Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy hour

I really have to hit more Second City openings. The reception was… well, it almost qualified as an after-party, with pitchers of beer scattered around, a serious buffet, and a congenial, crowded atmosphere.

The show prior (Between Barack and a Hard Place) was, of course, smart and funny. But I’m dreading the review. I haven’t seen a Second City mainstage show in over a decade, and I feel as if, in order to type intelligently, I should have. The SC people are high-level practitioners of a form (the black-out sketch) that was once revolutionary, and is now establishment. And I’m just- I’m ignorant! Ah well, this is the price you pay for mac n’ cheese buffets and comped drinks.

At any rate, these guys are pros, and you’ll be in good hands for the evening. You may or may not “bust a gut.” I did not. But I think I observed a few others in the busting process.

Ps. The TOC listings say that this review boasts “an extremely diverse cast (perhaps the most so in years).” One hopes this is not true, because then extreme diversity means two minority performers instead of one.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Our man in London

Well, near London. Entirely tolerable member of the patriarchy Matt Board ran the numbers on last week's London theatre gender representation, with some fascinating results! appended:

So the tallies are in! There is quite good news and very bad news. Hold on
to your lunch.

First, the good news:

I'm pleased to say that Off-West End has done us proud. Out of 55 straight
plays currently running (discounting one musical and two Shakespeares), 30
were written by men and 25 by women. That's 45%. The female playwrights
run the gamut from complete unknowns through to Caryl Churchill. All told,
that's not bad. (The one musical was by men, btw.)

Incidentally, there were also 33 male directors and 25 female directors
(43%). The female directors were predominantly doing shows by female

Second, the bad news:

The West End is exactly the reverse. Out of 24 straight plays currently
running (discounting 20 musicals and 1 Shakespeare), only 2 of them were
written by women. One of them was "The Woman In Black", which is credited
to novelist Susan Hill but is actually just adapted from her novel by a guy,
so perhaps we shouldn't count that. And the other was Agatha Christie's
"The Mousetrap", which has been running since the Flood. So there you have
it - one mothball-ridden Agatha Christie play makes up the West End's entire
female playwright contigent, a delightful 4% of what they have to offer.

Of the 20 musicals, 4 (20%) had female writers. They were all
book-writers - no female lyricists or composers. Out of all 45 shows
currently playing the West End (24 plays + 20 musicals + 1 Shakespeare),
only 6 of them have any female contribution. That's 13%.

When it comes to West End directors, 35 of them were men and 10 were women -
that's 22%. (And several of those were your Julie Taymores - directors of
shows which have been imported and running for yonks now.)

So what's the grand total? Out of the 103 shows currently playing in
London, 31 of them were written by women. That's 30%. And all bar one (who
just happens to be Britain's best loved crime novelist, and whose production
is older than most people living in London) have their work Off-West End,
not West End.

What's the upshot? In short, you should come back to the UK - you can get
your play on Off-West End. But that's where you'll stay, sister.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

60 Hurrahs!

Pssst! "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" webcrawlers! Yeah you! Over here!

The Loopies are finally up!

Click here!


Friday, March 09, 2007

Rampant Sexism in Theatre, part II, the unscientific survey

See my previous post for the official studies. Now remember when I told you to count? Last night, I counted. Just this week, just my particular city. Then I vomited.

Not having internet access at home, I used my copy of Time Out Chicago. Now, I could spend a lot of time reviewing my methodology (anything with a writing credit counts, cowritten plays of mixed gender get one mark in each column, cowritten plays of a single gender get a single mark, Shakespeare is not counted under any circumstances, etc. etc.) But it'd be almost pointless. The results are so horribly tilted that even if I'd been extremely prejudicial in counting women's plays as opposed to men's, I couldn't have made it past 30%.

This is what I got:
Plays written by men: 60
Plays written by women: 22
Plays written by people of indeterminate gender: 9

26%! That's counting both Late Nite Catechism shows, 365 days/365 plays, and the writing credit on a burlesque show. If you assume that all persons whose gender could not be determined are female (and why would you assume that?) you can pump it up to 34%.

