44 DC Theatres Plan City-wide Women’s Play Festival

Molly Smith

Molly Smith, Arena Stage

Forty-four theatres in Washington, DC will each produce a world-premiere play written by woman in Fall 2015 as part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival.  Three cheers for the co-organizers of this ambitious festival – Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage and Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director of Signature Theatre, and for all the participating theatres.

This is a ground-breaking festival because it will showcase so many new works by women and because it will include almost every theatre in and around our nation’s capital – from the smallest to the largest.

Each company has agreed to select one premiere and to produce it during September or October 2015.  According to Molly Smith, a wide range of women’s voices will be represented. “People are talking about doing musicals, one-person plays, devised theatre pieces, simple storytelling shows, dramas, comedies.”

If you are a woman playwright, this would be a good time to do some research about DC theatres and approach any that do work similar to yours.

Eric Schaeffer

Eric Schaeffer, Signature Stage

This festival also feels like a turning point because it is inspiring so many male artistic directors to make a commitment to promoting women playwrights. Eric Schaeffer said that the idea for the festival emerged from an artistic director’s brunch at his house with Molly Smith of Arena Stage, Paul Tetreault of Ford’s Theatre, Michael Kahn of Shakespeare Theatre Company, Howard Shalwitz of Woolly Mammoth Theatre, David Muse of Studio Theatre,  and Ryan Rilette of Round House Theatre.

It is especially encouraging that this group of six men and one woman decided to create a city-wide festival dedicated to women playwrights.  Women have been painfully aware of the fact that we are under-represented for decades, but it is a huge step forward to have our male colleagues acknowledge the problem and take bold action to address it.

If you know any of the artistic directors who are participating in this festival (or even if you don’t), it would be great to take a few minutes to send them a note to thank them.

Ryan Rilette of the Round House Theatre said that the seven original artistic directors were looking for ways to collaborate and that they were excited about doing a festival together.  As WomenArts has discovered through our Support Women Artist Now/SWAN events all over the world, festivals are an excellent way to build bonds among all of the participants and to encourage the sharing of resources and information.

Let’s hope that the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival in Washington, DC is a huge success and that it inspires others  to do city-wide festivals of women’s plays.  It would be wonderful if we could eventually develop a circuit of women’s theatre festivals across the country that would provide opportunities to discover and develop our best women writers and would also stimulate a spirit of collaboration and innovation throughout the field.