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“Women in Theatre & Funders”

by Alex Dilks Pandola

In 2014, Green Light Productions published "The Shubert Report;” an examination of the 349 theatres that received funding from The Shubert Foundation- the nation's largest private foundation dedicated to providing unrestricted funding for performing arts organizations.

The Results:

349 theatres producing a total of 1,603 plays with 415 of those being written by women- or 26% of plays produced are written by a woman.

$4 million (out of $16.4 million) awarded to 125 theatres producing 0 plays by women

$2.7 million (out of $16.4 million) awarded to 56 theatres producing 50% or more plays by women

$375,000 (out of $16.4 million) granted to 12 theatres producing an entire season of plays by women

Last week, HowlRound declared 2020 a Jubilee year in which American theatres produce “only works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQA artists.”

A recent Dramatist Guild/Lily Awards study of American theater from 2011-14 shows that only 22 percent of plays produced at America's major theatres were written by women.

American Theatre Magazine’s unofficial count for the 2014-15 season found that only 24 percent of plays being produced are written by women.

While it's gratifying that so many organizations are starting to recognize the serious lack of women voices on our stages, unfortunately, these discussions do little good without funders being at the center of the conversation. Foundations, especially those as large as The Shubert Foundation, play a vital role in sustaining American theatre. The future of American theatre and the role women will play in it is dependent on funders. Without their support gender parity on our stages will never be the reality.  

 
 

Why Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop

By Robin Byrd

Lulla Bell Jury has lost her momma; all she has left is the fiddle her mother gave her and the beauty and pain of life in the Appalachian mountains.  Sometimes you lose so much it's hard to see what you've gained. Fiddlin' on the Mountaintop is an Appalachian tale of music, loss, family, and land.

About Fiddlin’ on the MountaintopThe piece began as a short story created while I was a student at Indiana University; it consisted of only the first scene which you will see here in GLO 2015 (Green Light One-Acts), the remainder of the play is scheduled for development, so stay tuned.

The short story was written in a creative writing class.  Writers tend to work out things in their writing as a way to find answers and closure; I was working out my own sense of loss and Lulla Bell became my voice.  In a very broad sense, this piece is semi-autobiographical.  Universally, it is a story many can connect with as we all struggle with loss and the journey that life puts us on after that loss.

Part of my family originates from Appalachia which I only learned of in the last few years when writing another story set in the area and looking at the map of the Appalachian region of the United States.  One of my grandfathers and an uncle worked the coal mines before migrating to the Midwest.  My other grandfather still has family as well as a family cemetery located in the region.  I think my comfort of putting Lulla Bell on a mountain came from an ancestral/genetic memory of place; it’s like muscle memory for a violinist/fiddler, any musician – there are songs that come through my fingers that I have forgotten I knew how to play and sometimes that I have only sang and never played before but they start to play themselves because the memory of these songs is more alive than even I am fully conscious of. 

From short story to stage play:  Ben Harney (Tony Award Winner for the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls”) developed the short story for performance (at the time, aptly entitled “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma”).  Upon reading the piece, Ben suggested that it was a theatre piece that should be staged and I should perform it.  It was at this time, Lulla Bell Jury’s story became stage worthy.  Ben encouraged me to rework it and flush out areas that I eluded too but did not go into fully.  He taught me to attack it from several point of views - the audience’s, the actor’s as well as the writer’s - making sure that the scenes were rearranged in the right order.  I learned as much about writing as I did about acting.  The exhilaration of performing her on stage was as wonderful as creating her on the page.  I am forever grateful to Ben for his mentoring.

Expansion:  Over the years, Lulla Bell Jury has made it known to me that she was not finished talking.  Taking my cue from Lulla, I began to expand the piece which became Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop.  In Fiddlin’…, I tune back into Lulla Bell Jury to see how her life is going and how she has weathered the storms.  In Fiddlin’ on the Mountaintop, I would like to share just what weathering storms means…

About the Playwright:  I am a product of the Midwest, mine is a Midwestern voice with flavors of the South.  I am a playwright, poet, screenwriter and actor.  I love to incorporate authentic regional flavor into my work.  Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to my affinity toward southern themes and language in some of my pieces. My work also deals with things of the spirit; I am known for sifting through memories and ghosts and other intangible things for stories...  I have studied acting to enhance my voice as a writer.  I play the violin; I am more comfortable calling myself a fiddler.

