individual. It also teaches me to edit myself with a firm hand.
Q: What other activities associated with theatre do you do?
A: I work as a dramaturg and organizer of readings. I've been a dramaturg since about 1990 at local theatres in Columbus (CATCO, Players' Theatre, Available Light Theatre, Bread & Circus Theatre Company, Evolution Theatre Company) and at Indiana Reperatory Theatre and in Kentucky at Horse Cave Theatre.
Q: What has dramaturgy taught you?
A: Being a dramaturg helps me to constantly question, re-evaluate, rework. And revise, revise, revise.
Q: What's your most recent project?
A: The Food Plays: 5-minute plays centering on food, at the Clintonville Community market in Columbus, as part of the neighborhood festival "CrestFest" on August 22nd. The project received some 65 plays and a panel of evaluators (which included some ICWP members) selected five plays to be given staged readings.
Q: As a former theater professor, what is the most important thing you'd like theater students to know about plays and playwriting?
A: That it's a group exercise, whether one artist is central or artistic direction is arrived at by some variation of consensus. No one creates alone--no one!
Q: How can men support women playwrights?
A: By promoting their work, by agreeing to collaborate, by auditioning, by being aware of women writers, and by encouraging them.
Rosalie Greenfield Matzkiin, Philadelphia, USA
Rosalie Greenfield Matzkiin, Ed.D Born in NYC American Citizen, I currently reside in Philadelphia PA. First an English teacher, then editor and newspaper reporter in NYC, all the while writing songs and short pieces of fiction. I collaborated with a NY composer, Robert Trien, and we wrote a musical, Curse You Jack Dalton which was performed in NY at a street fair and then went to the BMI Music Theater Writing Workshop for several years. Wrote an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion and used it as doctoral pre-dissertation coursework.
Subsequently have been working with a Philadelphia composer, Al Blatter, (teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music) and we have had two workshops of our musical No Complications Please! one at MITF in NY and the other at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, for which I wrote libretto and lyrics and Al Blatter the music.
I have been taking playwriting workshops at HB Studios and Primary Stages in NY and this spring wrote a new play in a Philadelphia playwriting workshop, at PlayPenn, called Unexpected. (It is not about her, but does use Gabby Gifford as inspiration.). I have also recently completed drafts of 5 ten minute plays and am writing a new play, Sarah and Max, that takes place near the Swiss border of Austria during WWII. Most of my work posits strong women protagonists.
l am interested in women's work, and I enjoy sharing and collaborating and being supportive.
Mercedes Cohen, San Francisco, USA
Playwriting has been my passion for most of my life, but like many, survival and making a living got in the way. Now I’m retired and working two plays. Living in California in the San Francisco Bay area suits me well. My play, Giovanni Is Here won the Ross Alternative Works award in 2014 and had wonderful production with a great cast. The plot revolves around three diverse viewpoints during World War II in Italy.
I’m interested in women playwrights and what’s new.
A video of my work: https://vimeo.com/134898095
Kay Adshead, USA & UK
Kay Adshead is a poet, playwright and theatre maker. She has written over 25 plays including Thatcher’s Women for Paines Plough at The Tricycle (nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award), Bacillus for the Royal Court, Animal for Soho Theatre Company (nominated for Encore Best Play of Year), Lady Chill for the RNT‘s BT Connections, and Juicy Bits for The Lyric Hammersmith main house. In 2013, she contributed I am sad you are dead Mrs T for Theatre 503’s Thatcherwrite. In 2014, she wrote Happy Ending for Natural Shocks’ Peep. Her plays have been published by Oberon, Methuen, and Faber and Faber. In 1999, with the late Lucinda Gane, she co-founded award-winning theatre company Mama Quilla, producing The Bogus Woman (Fringe First, Adelaide Fringe Sensation Award, M.E.N. award for best actress, nominated for E.M.M.A. and Susan Smith Blackburn Award), playing the Traverse and The Bush. Their second production Bites played the Bush (nominated for Susan Smith Blackburn Award) and their third production Bones premiered at Haymarket Leicester, transferring to the Bush. All plays have subsequently been produced internationally. She has devised and directed over 15 plays for Mama Quilla, working in communities with casts of over 50. Theatre of Protest at the Roundhouse in 2012 involved over 80 performers and 8 new commissions. In 2014, she wrote Veil the Poem, directed by Kully Thiarai for Shanaz Gulzar’s immersive installation, playing The Alchemy Festival at The South Bank. In 2015, she wrote and directed The Singing Stones at The Arcola. She is currently producing Acts of Defiance, a multimedia online project, contributing five short plays and two three-minute films shot in Houston, Texas, and New York. Kay lives in Houston and London.
Jo Brisbane, Cape Cod, USA
Jo Brisbane is an actor, author and playwright, writing year round on Cape Cod, MA. Abandoned machinery and people frequently appear in her plays, prose and poetry. Her professional writing has ranged from print journalism to broadcast interview and editing. She walks the wrack line frequently, unless a Nor'easter is predicted.
Khai Dattoli, Wisconsin, USA
Originally from Wisconsin, Khai Dattoli has spent the past twelve years in Los Angeles writing and performing comedy. The USC graduate has worked in film, webseries, and stand-up, but her greatest passion has been bringing original comedies to the theatre. Dattoli has had four of her plays successfully produced in Los Angeles. The latest, "Off Book," is currently playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywod, and this summer also brings her writing debut in NYC with Theatre 68's production of "Off White," the first in her series of "Off Comedies."
Kelly DuMar, Boston, USA
Kelly is a playwright, poet and creative arts workshop facilitator from the Boston Area. She founded the Our Voices Annual Festival of Boston Area Women Playwrights, held at Wellesley College, now in its 9th year. She's a former President of Plawrights' Platform, Boston, and an Advisory Board Member of the International Women's Writing Guild and the Transformative Language Arts Association. Learn more at http://www.kellydumar.com
Anne Flanagan is a writer/actor, theatre teacher and Women's Health Care consultant. She has also worked as a private investigator, which is not nearly as exciting as one might think.
