On June 21st, in response to the claim that artistic directors couldn’t find plays by women to produce, the Kilroys released The List for a third year. (If a “?” bubble has already popped up over your head, check out this article.) While the criteria has shifted since its creation, The List’s aim is to bring a greater level of visibility to the work of female and trans playwrights based on a survey of theater professionals’ recommendations*. Each year, when The List is released, one thought has almost always crossed my mind, “Wow, I recognize way fewer of these titles than I feel like I should.” Part of that is because many of these plays are so new that they haven’t been published, so only literary managers and artistic directors are likely to have access to them. This means the weight (or responsibility) of seeking these plays out (and producing them) rests squarely on the shoulders of the artistic leadership of producing entities. The research has basically been done for them, all they need do is reach out to the writer’s agent, download from New Play Exchange, or contact the writer directly to acquire the script. So what’s puzzling me is, as I look back at previous lists released by the Kilroys, why haven’t more of these plays been produced in Seattle?
Last year, The List offered up 53 plays and an additional 186 honorable mentions; the previous year there were 46 recommended plays and, at least twice as many honorable mentions. But as I’ve gone back through these lists, here are the only Seattle productions of mentioned plays that I can recall:
- Washington Ensemble Theatre – The Tall Girls by Meg Miroshnik (The List 2014)
- New Century Theatre Company – Tails of Wasps by Stephanie Timm (The List 2014)
- Seattle Repertory Theatre – The Comparables by Laura Schellhardt (The List 2014)
So out of 99 plays recommended in the last two years, we have three companies that have done three plays. Now to be fair, I’ve also identified three more plays that will have forthcoming productions:
- Ghost Light Theatricals – The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George (The List 2014)
- Seattle Repertory Theatre – Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman (The List 2016)
- Seattle Public Theater – Grand Concourse by Heidi Shreck (The List 2014)
So now, out of 131 recommended plays in three years, we will only have had five companies do six plays that were highly recommended by theater professionals nationally. That’s a scary statistic if I ever saw one.
But it gets worse, out of the 450 honorable mentions, we have four companies that have done five of those plays:
- ACT – The Mystery of Sex and Love by Bathsheba Doran (2015 Honorable Mention)
- ArtsWest – My Manana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin (2014/15 Honorable Mention)
- Seattle Repertory Theatre – Brownsville Song by Kimber Lee (2014 Honorable Mention)
Then there’s Forward Flux Productions, which produced the world premiere of Still Life by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich which was an honorable mention in 2015. And then this year, our world premiere production is The Summer House by Sarah Bernstein (tickets here), which is an honorable mention on The List 2016.**
First of all, please oh please, tell me that I’ve left some plays off this list! I’d be happy to know that I’ve made an oversight (or multiple) that would allow us to claim more productions by female and trans playwrights that are on The List.
But, even so, I can’t help but wonder:
Are theater companies in Seattle even aware of the Kilroys?
If not, they seriously need to get on this on the immediate…
And, if so, why aren’t these plays getting done in Seattle?
Are we afraid of presenting un(der)produced plays?
Now, so far, most of the Kilroy plays that have been produced were on the 2014 list; so maybe, as more companies announce their upcoming season, we will see more of the titles from the 2014 and 2015 (dare we add 2016) lists getting productions. #wishfulthinking
New plays are the life source of our art form and if you don’t have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening… well, let’s not go there yet.
Here’s to hoping more theater companies step up to the plate and soon because these stories deserve audiences and our Seattle audiences deserve to see these high caliber plays.
*Forward Flux Productions’ Producing Artistic Director Wesley Frugé and Literary Manager Benjamin Benne were among the nominators for The List 2016. To become a nominator, contact the Kilroys here.
**Forward Flux Productions presented Still Life and The Summer House at The Flux Salon prior to selecting them for full productions. Leading up to their productions, playwrights Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich and Sarah Bernstein were flown to Seattle for a developmental workshop with the cast in preparation for the world premiere productions.