 
 

On Writing “The Plan”

By Katherine James

The characters in my play The Plan are young women I have met in every decade of the six decades of my life. Young women who put their hopes and dreams aside for the hopes and dreams that others have for them.

This would be sad enough.

What is truly amazing to me is that the hopes and dreams that supersede their own have been the same two over 60+ years: marriage and working for the family business.

It didn’t strike me hard until my older son (who is now 36) was 18 and I met yet another “Anna” who was his contemporary. Anna is the character whose parents have come from another country to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their children. Their success here depends on this child giving her life to the family business with the promise of her own child some day being allowed to have the right to her own hopes and dreams. The “Anna” who was the contemporary of my son’s had not been able to take the S.A.T.’s because her family made sure she was working in the family restaurant that day. As they did every day. I looked back and realized I had met that same girl again and again from the time I was little. I have continued to meet her since, the latest “Anna” a brilliant actress whose parents didn’t want her to get an MFA. They needed her to run the family business and to translate for them.

Will I ever stop meeting “Kiki”? The girl whose family wants her to marry the nice guy and put her hopes and dreams on hold while she helps him achieve his? I hope so. But so far so bad.

What I hope The Plan does is to wake us all up to the fact that our young women with hopes and dreams need to be mentored by those of us who have realized our hopes and dreams. The most soul searching part of the play for me is when the audience realizes that these girls had mentors. Mentors who didn’t follow up with them.

Some women who have read The Plan don’t believe that family pressure to abandon hopes and dreams still exists. They think that when The Feminist Movement of the 20th Century “was no longer needed” it was largely because girls like Anna and Kiki no longer existed. Of course I would say they were wrong on both counts – Feminism is still needed and in large part because Anna and Kiki still are struggling.

I say about today’s Annas and Kikis, “They are our girls.” Let’s give them the encouragement that their families might not be able to. Let’s help them reach their “American Dream.”

 
 

On Writing “Gentleman’s Pact”

By Karen Howes

The tap on the keyboard that began the writing of “Gentleman’s Pact” was a desire to take a new look at the age-old “affair.” For good reason, adultery is typically kept a secret, so I wondered what would happen if the secret was made known and the person who was the “outsider” took an action that changed everyone’s roles. Enter the meek “other man” to ask his friend if he can marry his wife. What would be the response? How would the play go? I wondered the effect that such a proposal would have on the relationships of the people involved and I wondered what it would do to each person as an individual.

As a playwright, I was most interested in the dialogue. I enjoy getting to know characters by listening to how they respond and speak, so writing this play was a lot of fun.  I came to know the characters as I would real people. What they said, even though sometimes a lie, was a building block that enabled me to understand what they really wanted. It was an intriguing process to be involved in  a chess game between three characters who had a lot at stake. I was curious as to how the friendship, marriage and affair would devolve, and I was eager to see a love triangle in which the power and sides would continually shift.

As an unexpected plus — the rehearsal process with the play’s director, Michelle Joyner and the actors at Green Light Productions enabled me to go deeper into this play and discover the threads that weave the larger tapestry. The experience has given me the insight to develop the play into a full length, which I have already begun.

 
 

All About Harold and Me by Diane Grant

All About Harold is one act play that eventually became a two act play called Has Anybody Here Seen Roy?

It began with my daughter who used to work for a visually impaired woman, named Jean, who had been married to a man named Harold. Jean had many stories about him and the one I loved the most was the one about the big black Cadillac. That triggered the play. Harold also conjured up in my memory a man named Roy who once picked me up in the university cafeteria, chatted me up, wooed me, and then set me up with his friend who was 5’4”. (I have never topped 5’. Indeed, it’s stretching it to say I’m 4’11”). And then Roy disappeared. Like Harold.

I don’t know if either Harold or Roy sang but I’ve always felt in my heart of hearts that most male singers, tenor or baritone, are just a bit treacherous.

I started to write when I was very young and began with stories. The first one was about my piano teacher who would excuse herself from the music room to take some of her medicine. When she returned, her breath always smelled somewhat different. Sweeter. Stronger. My second teacher enjoyed a sherry with my Mother after my lessons, which got shorter and shorter. Somewhere around Chopin’s Nocturne #2 in E Flat Major and the last glass of sherry, I stopped taking lessons but am still writing.

