In 1916 the first American professor of dramatic literature, Brander Matthews wrote ‘A book about the theatre’ (extracts online at Questia.com). He speculated why there were less women dramatists and why the few female-authored plays that were produced were less well-regarded. He concluded that women were likely to ‘have only a definitely limited knowledge of life,’ and, ‘that they are likely also to be more or less deficient in the faculty of construction.’ So women didn’t have anything to write about and when they did, they couldn’t structure it!
Almost 100 years later, we’d probably like to think that attitudes to women theatre writers (indeed, attitudes to women in all walks of life) would have come a long way, but maybe not. A recent study by a Princeton graduate (‘Opening the curtain on playwright gender’ by Emily Glassberg Sands) found a definite gender bias discriminating against female playwrights; which in turn leads to a vicious circle of theatres not willing to put on work by women and finally to women not writing plays as they know there is no chance they will be performed and then less plays being available by women, and so it could go on to a horrible conclusion… a world where there are no women playwrights and the only plays by women sitting dusty on library shelves.
A recent conference at the National Theatre quoted the statistic that only 17% of playwrights are female. An informal look at the plays on in London in July 2009 reveals that a much smaller percentage of women are actually having their work performed on a regular basis.
‘17 percent’ is inspired by this statistic and takes its name from it. It’s the start of a campaign to get more plays by women playwrights onto UK stages. We will do this firstly through online networking and sharing of expertise, then through a variety of activities which will be announced as the campaign progresses.
Join the Facebook group : 17 percent
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