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Andrea Stolowitz reports on the International Women Playwrights Conference Mumbai 2009.

Thanks to the ICWP grant I was able to partially fund my travels to the 8th Triennial Int’l Womens Playwrights Conference in Mumbai, India.

On a personal note, my play KNOWING CAIRO was presented at the conference with much success but little audience. The play garnered interest by some of the India women in attendance, one of whom wants to translate the play into Marathi. The conference was lovely and interesting but did suffer from some debilitating organizational issues which led to small audiences for many of the plays. This was a shame because I had wanted to learn about the work of as many participants as possible.  I suspect that many of the organizational issues will be solved for the 2012 conference in Stockholm.

Other than making my work known to a wider public and learning about other playwrights work, I have been able to help women playwrights whom I met in India be exposed to a wider market, specifically through recruiting plays from conference participants for the International Center for Women Playwrights new anthology and for several other opportunities I knew about in the states who were looking for plays by writers from non-western countries.

Although I had much opportunity to see plays, I did not make any direct match to a Portland theater to produce one of the works I had seen (which I had hoped). I suspect that connections made at this conference will surface in Portland as I find the right match for the right project.

While I thought the work I saw at the conference would have an aesthetic impact on my writing, I think it will in fact have a thematic impact. The work at the conference was very political in nature. I have always shied away from writing political plays. At this conference I was able to see plays that were political in nature but also excellent pieces of art--I felt this was inspiring to me and my process. I also do firmly believe that while it is "exotic" and "exciting" to write about far away lands and politics, I will try to find my political stories in my own community, if I can. This is not to say that I will write political plays from now on, rather that it is a genre for which I have gained a new respect.

Overall my window on the world of women playwrights globally has been expanded. It was enlightening for me to meet women like Ratna Sarampaet (Indonesia) who had her play shut down by government tanks because her ideas of gender equality were so dangerous to the status quo that they could not be tolerated. It was inspiring for me to learn of the women directors at the Swedish National Theater who led a four year federally funded research project resurrecting lost Swedish plays by women
writers and then producing them to critical acclaim, thereby expanding the canon of accepted Swedish plays.

I learned that I am part of a larger collective—a collective of international women writers working in theater. This is a community that I will draw strength from and give back to over the course of my life as a playwright. I will be attending the conference in 2012 in Stockholm.


I was unprepared for how many challenges a conference run by women in a male centered non-first world country would face. There were many aspects of disorganization at the conference and I had to learn to let go of some of my western expectations (events running on time) and instead engage with the experience and the culture at the conference. I was also reminded of what I already knew but often forget in this profession: very few playwrights "make it" and there are many many talented writers worldwide whose plays are bearing witness to events that would be otherwise lost; the mark of this profession is not critical acclaim or monetary gain. It is rather the ability to tell the stories that need to be told, and to tell them with great mastery and artistry.

For the future I hope that ICWP and WPI can find a way to complement each other. I am not yet sure what these compliments would be, but it seems that in some ways we duplicate each other’s missions. As each organization develops it would be interesting to figure out ways to work in concert with each other. I very much enjoyed meeting the other ICWP members at the conference and am thankful for this opportunity.

Andrea Stolowitz

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