Seek More Gender Diversity Onstage? Look at This List
The Kilroys, a theater collective formed to encourage more stage productions of work by women, on Tuesday released its fifth annual list of new work recommended for companies seeking to diversify their offerings.
The list appears to be having an impact. The organization says that 100 plays it has named have been produced or promised productions, and one, “Cost of Living” by Martyna Majok, won a Pulitzer Prize.
For the first time, the list this year was based on nominations from all 50 states. The nominators are theater artists who read or see at least 40 plays a year; they nominate plays anonymously, and those cited most frequently make up the Kilroys list.
This year’s list features 33 unproduced or “under-produced” works by women, transgender, and non-binary writers who have not previously been recommended by the Kilroys.
Several of the plays are already getting attention. “Behind the Sheet,” by Charly Evon Simpson, had a well-reviewed and much-extended run this year at the Ensemble Studio Theater. Alexis Scheer’s “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” is to be staged this fall by WP Theater; Emily Feldman’s “The Best We Could (A Family Tragedy),” will be produced next spring by Manhattan Theater Club; and “Cullud Wattah,” by Erika Dickerson-Despenza, is being presented next summer at the Public Theater. But many of the plays are still awaiting discovery.
The collective members — 14 playwrights, directors and producers in Los Angeles and New York — are all new this year, and one of their first priorities was to geographically broaden the pool of nominators. Hilary Bettis, a playwright and television writer (“The Americans”) who is one of the new Kilroys, said she had seen firsthand the impact of the list after her own work was included.
“The amount of doors the Kilroys opened has been astonishing,” she said this week. “I got emails from people across the country — theaters, literary departments, college professors, high school students.”
Ms. Bettis pointed out that a survey conducted by the Lilly Awards and the Dramatists Guild found that the percentage of productions of plays by women is slowly increasing nationally — to 29 percent at last count.
“It has started a big national conversation that’s been a long time coming, about the importance of gender parity, and about holding accountable the kinds of work we’re putting on our stages,” she said. “There is so much great work out there, and so many more great plays being written.”