The 2014 Pulitzer Prize for theater went this month to Annie Baker for her play The Flick. The runners-up were Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori for Fun Home, and Madeleine George for The Curious Case of the Watson Intelligence.
All those works have two things in common: They were written by women, and they didn’t play on Broadway.
Meanwhile, all five dramas nominated today for the Tonys' top prize were penned by men.
What accounts for the gender disparity between the two big live-theater awards? In large part, blame the glass curtain that separates talented female playwrights and Broadway stages.
“Most women writers are extremely perturbed by it,” playwright Theresa Rebeck says of the theater world's gender gap. “The discrimination has persisted longer than in other fields, and it’s skewing and hurting the health of the culture.” That sentiment is echoed by Marsha Norman, who says, “At the very least, it’s a bad habit. And it needs to be broken.” For all their anger, Norman and Rebeck are actually the lucky ones, having actually had shows done on Broadway.
Let’s take a look at the 2013-14 season. Only two dramas on Broadway were penned by women: Machinal, written by Sophie Treadwell, and A Raisin In the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. The first was written in 1928, the second in 1959. Of the unusually long list of original and revived musicals, only Marsha Norman’s adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County had a woman's touch. Yes, Wicked was written by Winnie Holtzman, but that is 10 years old by now. Women were proportionally better represented in Broadway in 1909 than they are today.