Fall 2015 Theater Preview: A Step Backward for Women

Fall 2015 Theater Preview: A Step Backward for Women

Shoshana Greenberg

The 2015-2016 Broadway season is underway, and an uproar has already begun over the question, Where are the women? Their absence comes after a particularly strong spring when three female composers -- Jeanine Tesori, Lucy Simon, and Barbara Anselmi -- were represented for the first time in a single season, audiences could see both the revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles” and Lisa D’Amour’s new play “Airline Highway” and “Fun Home” became the first entirely female-written show to win the Tony Award for Best Musical. At long last, it seemed as though representation of women writers for Broadway had taken a leap forward.

But now it’s as if Broadway has hit reset. No new plays or revivals of plays by women are being produced this fall. The one female playwright represented is Helen Edmundson, who is doing the adaptation for Roundabout Theater Company’s production of “Thérèse Raquin.” Musicals don’t fare much better. The only upcoming musicals with female writers are the revival of “The Color Purple” and the new musical “On Your Feet!,” which uses mostly existing songs by Gloria Estefan to tell the story of the singer and her husband Emilio.

Lea Salonga in "Allegiance"

Lea Salonga in "Allegiance"

The summer openings set the tone. In July, the musicals “Amazing Grace” and “Hamilton” launched the season. Both have all-male teams of writers, directors and choreographers and tell stories from a male perspective. The fall continues with two more new musicals, “Allegiance” and “School of Rock,” and three revivals, “Dames at Sea,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Spring Awakening,” with all-male writing teams. There are 10 plays this fall by men, four of them new plays or new adaptations.

While there is a dearth of women writers, two women are directing Broadway plays this fall. Pam MacKinnon, who in the spring directed the “Heidi Chronicles” revival, will be the first woman to direct a David Mamet play on Broadway when “China Doll” begins performances October 21st. It will also mark her fifth Broadway play in just three years. Mamet, a playwright known for his explorations of masculinity in plays such as “Glengarry Glen Ross” (there’s even a book called "David Mamet and the American Macho"), has written a new play about a wealthy man, played by Al Pacino, about to retire and marry a younger woman. It will be interesting to see how a woman will approach this subject.

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