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Let’s Be Plumbers

Monday night, American theatre exploded, and there is definitely a mess that needs to be cleaned up right now.

The Summit held at the Arena Stage on Monday brought together artistic directors and members of the local theatre scene to talk about the future of American theatre. Prominent artists were to talk about the progress of the American stage and the tactics to expand its accessibility (ideally). The conversation derailed very quickly when the topic of the inclusion of women playwrights and the lack of representation was brought up.

The answers? It’s hard. We can’t find them. We can’t market them. It takes too long for there to be a tangible shift. Wait for the needle to move. Maybe “answers” is too lenient a word; “excuses” seems more applicable even then that gives too much freedom.

There was talk of “the pipeline,” which I am assuming is the process by which plays are chosen from a wider pool and refined into plays for production and development. But the “pipeline” shifts the blame from the artistic directors, the producers, the board of directors, etc to this ethereal, intangible monolith which seems to function on ideas of representation that are laughably outdated.

The real trouble was that these answers were default. This was the go-to response if the topic of women writers was brought up. Furthering the disturbance is that this was only about a single demographic; what does this say about playwrights of color? About playwrights of sexual minorities? Of differently-abled playwrights? Of any playwright that  does not look like the CIS gendered, white, male?

There is a new generation of actors, artistic directors, literary managers, dramaturges, directors, producers who will gladly strip down this school of thought and produce works by women, people of color, and sexual minorities. I am part of this new generation, and I will be reworking some plumbing.

The inclusion of women playwrights and playwrights of color is apparently hard for the Washington D.C. stage. It takes too long to get these playwrights in the “pipeline.” There are not enough works by these demographics, and it is too hard to market them to an audience. This is not theatre. This is a perpetuating a literary canon. This is archaic thinking.

This is exclusionary.

This is lazy.

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