Anne has won many playwriting awards and has been produced throughout the United States and Canada.
Publications include her full length comedy, Artifice, (Dramatic Publishing); Best Women's Monologues 2013 (Smith and Kraus), Best Contemporary Monologues 2014 (Applause)
Residencies include the Kennedy Center Playwright's Intensive, StonyBrook/South Hampton Writer's Conference, and the Kenyon College Playwright's Institute.
Catherine Pearson Tully, USA
Playwright, Screenwriter, Actress,Voice-over
Born and educated in the United Kingdom. Catherine, is a prize winning author. She has written many plays, screen plays, short stories and poetry and children’s books.
March 2014 – Winner of 7th Annual International Jewish, Short Play Contest, THE LOST CHILDREN.
2014/2015 Annual Miami One Minute Play Festival. AT THE END OF THE DAY, I DON’T UNDERSTAND, THE MEAN STREETS, YOU’RE SCREWED
Winner Florida International Play contest: KISS ME, EDNA (Full length play)
Strand: Winner play contest: PLACEMENT (Full length play)
Ten Minute Plays: DRESS REHEARSAL, CHECKERED TROUSERS, THE LOST CHILDREN
Full Length Plays: OVER MY DEAD BODY, ONE-WAY TICKET, BY VIRTUE OF PRUDENCE, THE WIND HAS NO CORNERS, MAGGIE, KNOCK, KNOCK WHO’S THERE, THANKSGIVING DINNER
Tori Rice, San Diego, USA
Tori Rice is a playwright, teaching artist (with Playwrights Project, San Diego, CA) and actress (stage/film = Tori King). Plays include PARTIAL RIGHTS (Playwrights Project, San Diego, CA); BOTTLED IN, BABY (New Perspective Festival, San Diego, CA); COMMON SKIPPERS (Lyceum Theatre, Tempe, AZ); and personal narrative pieces YARD SALE (SMoCA Lit Lounge, Scottsdale, AZ), IMPERFECT (Spark! Powerhouse Theatre, Venice, CA) and MAGNET & STEEL (Scripps Ranch, San Diego, CA). She is a founding member of the San Francisco-based Club Solo, as well as a former ensemble member of the groups New American Theatre (Los Angeles, CA) and Aurora Mime Theatre (Tempe, AZ). Favorite roles include her critically acclaimed one-person show, THE MORE MEN WEIGH (Edmonton Fringe); Patti, STRAIGHT TALK (LA, Odyssey Theatre); Ophelia, THE HAMLETMACHINE (ASU and Emporia State University); and Annelle, STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Winterstock Regional Theatre, AZ, Best Supporting Actress). She has appeared in dozens of commercials and films, with the latest film production opening soon on the Midway Museum in San Diego, CA (VOICES OF THE MIDWAY).
Results of the August Board Meeting
During the Annual Meeting new Board members where elected. During the Board Meeting this month, officers were assigned and committee assignments given.
Karen Marijke Jeynes, South Africa, President 2013-2015
Lucia Verona, Rumania, Vice President 2013-2015, Membership Committee
Sophia Romma, USA, Vice President 2013-2015, On-line Communication Co-Chair, Fundraising Chair
Sharon Wallace, USA, Secretary 2013-2015, Networking Committee
Laurie Smilan, USA, Elected July 2015
Eliza Wyatt, UK, Elected July 2015
Patricia L. Morin, USA, Elected July 2015
Rita Kniess Barkey, USA, Elected July 2015
Mona Clair Curtis, USA, Newsletter Editor, 2013-2015, Membership Committee
Coni Ciongoli-Koepfinger, USA, Networking Chair, On-line Communication Co-Chair
Elana Gartner, Volunteer Manager, Applause Awards Co-Chair, Networking Committee
Note: Kris Bauske is staying on as co-chair of the Applause Awards Committee, although she is not returning to the Board
We also want to recognize our member volunteers.
Thank You to all our Volunteers
50/50 Applause Award
Diane Baia Hale
Sylvie Grimm (non-member. Committe and translator)
Chi Wei Hlivka (non-member. Committee and translator)
Mami Kimura (non-member. Translator)
Maximillian Hollander (non-member: Video Editor)
Script Reading Groups
Israeli Stage in Boston has announced a full season of Israeli women playwrights.
July 2015 Newsletter
The last possible day to still be called the July Newsletter. July has been a busy month. I hope you have time to read this small compilation of some recent developments in gender equality in theatre.
July Spotlight: Sofia Echaverry
Sofía Etcheverry is a playwright, actor, teacher, and director who resides in Montevideo, Uruguay. She earned an M.A. in Theory and History of Theatre and teaches literature and improvisation at the Instituto de Actuación de Montevideo (Performance Institute in Montevideo).
Etcheverry graduated from the Escuela Multidisciplinaria de Arte Dramático (the Municipal School of Dramatic Art) and the school of Teatro La Gaviota. She’s been writing plays since 2007. “I like to explore the borders of genres: musical, dance theatre, drama, comedy, and biodrama,” she explained when asked which types of plays she writes.
Etcheverry maintains a blog at www.sofetcheverry.blogspot.com and a profile at www.dramaturgiauruguaya.gub.uy.
Welcome new and returning members:
Besides our regular forms of outreach the 3rd Annual Dramatist Conference in La Jolla, CA last month proved to be a place to engage new members and renew old friendships.
Kathy Anderson, Philadelphia, USA
Kathy Anderson is a playwright and fiction writer in Philadelphia, PA. Her plays have been produced and staged in the US and in Ireland. Her current play Next Door Gay-bors, with co-writer Bill Felty, was workshopped with Pride Films & Plays in Chicago and featured in Chicago's 2015 Rhinoceros Theater Festival.
