Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anton in Show Business: Why are women playing men?

 Why does this play stipulate that women perform all the parts, including the male characters?

 Joby, the critic in the play, asks the same question. Kate, the producer, answers: “Eighty percent of the roles in the American theatre are played by men, and 90% of the directors are men. The point of having a male director played by a woman is to redress the former and satirize the latter. How’s that?”

 These figures appear to be taken from the research of Karen Bovard, author of Voice, Viewwpoint, and the Adolescent Actor: a feminist ethic of directing. She adds that men’s roles outnumber women’s by 7 to 1 “in the dramatic canon.”

 Another estimate comes from dramatist and essayist Lauren Gunderson, who writes “It appears that in many major theaters across the country, men’s roles outnumber women’s by half. One out of every three roles go to women. (An informal survey of 10 theatrical seasons from across the country that I did put women in only 35% of the total roles.)”

playwright Marsha Norman
 But that 20% figure for the percentage of women’s roles is echoed in other aspects of theatre and beyond. Playwright Marsha Norman comments on this in the latest issue of The Dramatist, the magazine of the Dramatists Guild. An ongoing Guild study using three years of data from American regional theatre productions found that 22% of the plays performed were written by women.

Norman notes that in a survey of itself by National Public Radio, the percentage of women interviewed, doing the interview, or as the subject of the story was also about 20%. In art museums, 20% of the art displayed was by women, and “before the advent of blind auditions, 20% of the players [in orchestras] were women.”

 The Dramatists Guild count, Norman wrote, is “not to establish quotas, not to shame and blame those people who continue to produce only the plays of men, but to assure that the voice of women will be heard in this land.”

 Ironically perhaps, the author of Anton In Show Business—“Jane Martin”-- may not be one of them. For Jane Martin may not be a woman playwright at all.

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