The Catholic University of America

Oct. 19, 2015

CUA Drama Honored for Supporting Female Playwrights

  The Revolutionists by award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson was one of several female-written plays recently produced by the Department of Drama.

The Department of Drama was honored recently as a recipient of the International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) 2015 50/50 Applause Award, which recognizes theatres that produced 50% or more women playwrights in their season.

In the 2014/2015 season, the Department of Drama produced five plays, four of which were written by women. Those plays included La Perdida by Kathleen Cahill, Conversations I’ve Never Had by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Kathleen Burke, The Mage Knights of Eternal Light by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Amanda Zeitler, and The Revolutionists by award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson.

This year, the awards recognized 60 recipients representing nine countries. Many of the theaters that were recognized are featured in a multilingual video at (Patrick Tuite, chair of the University drama department, is featured briefly.)

According to a release issued by the ICWP, performances of plays written by women make up under 25% of all productions internationally. In the United States, plays written by women made up only 22% of the plays produced between 2011 and 2014.

Additionally, productions by female playwrights are often performed by smaller theatres or companies than those by male playwrights, resulting in less income for the playwright. A 2015 report issued by the British Theatre Consortium concluded that “… on average, new plays by women are performed in theatres that are 24% smaller than those which present new work by men, while the ticket price is 23% lower.”

“That doesn’t seem right when the majority of theatregoers are women,” said Jon Klein, head of the M.F.A. Playwriting Program. “This has become a very prominent and important issue in the world of national theatre.”
Though CUA drama does not make its decisions solely based on the gender of playwrights, Klein said the program has a responsibility to represent as many diverse voices as possible.

“Gender is always a consideration when we pick our seasons, as well as the needs of our students and the excellence of the plays,” he said. “Theatre needs to reflect a contemporary society and that is certainly true with different races and ethnicities as well as genders. Plays need to reflect society and theatres have not been doing a good job with that.”

So far this season, the drama department has produced Selma 65, which was written by playwright Catherine Filloux and conceived by Marietta Hedges, head of the M.F.A. Acting Program. That production was directed by Eleanor Holdridge, head of the M.F.A. Directing Program.

Other productions this year will represent a variety of theatrical perspectives. Shows to be performed include Big Love by Charles L. Mee, Legacy Street by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Lauren Jane Redmond, Br’er Cotton by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Tearrance Chisholm, and Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Jon Jory from Jane Austen’s novel.

“Students need to understand that all the arts need to be inclusive, not exclusive,” Klein said.




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