Philadelphia Theatre Workshop produced three full-length world premieres of her plays - Incoming; The Meatpackers Book Club; and Front Row Seat. Incoming won Bloody Unicorn Theater Company's Queer Women's Play Contest and was produced in 2007 in Arizona. Incoming was selected for the International Centre for Women Playwrights Chicago HER-RAH 2007: A Festival of the World's Best Women Playwrights and Their New Plays and featured in TOSOS II Robert Chesley/Jane Chambers Playwright Project in New York City in 2008. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Playwrights Center.
Her short story collection was a finalist in the 2015 Autumn House Press Fiction Contest. Previous versions of the collection were finalists in the 2015 New Rivers Press Many Voices competition and the 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her short stories have twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. www.kathyandersonwriter.com
Aphra Behn, New York, USA
Aphra Behn is the artistic director of the New York City based Guerrilla Girls On Tour, an internationally acclaimed anonymous theatre collective fighting discrimination in the arts and proving feminists are funny since 1997. In order to put the focus of their work on the issues they address, each member of Guerrilla Girls On Tour works under the name of a dead woman artist and performs wearing a gorilla mask. “Aphra” is currently working on a memoir which will be published in 2017.
Elizabeth Coplan, USA
Elizabeth is a published essayist and a playwright. Her recent play, Hospice: A Love Story won an Island Theatre award. The play will be performed August 21 and 22, 2015 on the stage of Bainbridge Performing Arts just outside of Seattle, WA.
Violet O'Valle, USA
I have enjoyed a long career in educational and semi-professional theatre, having begun my career as a Drama Director at Houston area high schools. I hold a BA from the Department of Drama And Dance at the University of Houston, and M. A. and PhD degrees in British Literature, with an emphasis on Irish drama, from Texas A&M University. I am the founding Producer/Director of Pantagleize Theatre Co in Fort Worth, Texas, which produces plays from international cultures, especially those represented in our home state. I divide my year between Texas and Ireland, and my own play writing has been heavily influenced by both cultures. I am also an enthusiastic poet, a college instructor, and a student of all literary genres and all facets of theatre.
Pamela Winfrey, San Francisco, USA
Pamela Winfrey specializes in surreal plays for a thinking audience. She has won several awards and grants and her works have been seen as far away as Canada and Ireland. She has been a finalist at Arts and Letters and is a founding member of Mobius Operandi, a performance group, The Alchemy Works, and Discover Novato Arts. She has a BA in theatre and a Masters in Interdisciplinary Arts. She is also a curator and senior artist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
Jyl Lynn Felman, USA
Jyl Lynn Felman is an award winning playwright and performance artist who has performed her work nationally in the US and abroad, including Cuba, Australia, the Czech Republic and South Africa. She's been interviewed on NPR and the BBC. "If Only I'd Been Born A Kosher Chicken aired on C-SPAN'S performance series. She's given performance and writing workshops worldwide, most recently in Cape Town, SA and is the author of three books- NEVER A DULL MOMENT: TEACHING AND THE ART OF PERFORMANCE; CRAVINGS, a memoir, and HOT CHICKEN WINGS, short stories. An edited version of "Girl Kicks Girl" was performed in Stockholm at the 9th Women's International Playwright Conference.
Kyra Cohen, Atlanta, USA
Playwriting Major at Emory University
Elena Kaufman, Hamburg, Germany
Elena Kaufman is a Canadian writer, actor and teacher who lives in Germany. Short fiction appears in: SubTerrain; 1097Mag; Women in Judaism; Pharos; and New Shoots and she won Best Foreign Short Story at The Moondance International Film Festival competition (Boulder, CO). Dramatic monologues are in New Monologues for Women by Women II (Heinemann) and Audition Arsenal (Smith and Kraus). Two one-act plays were produced at festivals in Winnipeg (FemFest)and Stockholm (FEATS). She has an MA in Drama (Toronto) and an MS in Creative Writing (Oxford).
Laurie Flanigan Hegge, Minneapolis, USA
Laurie Flanigan Hegge is a playwright, bookwriter and lyricist from the Minneapolis, Minnesota. She serves as the Twin Cities Regional Representative for the Dramatists Guild of America.
Prudence Holmes, USA
Prudence Wright Holmes wrote the plays Willa Cather: Her Life and Loves, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Sister Girl, Agatha Christie is Missing, Leave the Drama on Fire Island, Duncan and Vanessa and Beat Chick and Bexley,OH!
Bexley OH! was produced by New York Theatre Workshop and Beat Chick was also produced by the Workshop Theater. She also wrote the books Monologue Mastery, The Voice and Speech Warm Up and Workout and Voices of Thinking Jewish Women.
As an actor, she has appeared in featured roles in the films Sister Act I and II with Whoopi Goldberg, Kingpin with Woody Harrelson, In Dreams with Annette Bening, My Own Love Song with Renee Zellweger, After.Life with Liam Neeson, God’s Pocket with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Boardwalk Empire with Steve Buscemi. On Broadway she appeared in Happy End with Meryl Streep, Lettice and Lovage with Maggie Smith and Inherit the Wind with George C. Scott and The Light in the Piazza at Lincoln Center and on the National Tour. She has appeared in numerous off-Broadway shows including the original casts of Godspell and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. She wrote and performed her solo show Bexley, OH! at New York Theatre Workshop.
Report Out from the ICWP Annual Meeting
The ICWP Annual Meeting was held online July 10-17. Two significant accomplishments were the election of new Board members and the approval of the ICWP Mission Statement. New and returning board members are Mona Curtis, Elana Gartner, Michelle T. Johnson, Karen Jeynes, Coni Koepfinger, Sophia Romma, Lucia Verona, Sharon Wallace, Laurie Smilan, Eliza Wyatt, Patricia L. Morin, Rita Kniess Barkey. Specific offices and positions will be reported after our next Board Meeting in August.
