The plays produced at Loyola Marymount University this year will explore such varied issues as teen homelessness, illness and childhood trauma. But there’s a common thread: All the playwrights are women, underscoring the Theatre Program’s commitment to gender equality and diversity on stage.
During the 2017-18 season, LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts will produce seven shows by female playwrights. The current production – “Runaways” by Elizabeth Swados, following teens living on the streets of New York City – runs Oct. 12-14 at the Strub Theatre.
“This season, our Theatre Program is making a critical commitment to celebrating the accomplishments and contributions that female playwrights make to the creative economy in the United States and the world,” said Bryant Keith Alexander, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts. “The choice to honor female playwrights in this way is a testament to our Theatre Program’s dedication to motivating and inspiring the next generation of female playwrights, from our students here at LMU and beyond.”
The decision to feature solely female playwrights was prompted by an article in American Theatre magazine last fall that evaluated plays produced across the U.S., and identified an imbalance in the staging of those written by women and those written by men. For example, male authors accounted for 63 percent of productions during the 2016-17 season; female authors, 26 percent; and co-written productions, 12 percent.
LMU theatre professors opted to take a hard look at the prior 10 seasons of performances on campus to determine how female playwrights fared.
“While we did better some years, more years we did worse than that,” said Professor Kevin Wetmore, chair of Theatre Program. “So, I approached my colleagues about making up for past sins, so to speak, and have a season consisting entirely of plays by women. The entire department embraced the idea.”
And moving forward, Wetmore explained, plays written by females will comprise at least half of those produced by LMU each season.
LMU’s 2017-18 season opened in August with a performance of Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You,” and continues this week with the documentary musical “Runaways.” Directed by Jane McEneaney, the groundbreaking production tells the stories of young teens who give up the comforts of home to live on the streets, eschewing shelters and outreach facilities.
The other female-written plays are: “Our Country’s Good” by British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker; “The Baltimore Waltz” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel; “Goldenrod” by 2018 theatre arts major Melissa Green, who won a Kennedy Center Undergraduate Playwriting Award for the original full-length drama; “Laugh” by Beth Henley, the university’s own Pulitzer Prize winner and President’s Professor of Theatre Arts; and “The Emperor of the Moon” by Aphra Behn, the first woman in England to identify as a professional playwright.
For more information about the full lineup of theatrical performances, visit: lmu.edu/cfa.