Every year when the Tonys roll around, there is a lot of (mostly understandable) complaining about how man-centric the Great Whitey White Way (still) is.
Yeah, 99% (or whatever the number is) of all new plays are by men, and 98% (or whatever the number is) of all revivals are by men, and 97% (or whatever the number is) of all directors are men.
But in case you haven’t been lately, Broadway is a sinkhole of mass-produced commercialism designed to make kids and senior citizens from Weehawken sit still for two hours. So why would you want to fight to be represented in a place like that?
With the exception of nuclear-powered musicals or certain classics that you want to see go big with stars (like A RAISIN IN THE SUN or WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF), and the occasional rare new play like ALL THE WAY, Broadway is not the place to go looking for what’s new and exciting in American (and international) theatre.
Broadway is the Walmart of theatre. It’s all about scale and money and moving the masses – and selling $5 boxes of peanut M&M’s. So why go shopping there if you’re looking for the good stuff?
The real craft is happening Off Broadway. And the good news is that when it comes to the smaller theatres where important new work is launching, women are writing most (all?) of the great new plays these days.
Make a list of the most exciting current American playwrights, and they are almost all women. A few you should know about are: Annie Baker, Amy Herzog, Sarah Treem, Lynn Nottage, Lucy Thurber.
In New York right now, the two must-see plays are both off Broadway and both written by women. There’s THE VILLAGE BIKE by Penelope Skinner at MCC Theater (NYT Review), a crazy scary sex fantasy/dystopia from the UK (of course), and WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID by Sarah Treem at Manhattan Theatre Club’s second stage, an intense portrait of a home for battered women on Vashon Island in Puget Sound in 1972 just before ROE V. WADE.
Treem’s latest is nothing short of the next great American play. Look for it to win every prize there is and go nationwide like RUINED did a few years ago. And yes, it could be a candidate for a Broadway transfer. But you’ll have much more fun seeing it in a smaller theatre.
Both of these two current plays deal with gender, sex, violence, and what has become of feminisim. Here’s a NYT piece:
So forget Broadway. If you have a hot new play that actually says something, you’re not going to have it produced there anyway. Unless you’re willing to heed your producer’s advice and write in some sock puppets, guitar-playing waifs, or scantily clad women.
The truth is, where it really matters (which is Off Broadway), women playwrights already own the American theatre.
And the result for the rest of us is a steady stream of unforgettable plays.