Do women write roles for women and men write roles for men?
While female playwrights tend to write more female characters than male playwrights do, they tend to be doing so on a smaller scale, and with fewer resources.
Men wrote 1154 roles for women actors to play, while women wrote only 360 roles. Yet while it might appear that men have written three times as many roles for women, we must remember that male playwrights have also been produced at more than three times the rate of female playwrights.
Both women and men write shows that skew towards a roughly 60/40 split favoring their gender. This suggests that the imbalance in roles for women could be corrected simply by producing more work written by female playwrights.
However, another noteworthy trend is that the average cast size for female playwrights is 5.6 actors, while the average cast size for male playwrights is 8.2 actors. Since women are better represented in the field of contemporary plays than classics, and since newer plays tend to have smaller casts, plays in this study written by women tended to be smaller cast plays. Thus, we cannot assume that producing more plays by contemporary women will be enough to solve the problem of fewer roles for women.
Another significant finding is that male playwrights outnumber female playwrights approximately 3 to 1 in shows at the highest contract level (see Table 3). Thus, we can interpret that more resources have been allotted to shows written by men than to shows written by women. While female playwrights tend to write more female characters than male playwrights do, they tend to be doing so on a smaller scale, and with fewer resources.
There remains work to be done in the new play sector to move our stages closer to gender parity. But we can not only rely on new plays. We must also rediscover classic and modern plays written by women, and produce those as well.
TABLE 6 – Shows Written by Women
|Shows Written by Women or All Women Teams
125 playwrights • 113 shows
42% Non-Union/Union Code • 58% Union Contract
TABLE 7 – Shows Written by Men
|Shows Written by Men or All Men Teams
399 playwrights • 346 shows
34% Non-Union/Union Code • 66% Union Contract