But of course, there's Shaw and Wilde in there gumming up the works. Let's count only plays that are a. Chicago premieres and b. written in the last decade. That is, new works.

Plays written by men: 39
Plays written by women: 12
Plays written by people of indeterminate gender: 9

23%. Ouch.

There was a lot less info about directors, but here's what I got.
Men: 50
Women: 15
Not mentioned: 30

Who wants to bet that the real numbers are in that same range?

Because I'm a masochist, I might do this every week. I might even go to the internet cafe to get a more accurate count.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy International Women's Day!

And welcome to my 101st blog post.

This is an adamantly non-political blog, inasmuch as its non-personal, non-celebrity, non-fashion, and, in fact, non-anything except theatre. Still, it's also Blog Against Sexism day, and boy, do I have some theatre/sexism stuff to blog about.

Read it and weep.

This 2002 study is the best and most complete information available online, and it's heartbreaking. For that year, female directors were in charge of just 16% of productions. Female playwrights wrote just 17% (A whopping 18% if you cut out Shakespeare!) A 2005 study conducted jointly by the Women Arts Project in New York City and Theatre Communications Group came up with even worse figures. And if you think that isn't current enough, go get your local theatre listings and count. Good luck breaking 30%.

And stop sputtering. According to the TCG study, 52% of mfa students are female, not to mention 60% of the play-going population. Either women are bad writers, or something stinks. Some have tried to deny the problem by ignoring the numbers, but these stats are cold and hard and brutal.

My question is, what the heck are you doing about it? The problem is real, and pervasive, even in my beloved Chicago. If you are not actively reaching out to female playwrights and directors, you are part of the problem. A lot of companies need to take a long look at their seasons, past and present. Not because it's PC (who cares?), not because it will get you more grants (it won't!), or even because it is morally right (it is!) but because it's bad art. As Time Out Chicago pointed out in its excellent article on race in theatre, the big old-boy network is made up of a series of aging young-boy networks. Now is the time to change, or we're going to end up with an increasingly loud cacophony of the same voice.

I would enthusiastically welcome any comments, and any debate on this post. I mean it. These stats make me feel grouchy and I'm spoiling for a fight.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Let's go see a nice dark quiet play

I must confess that I went to see “Monster Garden” somewhat lacking my customary open heart. It is a Wednesday. It is cold. I was (and am) unusually tired, and the play sounded irritating. I was meant to go review it last night, but was struck down by a vomitous migraine. One can imagine the review under those circumstances:

“’Monster Garden’ is an incomprehensible display of gratuitous sound, light and motion. Why are all those actors talking and walking around? Why can’t we all just sit quietly in the dark? Every line is an ice pick to the occipital….”
Etc. etc.

But tonight, the play was fairly painless. It even had some enjoyable bits in it. It was one of those terrifically overwrought sexual dramas that I always want to be funnier, about a woman who used to murder men on principal, and the little girl she forced to help her. As is well documented, I’m against the death penalty as administered by the government, but fully support the Beatrix Kiddo Sexual Assault Law, so I appreciated that some actual baddies did get whacked during the course of the story. I also appreciated the evil AA group leader, who undermined his group members in a well-modulated voice, and spent a lot of time writing down things he said.

*Any rape victim, should s/he be so able and inclined, should be allowed to kill her attacker. And steal his car.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A sunny day, a matinee-

Just returned from "The Juniper Tree" at City Lit. It was clever and tuneful and delightful, and went well with my cold shiny Sunday. It's a musical adaptation of the creepy cannibal fairy tale (of the same name,) and it has an accordion song. I think you'll all enjoy it. It even held my attention throughout constant iterations of the following dialogue from my seatmates:

Man: (dozing) Snerk.
Woman: (hissing) Open your eyes! Open your eyes!
Man: Wah?
Man: (head clunks onto chest.)
Woman: Hold your head up, dammit!

Gripping drama, yes, but the show onstage stood up to it.

Last night was "The Invention Show," a musical at Annoyance. Their reputation was made with weird and harsh improv, so the show was surprisingly toothless. I mean, it was a bit like that show based on Schoolhouse Rock, but with more obscenities. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I was tired that I couldn't have handled anything more demanding.