Although I was part of a radical troupe of actors in Canada, called Toronto Workshop Productions, and threw myself into political writing and performing, I’ve always loved and written comedy. The humor in my plays is always about something underneath, something that keeps us going or stops us from living fully. And I hope it makes people laugh. About the same time I worked with Toronto Workshop, two amazing and energetic women, Francine Volker and Marcy Lustig, asked me if I wanted to join them in forming the first professional women’s theatre in Canada. I did and we called it Redlight Theatre and wrote about women! Most of my protagonists are still women because, well because I’m a woman, and because they are interesting and funny and complex and bound to run up against a man or two.

I’m so pleased to be part of GLO, and thank them for giving women a voice and the joy of working together.

 
 

Green Light is building its Board of Directors

Green Light is building our Board of Directors and Advisory Board. We are looking for both men and women who are dedicated to our mission to produce new work by women.

Every successful nonprofit has an incredible Board of Directors leading it. Great board members share a passion for the organization's mission and are willing to share their expertise and connections to build and promote the organization.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in learning more about serving in a board member capacity with Green Light please check out our Board Member Job Description and contact Alex Dilks Pandola at alex@greenlightproductions.org.

 
 

Do we really need this?

I started Green Light Productions in 2003 to create new opportunities for women in theatre. As of 2008, Green Light exclusively produced plays written and directed by women.

This year, Green Light completed The Shubert Report to examine the 349 theatres that received $16.4 million in grants last year from the nation’s largest private funder of the performing arts. We found that only 26% of the plays being produced were written by women and that 125 of those 349 theatres weren’t producing ANY plays written by women. Foundations, especially those as large as The Shubert Foundation, play a huge role in sustaining American Theatre- most of which is classified as nonprofit. Imagine the impact it’d have if they required applicants to produce seasons that had 50% female writers and directors? Imagine the impact if just one major theatre a year decided to do a season of plays by women. Just that one step…

In 2005, I took that step. Heather Jones sent me her one-act play “Last Rites” about a life-long friendship between two women. It’s a beautiful play and I walked around with Heather’s script in my bag for month thinking about how it could be produced. I had the idea to create a festival of one-act plays all written and directed by women. GLO- Green Light One-Acts. And since the first GLO in, we’ve given world premieres to 15 one-act plays with productions in Philadelphia, New York and now- Los Angeles.

In GLO2014 we introduce to the world 4 new plays- written by female playwrights based in Los Angeles including Allie Costa, Jennie Webb, Julianne Homokay and myself with directors Liz Hinlein, Jen Bloom, Ricka Fisher and Katherine James. I have met the most incredible women just working on this first Green Light show here and I am so excited to plan our next steps here in LA.

Getting here wasn’t easy. While I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with hundreds of women who support our mission, over the years I heard a surprising amount of negative feedback – much of it from women who felt that the theatre didn’t need companies like Green Light. A female journalist actually responded to one of my press releases with “Do we really need this?”

Yes, we do. And we need YOU!

I hope that by forming new collaborations, asking lots questions, challenging those who need to be challenged and producing work by women, Green Light will continue to have a valuable impact on artists and audiences. And I hope you’ll be part of it.

 
 

The Cat Therapist

Project Greenlight and Green Light Productions started around the same time. After a long hiatus for Project Greenlight and a shorter one for Green Light Productions; both are back and better than ever.

Check out the short film I wrote and directed for the Project Green Light competition. "Cat Therapist" also stars Sean Faye (who coincidentally was in the first production of GLO back in 2006) and Xander the cat.

Ben Affleck said "Project Greenlight was ahead of its time." I feel the same way about Green Light Productions. Over the last 11 years people have said that this work of creating opportunities for women wasn't necessary. Obviously they were dead wrong and the current activity by groups like The Kilroys and our own Shubert Report have shed a huge spotlight on the importance of companies like Green Light.

Just one week left until submissions close for GLO 2014. We've gotten such a great response from Los Angeles based playwrights and directors- we might just have to do this 2x in 2015.

 
 

Hobby Lobby

In light of the recent Hobby Lobby decision, I wrote to Whole Foods Market and a local co-op market, asking that they remove Eden Foods products from their shelves. I’m sharing my correspondence with Whole Foods below. I’m not surprised at their response. I’m not posting the correspondence with the co-op but they basically took the same stance as Whole Foods.

