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American Women Playwrights (July 2022): Reference and Online Resources

By Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco

Reference and Online Resources

Although dated, Notable Women in the American Theatre: A Biographical Dictionary, coedited by Alice Robinson, Vera Mowry Roberts, and Milly Barranger, is a comprehensive collection of detailed information on American theater women, including playwrights, through the 1990s. More recent, though still not current, is A Companion to Twentieth-Century American Drama, edited by David Krasner, which offers well-chosen essays, many of which document women playwrights individually (Fornes, Barnes, Stein) or as part of larger studies of the Black Arts Movement, Native American drama, and lesbian and gay drama.

Digital resources are far more up to date, and four entities stand out for championing women playwrights. The Lillys, founded by Julia Jordan, Marsha Norman, and Theresa Rebeck, launched in 2010 as The Lilly Awards, is an outlet to honor the work of women in the American theater. The organization is named for Lillian Hellman who famously said, “You need to write like the devil and act like one when necessary.” In 2015, through a partnership with the Dramatists Guild, The Lillys conducted a national survey called “The Count,” proving that BIPOC women were by far the least represented demographic on American stages. The Lillys actively publicized that information and now the organization devotes the majority of its funding to women of color.

On its site, The Kilroys proclaims “We make trouble and plays.” The organization identifies as “a gang of playwrights, directors, and producers in LA and NYC who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action. We mobilize others in our field and leverage our own power to support one another.” The Kilroys publishes “THE LIST,” which “includes the results of our annual industry survey of excellent new plays by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights. It is a tool for producers committed to ending the systemic underrepresentation of women, trans, and non-binary playwrights.”

Founded in 1978 by Julia Miles as Women’s Project Theater, WP Theater has earned acclaim as a home for “women + theatermakers, historically marginalized in the field, to hone their craft while becoming leaders, change-makers, and advocates in the industry.” To date, they have produced more than 600 mainstage productions and developmental projects and published eleven anthologies of plays by women.

Women Arts is dedicated to increasing visibility and opportunities for diverse women artists in all art forms. It provides a comprehensive list of women’s theater companies in the United States and Canada, which includes both inactive and active groups.