ICWP Mission Statement
Our mission is to support women playwrights around the world by:
bringing international attention to their achievements, encouraging production of their plays, translation, publication,and international distributions of their works
providing means for communication and contact among the sister community of the world's women dramatists
assisting them in developing the tools of their craft, in determining their own artistic forms, and in setting their own critical standards
encouraging scholarly and critical examination and study of the history and the contemporary work and concerns of women playwrights
supporting their efforts to gain professional equality, and to express their own personal, artistic, social, and political vision without censorship, harassment, or personal danger
This policy states the ICWP's position on discrimination, *not withstanding the gender focus of it's mission*. This policy applies to all ICWP employees, volunteers, members, clients and contractors.
Another important event at the DG Conference was the revealing of The Count, a collaboration between the Lilly Awards and the Dramatists Guild to determine how many women playwrights are produced in the US. Led by Julia Jordan and Rebecca Stump, with the help of Dramatists Guild representatives, ambassadors, regional representatives and staff, The Count collected data on theater seasons 2011-2014 to determine the percentages of women playwrights being produced. The results were announced at the Dramatists Guild National Conference in June, 2015. The Count will be an ongoing annual project.
The criteria for theaters that were considered: significant producing theaters in the region producing at least 3 productions in a season that run longer than 21 performances. They must be known for producing new playwrights, that is playwrights from the past 50 years. Nationally, 22.18% of productions over the past three seasons have been written by women. 14% are American white females, 3% are American women of color, 2.5% are foreign white females and .4% are foreign women of color. Comparatively, 62% of the productions in the US were by American white males, 10% by foreign white males, 6% by American men of color, 4% by foreign men of color. It was found that 62% of productions were new work. The rest were revivals, defined as work that premiered at least 10 years ago. There are additional numbers that will become available.
There were four women who presented on behalf of The Count: Marsha Norman,Rebecca Stump, Julia Jordan and Lisa Kron.
Here is a link to the NY Times article that came out just before the conference and an article in American Theater.
An article and infographic by Porsche McGovern, lighting designer, revealing the gender disparity of theater set, costume, lighting, and sound designers.
Theater for young people usually involves more girls than boys, but there is a dearth of challenging female roles. See what one UK organization is doing about it.
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theatre,
Member Spotlight: Laura Shamas
Laura Annawyn Shamas hails from Oklahoma and has lived in Tulsa, Denver, and L.A. She writes plays, non-fiction, screenplays, and fiction and blogs about art and creativity. Her education includes a B.A. in Theater Arts from UCLA, an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and an M.A. and a PhD in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She's a member of ICWP, the Writers Guild of America West, PEN USA, the Dramatists Guild, the League of Professional Theatre Women, and Women in Film. She lives in Los Angeles.
What is your experience with and what is your impression of play festivals that feature plays by Native Americans?
I've been to quite a few as an audience member, and have participated as a dramaturg in one and as a playwright in five: Native Earth Performing Arts/Toronto; Native Voices at the Autry/Los Angeles; Native Festival at The Public Theatre (New York); Five Civilized Tribes Museum (Muskogee, OK); and I just got back from Oklahoma City Theater Company's Native American New Play Festival of 2015. I love attending them. My impression is that they are excellent and needed.
Why is it important for Native American playwrights to get their work produced? Why are their works important?
It's crucial for Native American playwrights to have their work produced today because they are the First People of this country, and they were systematically killed or removed by those who came later. The works of current Native American playwrights represent these cultures, and speak for their ancestors and for the future. These traditions and people are still alive in spite of the cultural, social, and political genocide launched against them for hundreds of years. Last year I had a research fellowship at the Autry Museum related to Native residential school experiences in the U.S. and the intergenerational effect of those schools on native families. I visited Carlisle, the site of the "first" military-style residential boarding school for native children, as part of this project. I will never forget seeing the many graves of "unknown" native children who died while attending Carlisle. Here's a link to my summary post: http://blog.theautry.org/2014/11/memories-that-haunt-and-reaffirm/
Do you self-identify as a Native American playwright? What is your connection with that world?
My heritage is mixed. My last name is Arabic - "Shamas," which means "light," from the Sumerian-Babylonian sun god Shamash, a god of justice. Both my parents have native ancestry, and of different tribes. As is traditional in terms of matrilineal roots, I'm a member of my mother's tribe, the Chickasaw Nation. I also have English, French, Irish, Lebanese and Scottish heritage. I was born in Oklahoma and grew up there, so that's my connection. Some of my plays are archived at NAWPA, the Native American Women Playwrights Archive: http://staff.lib.muohio.edu/nawpa/
Tell me about one of your environmentally themed plays. Is environmentalism a passion of yours?
The play I'm most proud of in that vein is CHASING HONEY, about the devastating loss of the honeybees, which I wrote in 2007. I'm sorry to say the play is still entirely relevant. The play has an all native cast, and is about two native families and Colony Collapse Disorder. It was analyzed by Yvette Nolan, whose work I love, in an essay published last year: "The Collapse of Worlds in Laura Shamas's Chasing Honey," in Enacting Nature: Ecocritical Perspectives on Indigenous Performance (Peter Lang Publishers, 2014, Birgit Dawes and Marc Maufort, eds.).
Environmentalism is a passion of mine, and is addressed in several of my plays. I do have a new pitch for an environmental play that went out in the past year. It would be the most environmental one yet! And the feedback I've gotten on the outline has been positive, but no one has chosen to fund or commission it and it does have a lot of on-site research involved.
Tell me about your latest ventures.
