The University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Launches Performance and Playwriting Initiative

The University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Launches Performance and Playwriting Initiative

The University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) announced it will partner with the theatre departments of the Big Ten Conference schools to create a new playwriting and performance initiative. The group, known as the Big Ten Theatre Chairs plans to commission, produce and publicize as many as five new plays in an effort to influence the national dialogue about women playwrights and the sorts of scripts needed by university theatre programs for performing arts education.

The group plans to impact the dramatic underrepresentation of women playwrights in American theatre. In a recent study cited in the The New York Times, it was determined that of the 20,000 playwrights in the Dramatists Guild and on Doolee.com, an online database of playwrights, there were twice as many male playwrights as female ones, and that the men tended to be more prolific, turning out more plays. To draw attention to this imbalance and support greater gender diversity in the field, the Big Ten Theatre Chairs plan to commission women playwrights to write the initiative's first three plays.

The Big Ten Theatre Chairs also believe a need exists for a larger body of high-caliber plays with specific characteristics that make them effective tools for teaching theatre students. In response to this, they intend to commission the writing of plays that each feature up to eight roles, primarily for women actors, and predominantly for characters of an age that can be credibly played by college students.

The program's first commissioned dramatist, Naomi Iizuka, is one of the nation's most acclaimed young authors and head of playwriting at University of California, San Diego's Department of Theatre and Dance. Iizuka's plays include 36 Views, Strike-Slip and Anon(ymous). Her work has been produced by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Joseph Papp Public Theatre and the New York Shakespeare Festival Actors' Theatre. She is the recipient of a PEN/Laura Pels Award, a Rockefeller Foundation MAP grant, an NEA/TCG Artist-in-Residence grant and Princeton University's Hodder Fellowship. Her first draft of the commissioned work will be reviewed and discussed in October by the Big Ten Theatre Chairs in a meeting at Northwestern University.

"Iizuka is a generous and extremely collaborative artist," said Leigh Wilson Smiley, director of TDPS. "We are most excited to have this opportunity to support her creativity and enhance our students' experience with innovation through the development of a new play."

A full draft of the new play will be completed by spring, 2014 and will be performed during the 2014-2015 season at one or more Big Ten schools. The group plans to commission one play by a woman playwright each year for three years, and as the project progresses, will commit to additional years. If Iizuka's play is chosen for UMD's TDPS 2014-2015 season, she will be invited to campus to workshop the play with TDPS students.




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