Internet diversity uproar leads Manhattan Theater Club to announce season details early

The outrage began before the Manhattan Theater Club revealed its full 2015-16 season. Seven of the eight planned plays had been announced, all written by white men. The Internet was not amused.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel on Tuesday slammed the theater’s artistic director Lynne Meadow on Twitter: “For a woman from the theater who dated Bryn Mawr, where is your fraternity?” she asked. Others, like playwright Kristoffer Diaz, have harshly touched on the company’s stated mission to produce works. “as large and diverse as New York itself.”

“I would love to discuss strategies to achieve this goal,” Mr. Diaz said on twitter Wednesday.

The season, announced piecemeal since December, includes “Fool for Love” by Sam Shepard, “Ripcord” by David Lindsay-Abaire, “Our Mother’s Brief Affair” by Richard Greenberg, “Prodigal Son” by John Patrick Shanley, ” Incognito ”by Nick Payne, Nick Jones“ Important Hats of the Twentieth Century ”and“ The Father ”by Florian Zeller. But anger over the choices only erupted this week, after American Theater magazine noted the listing in a simple article on his website.

Ms Meadow, whose company produces on Broadway and elsewhere, revamped her vacation schedule to address the controversy in an interview, saying she was “very upset to think the arts community was upset.”

“I’m not denying the fact that this season is abnormal in terms of the percentages of diversity on our stages,” she added. “That’s just how the season went.”

Playwright Zakiyyah Alexander – member of the Kilroys, a group of playwright and producer activists who publish an annual list of female-recommended plays – noted in an interview that their own vocal objections to the programming had nothing to do with the quality of the work.

“They are truly respected artists,” she said. “It is not their fault that they have been placed in the position of being surrounded only by white male playwrights.”

It turns out that the season won’t be all about men’s pieces. After two days of chatting online about her programming choices, Ms Meadow made the unusual decision on Thursday to announce a production to The New York Times before all contracts were signed.

“The Ruins of Civilization,” a futuristic world premiere by British writer Penelope Skinner (“The Village Bike”), will take place in Spring 2016, with tentative plans to have Lila Neugebauer directly.

“Penny is very committed, as we are, to having a woman running the play,” Ms. Meadow said.

That would bring the total number of female directors this season to two – another sore point on social media. Ms. Meadow, who directs Mr. Greenberg’s play, is the other.

Over the past decade, the Manhattan Theater Club has had three seasons without any female playwrights, but five, including 2014-15, in which at least half of the plays had an author.

In the past four seasons, Ms Meadow said, 43% of the company’s playwrights and directors have been women and minorities. Of her 49 commissions over the past four years, she said, 28 have gone to women and minorities.

Despite this, all of the plays for the upcoming season are written by white playwrights, which led Ms. Vogel, in an interview, to invoke public facilities from the apartheid era. “Would you like to drink from a water fountain that says ‘white’ above because you can?” ” she asked.

Ms Alexander suggested that the inclusion of women and minorities by the Manhattan Theater Club in recent years had been a factor of outcry.

“I think if they hadn’t, there would be less criticism right now,” she said. “We’re kind of watching someone go back in time slowly moving.”


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