In 2015, I have 3 new theatre projects in development. One is CIRCULAR, a new two-person show about Circe, Odysseus, and PTSD. It's about a young female psychiatrist in the Army who becomes entangled in the world of The Odyssey as she serves in Afghanistan. It's a psychological study, and you don't know what really happened until the final scene of it. It had its first reading at the Lark Play Development Center in New York in April.
The next project I have coming up is a new musical that composer-lyricist Lisa Donovan Lukas (lisadonovanlukas.com) and I have been working on, LADY-LIKE, a musical biography of "The Ladies of Llangollen." It has a cast of 3 women - huge roles! Our first reading of it is going up at the end of June in Santa Monica. I'm directing the reading and I cannot wait for everyone to hear Lisa's music and lyrics. I’m honored to work with Lisa; I'm the book writer and it's adapted from one of my earlier plays also called LADY-LIKE.
Tell me about LUCKY IN HOLLYWOOD. You mentioned the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahoma City
That's my third new theater project this year, and it's based partially on an old family story. It spans the years from 1943 - 2024. It's about a native family and a "Hollywood" family, and how their lives intertwine for generations when "Lucky," a native American WWII gunner who miraculously survives a bullet straight through his bubble, is given a scholarship for acting at a famous Playhouse in the Los Angeles area. I do have a Chickasaw ancestor whose story was the spark for this. I was so thrilled that it is a 2015 finalist at the Oklahoma City Native American New Play Festival. It was wonderful to see 4 new plays at that festival last month, and they did a terrific job with my reading - very helpful to see it.
What type of characters are your favorite to write? Do you write mostly female or male characters?
I have several all female cast plays (including one co-written with esteemed ICWP member Paula Cizmar!). But all in all, I'd say it's a fairly even split for me in gender categories. For characters I like to write: characters who take action, who do actually do things. I find it's extremely tricky to write passive characters, even though we all have passive aspects to our lives. I also love to write smart female and male characters.
Do you write plays to inform people, inspire them, educate them, or something else?
Something else: You have to entertain them or else you're not writing plays. I do try to do all of the above, too, but in the end, if it's not entertaining, it's not going to work onstage. I don't think "entertaining" people in a theater is easy to do, by the way, because you're asking a group of people to suspend disbelief, to let their own thoughts and worries go, and to follow your imagination instead. That takes a lot of writing effort, especially in today's world, when most of us are now in the habit of scrolling our lives away on smart devices at all times.
Andrea Markowitz, Arizona, USA
Hooked on theatre since age seven when I saw my first Broadway show, I earned degrees in English literature, musicology and psychology, and landed jobs in several industries before authoring the play, “Feeding the Furies.” I write in multiple genres, but playwriting is special to me because of the immediate focus on character and dialogue. A New Jersey (USA) native, I moved to Arizona in 2002, where I am currently writing a second play. I would love to connect with other ICWP members to share tips, expertise and experiences that will help us reach our fullest potential.
Elaine Fernandez, Hudson Valley Playwrights, USA
Elaine Fernandez is founder and director of Hudson Valley Playwrights, a theatre workshop for local writers developing new work. Most recently, her 10 minute play "Almost Home" received a staged reading at the Morton Memorial Library in Rhinecliff, New York, and her One Act play, "Hey, Driver," was produced at The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck on May 9, 2015. Elaine is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America.
Laurine Smilan, Emerging Playwright, Recovering Lawyer, USA
Eliza Wyatt, England
Eliza Wyatt has been active in the theatre for more than thirty years, mostly in Boston, Mass. and now in England. She has won many awards for her plays, competitions and Firsts. Her plays can all be accessed and read at: www.elizawyattplays.com
ICWP will hold its annual meeting July 10-17, 2015, and we invite all our members to participate in the online forum on the website. One of the most important issues in this annual meeting is the election of new Board of Trustee members. Any member is eligible to be nominated. Trustees are elected to the Board for two-year terms and help to run the day-to-day operations of ICWP as well as plan for the future. Members who have served on a board previously are especially welcome and if you feel you can offer some energy, experience and general good ideas we'd like to see your name in the list of nominees.
Three of the current Trustees, Suzanne Rakow (Treasurer) Geralyn Horton, and Kris Bauske are ending the second year of their current two year term. This leaves at least 3 positions that need filled to reach the legal minimum of nine Trustees. The maximum number of trustees who can serve on the Board is 15. So please consider putting your name forward or the name of someone else you know would be a good Trustee.
Suzanne Rakow, who has served faithfully and efficiently as Treasurer for 8 years, wishes to give up her position on the Board, so we are especially looking for a Trustee who has 501-c-3 accounting or bookkeeping experience along with knowledge of software like Excel and online banking. Other open positions are: President, Vice President, and Secretary. One of the main duties of Board members is to participate in quarterly Board meetings, which take place online in the same type of forum as the upcoming Annual Meeting. During these meetings, the Board discusses different initiatives for the organization, such as participation in the Equity in Theater Conference and joining the Women in Arts & Media Coalition. The Secretary also has the responsibility of writing the minutes of said meetings.
To nominate someone (or yourself), please complete this online form. Please click the link to make a nomination. Nomination Form. If you have any trouble with this link you can email ICWP Administration using the link at the bottom of this newsletter. (firstname.lastname@example.org.)When making a nomination, please make sure that you have the member's permission and that they are interested in serving on the Board. The date for submitting nominations has been pushed back to 26 June, 2015. Nominations can also be made during the online meeting, but those names will not appear on the member voting ballot.
50/50 Applause Award Update
It may appear June is a quiet month for ICWP’s 50/50 Applause Awards, but nothing could be further from the truth. When nominations closed, the committee was left with a great deal of raw data that needed to be examined, organized, and verified. Each nominated organization has been contacted for additional information, and there are always questions about what does and does not make them eligible. The data is updated daily as each organization responds, and all nominees are then sorted into either the Eligible or Ineligible category. In many instances, the committee is still awaiting final responses from nominees. Co-Chairs, Elana and Kris, have also been interviewing volunteers to work on the exciting 2015 Celebration video this year. Much like the duck, all may seem still at the surface, but the committee continues to paddle ferociously underneath!
