Double (XX) Fest: Give A Girl A Chance

by Britain Valenti
Double (XX) Fest 2.0 Playwright
          I have always been a fan of Sam Shepard. By proxy, I have always been a fan of David Mamet. Basically, I have basically been a fan of most major masculine playwrights. After all, everybody reads Our Town, Death of a Salesman and Shakespeare (though I don’t particularly see him writing “masculinely” as much as “women aren’t much allowed onstage are they?). More recently, most Neil LaBute and Martin McDonagh steal stages across America. They’re not strictly “masculine” because they use a lot of curse words (a lot) or violence (a lot) onstage to offend our delicate sensibilities, it is because in most of their given shows, the best lines, most complex words go to the men, while women are portrayed…haphazardly. And, until recent years, I was a perpetrator of the same crime.
          I, inspired mostly by my above heroes, always sought to write the most masculine of plays – often failed, but seeking nonetheless. At the same time, I lamented the lack of roles onstage, real gritty roles of complexity or cursing and violence (a lot). Finally, after a few years of auditioning as “the girlfriend”, “the mother” or “the b*tch”, I got the dawning realization: Why am I cutting out my own tongue? (To reference that cool dude Shakespeare).
         Eisa Davis was a recent recipient of the “Ruby Prize”, an award granted by the Southern Repretory Theatre in New Orleans. While speaking on women’s roles in theatre, she mentioned how there are so few female playwrights being actively produced today one cannot even split up the amount into “female playwrights of color” and “white, American female playwrights”. We are ALL in the minority. At the most recent Tony awards, NO best-play nominee was written by a woman, and seldom is – at least by comparison to male writers. (We didn’t even get into the Best Revival of A Play category).
          Beyond Sarah RuhlPaula Vogel and Sarah Kane (unfortunately deceased…like Shakespeare), most theatre kids are probably going to have Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner in their hands before they get any female playwright anthology. And, while all have female characters, the women are usually on average, outnumbered 2:1 (at best) onstage. A rule of thumb is: For every one woman you put on stage, there MUST be two men to fight over her. (In many cases three, because she needs a gay best friend.)
          So what is this blog entry? It’s not a plea for more women to rise up and start writing more – believe me, artists like Young Jean Lee and Katori Hall are consistently working below the fame radar. I know you girls are writing. This is more a plea to theatres to start or continue in the work of Stone Soup’s Double (XX) Fest. If every theatre in the country commited to doing one mainstage show by a (preferably current) female playwright, well, there’d be lot more stages to go around. And, hopefully a lot more insightful roles.
_________
Britain Valenti is one of the selected playwrights for Stone Soup’s Double (XX) Fest 2.0 – her play, Champagne, directed by Rebecca Parker-O’Neil, runs during the 2nd week, April 26-29, 2012.

The Festival, created to exclusively showcase the work of female writers and directors, runs for three weekends from April 19-May 6 and includes A Night of Cabaret/Acts, A Night of Spoken Word, A night of Solo Performance and The 24-Hour All-female Playfest 2.0, in addition to pre-festival readings scheduled in local, neighborhood establishments and two weekends of fully-staged short plays. More info can be found on the SST website.

 

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