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Women in Theatre: Issues for the 21st Century

(Princeton, NJ)  Women artists continue to be excluded from positions of power and visibility in the American theatre industry. Recent research, including a provocative study by Princeton alumni Emily Sands, indicates that plays by women are less frequently produced now than they were at the turn of the 20th century. More women have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in recent years, including Suzan-Lori Parks (Top Dog/Underdog) Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) and this year, Lynn Nottage (Ruined), but very few women ever win the Tony Award for playwrighting or directing. What does this imply? Why and how does gender disparity persist in theatre? Leading women involved with theatre will discuss these issues, their experiences and their vision in a day-long conference at Princeton University on Saturday, September 26th.  The event is free and open to the public.

The conference will explore the status of women in theatre and discuss the recent research to understand the relationships among gender disparity, racial discrimination and other forms of exclusion at play in the field and in other avenues of the profession, such as direction, and artistic leadership in regional theatres. Jill Dolan, Professor of English and Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts, organized the conference along with colleagues Princeton Professors Stacy Wolf and Tamsen Wolff, from the Lewis Center and Department of English respectively, and Mara Isaacs, Producing Director of McCarter Theatre. Dolan said participants were chosen from a wide spectrum of positions in relationship to theatre production. “The panelists differ from one another by generation, race, class, professional background and experience, as well as the political and ideological perspectives they bring to bear on their work. What unites them/us may well be one of the more interesting questions to be discussed during the conference. Likewise, why gender should be the term under which to organize advocacy efforts (instead of, for instance, race or training or other distinctions) could be an important, polemical point.”

Speakers include Gigi Bolt (formerly NEA Theatre Program); Jo Bonney (Living Out); Danai Gurira (Eclipsed); Garry Hynes (The Beauty Queen of Leenane); Susan Jonas (formerly New York State Council on the Arts); Julia Jordan (Tatjana in Color); Lisa Kron (Well); Lisa Loomer (Distracted); Timothy Near (San Jose Repertory Theatre); Jennifer Nelson (formerly African Continuum Theatre); Lisa Peterson (The Model Apartment); Theresa Rebeck (Maritius); Leigh Silverman (Well); Molly Smith (Arena Stage); Alisa Solomon (Columbia University/Village Voice); Maria Striar (Clubbed Thumb Theatre); Liesl Tommy (The Good Negro); Alice Tuan (Ajax por nobody); Susana Tubert (TeatroStageFest); Paula Vogel (Chair of the Department of Playwriting, Yale University) and Kate Whoriskey (Ruined).  For more information about the speakers visit:

This event is timed to honor Emily Mann as she celebrates her 20th anniversary as the Artistic Director of The McCarter Theatre Center. Conference organizer Dolan and others hope it will also inspire a continuing conversation around this theme at the university.

Co-sponsors for the Women in Theatre conference are Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, The Gardner Fund of the Council of the Humanities, the Program in American Studies, the Department of English, the Program in the Study of Women and Gender, the Center for African American Studies, and the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies.

Women in Theatre: Issues for the 21st Century will be held on Saturday, September 26th from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau Street, Princeton. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To learn more and to register online visit:

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

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