Seattle novelist Nicola Griffith has some great posts this week related to the content of novels about women, female authorship, and winning awards. Many see the correlative to theater:
excerpt: “…. I feel the part of me that floats between physical and sexual aspects of my life is the truest part – a neutral space not limited by binary concepts that make us either male or female. I have made being this “alternative hero” my work for two decades in a world where it is still prevalent in cultures dominated by ancient religions that women are considered lesser in their very essence than men, and they still have no voice. It is a privilege and joy to step outside my own gender, and let the neutral in me – and in us all – sing."
Alice Coote: My Life as a Man
Ahead of her solo Brighton festival appearance showcasing Handel’s gender-bending operatic writing, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote reflects on the complexities of a creative life playing ‘breeches’ roles.
Member Spotlight: Geralyn Horton
I have been writing plays since I was first able to write
—I could read at age 3, write before age 4—and am
still at it, convinced that it is my Vocation! If there were
any play writing programs that admitted women in 1957
when I graduated from high school, I certainly did not
know about them. . . .I have no credentials, prizes, fans,
mentors, grants, honors—just persistence.
ICWP member G.L. (Geralyn) Horton was born in Toledo, Ohio and now lives in Newton, Massachusetts. She says she “has been doing theatre ‘forever’—romantic comedy, supernatural tragedy, political satire”--as well as musicals and mini-opera. Horton adds that “I’ve had a life-long commitment to agitating for gender parity in the arts.” She has performed as a “singing actor” in new plays and maintains a website of her work at www.stagepage.info Her website includes 100 monologues and 200 one-minute monologues, as well as plays and musicals.
Q: Tell me about a play you’re proud of.
A: “The musical Precious Bane—I was taken on as book writer/lyricist in 2007—is special to me because it’s a long-term collaboration with a composer who is devoted to the novel it is adapted from and with a serious group devoted to writing opera and musicals….We are currently performing a fifty minute stripped down version to try to draw the attention of people who could help us towards a production.” [www.precious-bane.com]
Q: Do you write primarily male or female characters?
A: “Both. I am very comfortable writing men. . . .When I cast myself as a writer, I assumed that nothing human was alien to me.”
Q: Do you prefer to write one gender over another?
A: “I write more parts for women than for men, and particularly for older women; I consider it a duty. So few interesting parts for older women, so few women writers writing them from the inside.”
Q: What type of plays are your favorite to write?
A: “I love large cast plays that have characters from differing backgrounds and age cohorts, some ambiguity and unresolved mystery, and poetic and/or witty language.”
Q: Why do you write plays?
A: “In childhood, I had a vision/dream, wherein I was summoned to join a golden carousel of poets and playwrights going round and round to celestial music. “You are to join us in writing plays,” they said.””
Q: What advice do you have for ICWP members who are new to playwriting?
A: “Enjoy! And I wish for you that you will find actors and directors to work in close collaboration with, who will foster and nurture the children of your imagination.”
Marianna Staroselsky has been writing since age 10, starting with poetry and later delving into most genres from journalism to microfiction to pantoums. Theatre is the one that makes her the happiest. Her current writing projects include "Cry Baby Meets Audrey Hepburn," a bilingual creative nonfiction play loosely based on her life and immigration from the Former Soviet Union whose production will be partially supported by a Tikkun Fellowship, she's also writing a brand new play as a member of the Writer's Room at the New Colony, and producing and co-directing her one act plays such as "1-800-Why-Does-Life-Suck," in upcoming festivals in Chicago (Fringe Fest) as well as in NYC (Manhattan Rep.) She’s also a company member with the Orchard, a brilliant new Chicago theatre company, and BYOT Productions, a monthly 24-hour theatre fest. Her theatre training comes from classes at the University of Chicago, Second City and the Annoyance. When Marianna isn’t playwriting, performing, or directing, she’s working on her dissertation on the performance of the self and identit(ies) in life and on the stage.
*Ibadete Abazi, Kosovo, Albania
*Interesting sidetone: Abazi is the first person to join from Albania, and as such, has free membership for two years. This policy was adopted by ICWP to encourage internationalism.
Ibadete Abazi is a student of Dramaturgy in the Art Faculty at the University of Prishtina in Kosovo. She is known for writing the 26 episodic scenario for the famous TV series City without a River produced by Idea Production and broadcasted on Radio Television of Kosovo – RTK. She has written several short dramas and screen plays. Some are awaiting production in theatre, and soma have been produced by students at the University of Prishtina. Ibadete is married and has two daughters.
After much consideration, ICWP has decided to become an Affiliate Member of the Women In the Arts and Media Coalition, an advocacy and networking organization that addresses issues of concern to women in the arts, media, and new media.
We would also like to sincerely thank The O'Neill Film and Theatrical Foundation for forfeiting the $150 dollar annual membership fee.
The O'Neill Film and Theatrical Foundation is dedicated to aiding women playwrights and screenwriters from around the world in getting their work produced on the stage and screen, by drawing domestic and international attention to their artistic achievements. The Foundation is equally committed to proactively and systematically advocating for gender parity in the theatre and film industries, striving toward the day when the employment gap for women is permanently closed. www.theoneillfilmandtheatricalfoundation.com
The nomination period for the ICWP 50/50 Applause Awards opened with a bang, garnering 70 nominations in the first week from, at least, five different countries! We hope ICWP members and the public will continue to find theaters who demonstrated gender parity between July 1, 2014-June 30, 215. Nominations are open until May 22, 2015. http://www.womenplaywrights.org/award
Equity in Theatre Update
The EIT Symposium on April 27th, 2015, was a successful event, with approximately 100 people from various fields in attendance, who brainstormed solutions for a more equitable industry.