One side of me knew the co-op wouldn’t stand up and do something radical like pull Eden Foods off their shelves but another part of me wished they would because they’re not just another soulless company assuming the rights of an individual but accepting none of the responsibility that goes with it.

My e-mail to Whol Foods Market

Dear Whole Foods Market,

I am sure you know that CEO of Eden Foods Incorporated, Michael Potter, sued the Department of Health and Human Services on the grounds that the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate violated his right to religious freedom. The U.S. Court of Appeals decided against Mr. Potter, ruling that as a for-profit corporation Eden Foods could not "exercise religion."

Due to the Hobby Lobby decision, Mr. Potter's case has been sent back to the U.S Court of Appeals.

You can read quotes from Mr. Potter on why he has brought forth this suit here.

I ask that you remove products manufactured by Eden Foods from your shelves. Michael Potter has used his religious freedom to deny the rights of his employees and it is in the best interest of your company and your customers that we do not support Eden Foods.

Thank you,

Alexandria Dilks Pandola

Reply e-mail from Whole Foods Market

July 8th, 2014

Hi Alexandria,

Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market to share your feelings about Eden Foods with us. When reviewing products for our shelves, our primary consideration is whether the product’s ingredients meet our Quality Standards. We recognize that customers may have their own personal criteria for buying or not buying a product, and it’s every shoppers’ right to vote with their dollars on that basis. We hope that if you have any feedback for Eden Foods, you’ll share it with them directly. Please know that we appreciate your feedback, and support of WholeFoods Market.

If you have any further questions please use our on-line response form.

Best regards,

Carijane Grigsby-Etter

Global Customer Information Specialist | Whole Foods Market | 550 Bowie Street | Austin, Texas 78703

 

The Shubert Report

An examination of the theatres currently receiving funding from The Shubert Foundation

What is The Shubert Foundation: The nation’s largest private foundation dedicated to providing unrestricted funding for performing arts organizations.

Theatre funding: 349 nonprofit theatres across the country were awarded a total of $16.4 million in grants ranging from $10,000-$300,000.

Why it is important: Aside from its size and the number of theatres it supports, The Shubert Foundation is especially interested in supporting theatres that develop and produce new American plays.

The Study:

Green Light Productions looked at each of the 349 theatres that were named as grant recipients in 2014. We examined their most recently announced season and looked at how many full productions (12 or more consecutive performances) were being produced of plays written by women.

Green Light included plays of all lengths and also considered a play to be written by a woman if any part of the script including book and/or lyrics was written by a woman, if the script was adaptated by a woman or if a woman was part of a partnership even if other members of that partnership were men.

The Findings:

  • 349 theatres producing a total of 1,603 plays with 415 of those being written by women- or 26% of plays produced are written by a woman.
  • $4 million awarded to 125 theatres producing 0 plays by women
  • $2.7 million awarded to 56 theatres producing 50% or more plays by women
  • $375,000 granted to 12 theatres producing an entire season of plays by women

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Theatre has an extremely important role in our culture. From the beginning of civilization it has connected people both physically and mentally from classic Greek tragedy to theatre of the absurd and everything in between. It is a medium that constantly evolves to mirror, reveal and expose modern society.

In the United States, nonprofit theatres are a unique business model. For most theatres, at least 50% of their revenue is contributed foundation, corporate, government and individual support. Foundations, especially those as large as The Shubert Foundation, play an important role in sustaining American theatre.

We are at a crossroads. The vast majority of plays being produced are written by men at a time when women are writing great plays. Of the last 6 Pulitzer Prize winning plays 3 were written by women and 8 of the last 13 Pulitzer finalists plays were written by women. And women are theatre’s biggest supporters representing more than 60% of the ticket-buying audience.

There is no doubt that The Shubert Foundation is dedicated to supporting American theatre, however if they would like to cultivate the next generation of theatre, if they are committed to an American theatre that is both vibrant and successful, they will challenge theatres to produce plays written by women. They will encourage theatres to embrace the range and capacity of women playwrights and financially reward those that do, essentially giving theatres the confidence to produce theatre that creates the much needed audiences that American theatre needs to survive.

Women write great plays. We hope The Shubert Foundation will empower theatres in America to produce them.