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The Guthrie Theatre Announces Its 50th Anniversary Season With No Female Playwrights on the Program

by Melissa Silverstein
April 30, 2012 10:11 AM
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The Guthrie Theatre is one of the most prestigious regional theatres in America.  Next year it will be celebrating it's 50th anniversary season.  Joe Dowling, the 7th Artistic director of the theatre (which by the way has never had a female artistic director) recently announced the program for this very important upcoming season and there is not a SINGLE female playwright on the list for the main stages.  (I also just consulted Wikipedia and the Guthrie also had no female playwrights in the 2011-2012 season.)  And not only are there no women, there are also no plays by any people of color.  So their whole celebratory season marking this seminal anniversary will be populated completely by white men.

Here's what reporter for Minneapolis Public Radio Marianne Combs reports about the season:

Of the 12 productions slated for the Guthrie's two large stages, the Wurtele thrust and the McGuire proscenium, not one of them was written by a woman. And only one of them ("Nice Fish") is being co-directed by a woman (along with Mark Rylance).

In addition, the men involved in writing and staging these plays are all white - the most diverse among them is Carlo Goldoni, an Italian playwright from the 1700s.

This situation is uncceptable and the good thing is that people know it.  People are talking.  People are challenging.  Artistic Director Joe Dowling is being held accountable.  He was utterly condescending when asked about the lack of diversity responding: "This is a self-serving argument that doesn't hold water."  He also said: "But one thing I want to be very clear about, tokenism is the worst thing you can do...I employ people because of their talent, male or female. It is a very stern task to direct on a stage of our size, and I am responsible to the board for the shows we produce.” to the Star Tribune

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More: theatre, Sexism, Women Writers

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  • danielle perata | April 30, 2012 10:25 PMReply

    There is no "tokenism" involved in staging the works of great female writers and writers of color. They aren't hard to find... IF you make the effort. My guess? Both the board and the artistic director have become entirely too self-assured about their theatrical sensibilities... to the detriment of audiences and artists everywhere. If anything is "killing" theatre in this country, it's stuffy boards and sneeringly condescending artistic directors like this.

  • Susan Jonas | April 30, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    Dowling says he is responsible to the boards. Well it's about time the boards of theatres and the funders took responsibility for the programming they support, and ensured that the many theatres who pay lipservice to their commitment to diversity-- which almost all do in their mission statements and grant applications-- actually fulfilled those promises. If artistic directors can't find good work by women and writers of color, then they are blind or lazy and should be canned. Frankly, it's not as if the male barre was that hard to reach; so much of what we see is mediocre. But just as there are bad, good and great male writers, so are there bad, good and great female writers-- and they deserve equal opportunity. I am so pleased you are speaking out on this, moreover seeing it as part of a much larger situation in which women are silenced. The consequences of this in theatre are heartbreaking, but the consequences of taking women's voices away in other countries are unspeakable abuse and violence. It's all part of the same continuum.

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