COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) is partnering with theatre departments at Big Ten Conference schools to create a new playwriting and performance initiative. The group, known as the Big Ten Theatre Chairs, plans to commission, produce and publicize as many as five new plays in an effort to influence the national dialogue about women playwrights and the sorts of scripts needed by university theatre programs for performing arts education.
The group plans to impact the dramatic underrepresentation of women playwrights in American theatre. In a recent study cited in the The New York Times, it was determined that of the 20,000 playwrights in the Dramatists Guild and on Doolee.com, an online database of playwrights, there were twice as many male playwrights as female ones, and that the men tended to be more prolific, turning out more plays. To draw attention to this imbalance and support greater gender diversity in the field, the Big Ten Theatre Chairs plan to commission women playwrights to write the initiative’s first three plays.
The Big Ten Theatre Chairs also believe a need exists for a larger body of high-caliber plays with specific characteristics that make them effective tools for teaching theatre students. In response to this, they intend to commission the writing of plays that each feature up to eight roles, primarily for women actors, and predominantly for characters of an age that can be credibly played by college students.