Everyone deserves to have their story told. I truly believe this. I make no distinction of class, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. However large or small an impact we make in this world during our lifetime, we have served a role in history. The world was made better or worse because of each individual contribution. This is significant and should not be taken for granted.
Growing up, I felt voiceless, invisible and even untouchable. This is sad, terrible and lonely feeling. It wasn't until I started studying theatre at the University of Texas at Austin that I was capable of changing some part of how I felt. Stepping into the classes of Amparo Garcia Crow, Jill Dolan, Fran Dorn, Joni Jones, and Ruth Margraff, I learned how to be seen and heard through playwriting and solo performance. I began working on what would be my thesis play, Blood-bound and Tongue-tied, an adaptation of the Oedipus Rex myth that examines self-hatred in African American community as a direct result of racism, prejudice an social injustice. What's more, I created a three-part solo performance piece called Venus Stands Sublimely Nude, which follows as African America woman's journey to embrace and celebrate her body, skin color and feminine identity.
Then I graduated, made my way to DC and learned that a great many theatres in America aren't too terribly interested in producing plays by women or by people of color. The truth is this hurts. It's heartbreaking to know that regardless of talent, skill, ambition, and hard work my plays may never be produced because of the perceived notion that plays by women and people of color don't sell as well as plays by white men. My hope, quite simply, is that this will change. My mission is to be a part of that change. I will continue to write. I will continue to read, attend, and recommend plays by women and people of color. This is what the women behind History Matters/Back to the Future and Women and Theatre Program are striving to do beautifully, nobly, and with such courage.
After speaking with Alli, I decided to check back in with the Steering Committee. I wanted them to share a few words that might help any of you, who are on the fence about attending tonight. Here's what a few of them had to say:
"I think there is unprecedented momentum around women’s work right now and D.C. is one of the hubs where it is happening. The Folger Theatre recently produced Susanna Centrelivre’s The Gaming Table; Meryl Streep has just made a huge donation to get the National Women’s Museum transformed from more than a cyberspace entity to a real building on D.C.’s National Mall. D.C. is on the cutting edge with a dynamic and close-knit theatre community that is positioned to make a difference and this reading will hopefully contribute to the momentum, which will in turn, continue to ripple throughout the country."
"It seemed to us, the founders of HISTORY MATTERS - BACK TO THE FUTURE, that the most effective way of changing the lack of parity in the theatre (it is estimated that less than 20% of paying work goes to women) would be to ensure that students learn about the contribution of women theatre artists (writers in particular); that we re-instate the great women of the past into the current curriculum thus making us all less invisible. It is only by knowing our past that we can claim our present and secure a prolific future for women making a living in the theatre. The ATHE conference is an opportunity to inspire educators about the importance of teaching the great women writers of the past. It is also a way for us to learn exactly what tools teachers need and how they wish the material to be presented so that they can introduce the works of such Pulitzer-winning playwrights Susan Glaspell, Zona Gale, Mary Coyle-Chase ... In terms of why now, all we have is now and every day we put off the inevitable we will continue projecting forward the same outcome for generations to come. Lack of parity. It is as simple as that really. "
"There is a concerted effort now to make everyone aware of the contributions of women playwrights to American theatre--the Legacy Project initiated by Susan Jonas, 50/50 in 2020, the ongoing work of the Guerilla Girls, the DG Women's Initiative, etc. This event builds on that effort. The DC theatre community is one of the most vibrant in the nation, and its artists can be inspired by the example of these groundbreaking women. Their history also shows the history of DC theatre--I was amazed how many of them had lived, worked, or had plays performed there--including Georgia Douglas Johnson and Angelina Weld Grimke, who were vital members of DC's African-American arts community."
For those who can give tonight over to the magic of theatre, I look forward to seeing you! For those who can't, I look forward to hearing about how you created similar events in your own communities.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!