Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hey, Somebody Woke Up Salon

The Emily Sands Gender Bias report prompted the Broadsheet to write a non-Tony focused article about theatre.

There is an interesting comment from an Eric Samuelson, who "teaches playwriting at a major university,"

In my experience, there are plenty of lousy male playwrights and terrible female playwrights, and, at the student level, lots of terrific playwrights of either gender as well. In my seminar, for example, I had two real superstars--two kids who wrote terrific stuff consistently, both female. Then there were four kids who were just a tiny bit below them, what I might call second-tier stars--two male and two female. But in the weekly script conferences for the local theatre I work with, the guys dominated. The two second-tier male writers got a lot more of their work produced, because in those meetings, where decisions got made, they were more assertive. Not obnoxiously pushy, but just a little more vocal, a little more willing to voice strong opinions. Meanwhile, the best playwright in my class, a fabulous young Hispanic woman who wrote with intelligence and wit and was just consistently smart and tough and real, she kind of shut down. I had to intervene to get the company to re-read her play; when they did, they ended up going 'man, you're right, that's way better than we initially thought.'

I've seen this a lot. As a playwright, I almost never get produced based on simply sending a play out for cold reading. Most of my professional productions have resulted from networking. Something in our culture rewards men with hustle skills, and discourages women from pushing themselves aggressively. Getting work produced requires more than just writing really well.


Thomas Garvey said...

The amount of attention this is getting is slightly worrying me - people who really have no interest in theatre whatsoever seem suddenly galvanized by a study with at best equivocal results. I spoke to Emily Sands the other day, but she put off any conversation until the weekend. Understandably, she's a bit overwhelmed - she's actually going to be on the Colbert Report about this on Monday. If only all the people that watched that program would actually SHOW UP at a new play by either gender, I'd feel much better!

Art said...

I know.

When I saw the article last night, I thought for second about writing a snarky comment about how maybe if Salon or Slate wrote about Theatre once and a while it might prompt some people to attend theatre and, maybe even write for it!

Art said...

And BTW, Thom, what's up with Sands dissing the Hub Review for Colbert?

Thomas Garvey said...

Yeah, what is up with that? And who is this "Stephen Colbert" person anyway?

A.W. said...

Are there any alternate studies to back up this one, or show a more accurate picture?

Art said...

Hi A.W.

Actually, there has been no study like this, aside from, as mentioned in other articles, a study on discrimination in orchestras.

I'm not sure if you have read the whole study, but it is pretty detailed and Sands is very careful not to make any assumptions that cannot be backed up by data.

In fact, she is very upfront that the data collection for a history of productions is not all that accurate.

That being said, the answer to your question is: NO. However, it is important in being the first study.

I'll leave analysis of the methodology and numbers to the MIT alum, Thom Garvey.

But if you haven't read the full study, I would suggest you do, because, even for those of us who are not numbers people, it raises interesting questions along the way.

A.W. said...

Hi Art,
Thanks For the response. I read the study and I've no doubt the study has raised valuable questions, and shined a light in an area that is long overdue in needing attention.
Maybe I misread some of the follow-ups but it sounded like there was some question as to the validity. So I was wondering if there was other research out there. I'm sure there will be though.

Tony Adams said...

Link to summary of last major study (that I know of) on the subject.

Art said...

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the link.

Thomas Garvey said...

You realize I took statistics before Ms. Sands was even born, don't you Art?

Art said...

Of course.

I am eagerly awaiting your comments on the study. Really.

Art said...

Also, on another site. Tony rightly pointed out that we should all remember that this is an undergraduate thesis and not the work of huge research team.

Thomas Garvey said...

Well, I've finished Ms. Sands thesis, and I have to say at first blush some of her arguments simply don't hold water - particularly what she has to say about her Broadway data. The statistical math I assume is correct (I'd have to crack the old textbook to critique it!) - it's problems with the data, and her fudging of various proxies for that data, that get her into trouble. The "audit survey" portion of the thesis, however, is still thoughtfully and thoroughly done, and certainly intriguing - it just doesn't reveal what we can sense Sands wants it to reveal! I have a call in to her and hope to discuss my questions about the study with her this weekend.

Art said...

That sounds interesting.

Looking forward to seeing how that goes.