Resources from the day are available on the Equity in Theatre website. The focus of the day, and the ongoing purpose of the EIT Initiative, is to devise actionable items, agenda and strategies for change. The Symposium generated a number of ideas to implement as we move forward, including a Canadian Kilroy’s list, an equity-based rating system for play productions, toolkits for Boards and Artistic Directors, and more. Furthermore, the Symposium drew attention to The Palette Premise, an initiative commenced by Tanisha Taitt. Central to her project is the core belief of celebrating cultural diversity as a means to bring women of all backgrounds onto equal footing in order to make greater strides towards gender equality.
"Toronto, Ontario is in my humble opinion, the epicenter of the theatrical Canadian sphere, particularly with Toronto's various theatre and affinity group initiatives striving for deeper representation of women in the Canadian Theatre, seeking the full representation of the Pan Asian culture in Canadian theatre as well as the representation of the growing LGBQ Community, the Latino Community, the enlightened youth which seek their active reflection in contemporary Canadian theatrical pieces from which they are peculiarly absent, and the presentation and preservation of the indigenous community of current obviously underserved presence in the Canadian theatre. Most importantly, women working in the Canadian Theatre yearn to preserve the thriving scene of theatre for social justice, which is much needed in the chaotic 21st Century, and is very much in lieu of the activism present in the United States on the theatrical front. In essence, activism on the part of women working in the theatre, in unification, is a growing necessity in achieving gender parity and social justice in Canadian theatre as it is mirrored in the US."
Sophia Romma, ICWP Vice President and representative at the Symposium
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
The story behind Friday Night Light's recent episode about rape and football.
"Maybe one of the reasons Schumer and the overtly feminist humor she does so well is resonating right now is because the raw material available to people who view the world through a feminist lens is inherently absurd. Women are fighting for rights so obvious they shouldn’t even be up for debate.
All Female Casts, Breaking Up the Boy's Club. Two new Canadian plays, Miss Shakespeare, set 400 years in the past, and J. Ceasar, set 400 years in the future, both feature all women casts. This is a great summary article about the status of women in theater, with several quotes from ICWP Board Member, Kris Bauske.
Spaulding Gray's Catastrophe, a poignant article about the actor's illness and suicide, written by his neurosurgeon.
by Debbie Miller
Herlina Syarifudin defines herself as an “Indonesian woman playwright, director, and monologue actress.” Syarifudin lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she teaches high school and writes plays, monologues, short stories, and poetry in her native Bahasa/Indonesian language. Her plays have been produced in Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Bali).
On November 15, 2014 Syarifudin founded the Keluarga Theater company in Jakarta. According to Syarifudin, Keluarga members represent “a wide range of disciplines” including actors, directors, playwrights, choreographers, costume designers, and models. Thus, Keluarga encompasses theatre, movies, dance, fine arts, fashion, and street performance.
Currently, Syarifudin’s play “My Name is Name” (translated from Indonesian) is in rehearsals with Syarifudin directing and producing. The play has been selected to be performed at the Women Playwrights International Conference (WPIC) this year in Cape Town, South Africa.
The following is a Q&A interview with Syarifudin. As English is not her native language, the text has been adjusted slightly in terms of grammar, but the words are her own.
Q: Did you study playwriting in a college or university?
A: No, I didn’t. I’m self-taught (an autodidact ) and I joined a short playwriting workshop.
Q: Did you study acting in a college or university?
A: No, I didn’t. I’m self-taught. I joined productions in some theater groups here, watched theater (live, You Tube and Vimeo), read books about acting, joined a short acting workshop, and discussed acting with senior theater artists.
Q: Why do you write plays?
A: Because I love theater. In theater, especially for playwriting there are many challenges with its own difficulties for us as playwrights compared if we are writing short stories. When I write a play, I’m not only in position as a playwright, but I have to imagine the play as a director also.
For example, how can I create characters and find actors who can play the characters in the script? How can I describe the situation in each scene and the space and time of the setting, considering the size and type of the stage that we will use to show the play (public space/ outdoor or indoor)? How can a lighting director, artistic director, makeup and costume designer translate/interpret my script on the stage?
Q: Do you write: monologues, full length plays, one act plays, or ten minute plays? Comedy, drama? One-person shows?
A: I have written monologues, full length plays, one act plays and ten minute plays in all genres like comedy, tragic comedy, drama, and melodrama. But, all of my plays and monologues are still in the Indonesian language. The only one that is in English is a play “My Name is Name.” So, that’s why I joined ICWP, to motivate me to start translate all of my plays and monologues into English so that they can be read and performed by theatre companies around the world.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: When I was at Senior High School I started writing a diary book. When I was in college, my writing evolved into poetry, short stories, and plays. And I started seriously writing plays in 2006. But sometimes if I am stagnant in an idea to write a play, I move on to writing poetry, short stories, and scenario of short films. It depends on my mood.
Q: Do you write plays and monologues to educate people? If so, what do you want to educate people about? Is there a theme that underlies a lot of your writing?
A: Yes, I do. In my plays and monologues, there are moral messages about how to learn about life, humanity, and give more attention for the many things that to other people might no longer matter. For example, most of the themes in my plays and monologues talk about minorities—street children, traditional arts that are almost extinct and have been lost because people in this generation are not interested in learning them anymore, and marginalized, economic low class people. And, the struggle of women.
Q: Can you tell me about one character you are proud of?
A: I have a monologue that I perform titled “Victimizing Goddess Cokek.” The Goddess of Cokek is a representation from a figure of master Cokek artist Mak Masnah (“Mak” means “mother”). It is from the Betawi people in Java, an island in Indonesia. Mak Masnah was born in an era of warfare. She died on January 26, 2014. “Cokek” is from the Chinese language Hokkian and means a woman singer. Cokek is a traditional art of Chinese and Betawi cultures. I am interested in honoring her and lifting her story because she devoted her life to being a Cokek artist. Her jobs as an artist were not enough to finance her life and her family and she didn’t always get jobs because there were many competitors during that time. But, she was still loyal as a Cokek artist until she died. And, the problem now is that there are not people of this generation who are interested in becoming Cokek artists. I have performed this monologue 15 times between 2009 and 2014, as playwright, director, and performer. I dedicate “Victimizing Goddess Cokek” to Mak Masnah.
Here are links to two 30-minute videos of Herlina Syarifusin performing “Victimizing Goddess Cokek:”
Welcome New Members & Returning Members
Rahmat Ismail Bint Zakari, Abuai, Nigeria
My name is Rahmat Ismail Bint Zakari. I am a Nigerian from Benue state (north central) of the country and I reside in Abuaj, the federal capital territory for the Nigeria people.
Growing up then in my secondary school days, I became interested in my school dramatic club and subsequently before graduation in 1993, I was able to put together my first play titled "The Seed of Love". Since that piece, my interest has remained uninterrupted even though I have not been able to publish any of my pieces.
The reason why I want join the conversation is to afford me opportunity to learn and improve my writing talent. I am a member of a writer's forum here my country and since joining the forum, I do know that I enjoy some level of satisfaction as I get to participate in our monthly writers' challenge in which my story once won second. I look forward to having a more gratifying experience being member of your group.
You can always reach me through my email address.
Séverine Klein, Paris, France
I am a French and live in Paris. I mostly write in French and sometimes in English. I have published a novel (La vérité peut attendre, Truth can wait) and a play (Maîtres-chanteurs/Blackmailers) and have written several other plays.
I am also an actress though writing is my my main artistic interest.
Among modern/contemporary playwrights, I like most Yasmina Reza, Bernard-Marie Koltès, Jean Tardieu, Lee Blessing, Theresa Rebeck, Sarah Kane, Hanokh Levin, Arthur Miller and some Harold Pinter.
I am a trained writing coach and have helped a few writers to improve theirs drafts.
I feel ICWP can be a place where I can discuss current trends in playwriting in English. I would also like to discuss directing plays while being the author.
My website (in French): www.severineklein.net
Laylah Muran de Assereto
*Russ Travis, New York, USA
*Men are welcome to join ICWP as long as they support women playwrights.
Sandra Seaton, Michigan, USA
Playwright and librettist, Sandra's plays have been performed in cities throughout the country, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and her libretto for the song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings, set to music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, has been performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
Seaton’s first play, The Bridge Party, set in a small Southern town during World War II, dramatizes a confrontation between members of an African American women’s bridge club and deputies engaged in a house-to-house search in the black community. www.sandraseaton.com
Christine Trageser, Red Brick Road
Paula Kamen, Evanston, Illinois USA
Among other plays, the author of Jane: Abortion and the Underground, which is excerpted in Best Female Stage Scenes and Best Female Monologues series. Also the author of four non-fiction books, the most recent being "Finding Iris Chang."
Katherine Koller, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Katherine writes for radio, stage and screen. Her one-act comedies have been produced at the Edmonton Fringe Festival, CBC radio, Jagged Edge Lunchbox Theatre, Winnipeg‘s FemFest, Alumnae Theatre in Toronto and Walterdale Playhouse in Edmonton.
She teaches in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. Her website is www.katherinekoller.ca.
Jennifer Decker, Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company
Heartfelt Thank You to Donors
ICWP appreciates donations from members, former members, future members and anyone who supports women playwrights. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the following individuals who donated this quarter.
Carolyn Nur Wistrand
10 Words Every Girl Should Know
A discussion of daughters and the words we speak to them.
We Want More Older and Real Women on TV
A study showing TV audiences' perception of women in mass media.
Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) 2015 Conference
July 30 to August 2,
Montréal Québec Canada.
April 27 & 28th, Vice President Sophie Romma, and member Shirley Barrie will attend the Gender Equity in Theatre International Conference in Toronto, in representation of ICWP.
Sophia is also part of a smaller working group at the conference and will give a short description of ICWP and its work on gender parity issues. She will address the questions of what our organization is currently doing, the greatest challenges we face and the strengths and resources of our organization.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) 50/50 Applause Awards was founded in 2012 to increase awareness and applaud theatres that produced a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights. Nominations for the 2015 award open May 1.
In the November 2014 Newsletter, I reported that ICWP had nominated member Madhuri Shekar, as candidate for the Lark Pony Fellowship 2015. We would like to announce that Martyna Majok, author of Ironbound, a Top Ten play for the 2014 Kilroys’ list, received that honor. The Lark and Playwrights of New York (PoNY) reported that "Majok was selected from a very talented group of writers who were nominated by artistic leaders and graduate playwriting programs from across the country." Congratulations, Martyna.
Website Tip of the Month
One of the benefits of your ICWP membership is that you can post details of any Productions or Readings events, Awards you may have received and Publications, on the ICWP website.
The links to your listings will appear on the ICWP website Homepage under the "Achievements"
• Productions ( or Public Readings ),
• Awards ( includes Bursaries, Contest Winner, Finalist, commended, Grants received)
• Publications ( Sole Author or Multiple Author Works) .
Just log in on the website with your membership email and password. If you forgot your password, click the Forgot Password link under the login box and you will receive a password help email.
Adding your achievements -
Click on the News link in the top menu Next: In the left menu you will see the links to go to Member Awards Member Productions Member Publications As a logged in member , you should see, on each page, a button that says " Add Post". Just follow the instructions on the page
We are very happy to have Debbie Miller, New York teacher, writer and playwright, join us as Spotlight writer. We are anxious to hear from all our members. If you have any comments or if you would like to nominate yourself or someone else for the spotlight, please reply to this email.
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,
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For general questions contact: Margaret McSeveney email@example.com
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