The Playgoer: Women's Project Woes

Custom Search

Monday, January 08, 2007

Women's Project Woes

It may be no Empty Space situation, but New York's Women's Project is undergoing at least a crossroads of its own, with the departure of A.D. Loretta Greco after differences between her and the board over what direction to take the theatre in. Namely, she was determined to make it a company about production not just an abstract mission.

Kate Taylor's piece in Thursday's Sun gives a revealing backstage look.

[Greco] wanted to reinvigorate the Women's Project by mounting full seasons of productions and promoting new artists. "The big difference was to truly commit to seasons of work, so that there was work on the stage that defined who we were, rather than a missive, or groups of mentorship, or in the classroom," she said, referring to other programs of Women's Project, which include development labs for playwrights, directors, and producers. "All that was wonderful, but the work on the stage had to demonstrate the breadth of the women out there."

Instead, in order to fill the theatre space they're lucky to own ("a blessing and a curse," says Grecco) the company had to rent it out last summer to the politically regressive Shout: The Mod Musical.

Also raised in the piece is the question of whether being labeled a "women's theatre" hurts a company. Some other similar minded groups don't want to be branded any more. New George's Susan Bernfield is quoted as saying, "We've taken the ‘women's' thing out of our publicity and materials, just because it's never worked for us...It puts kind of a medicinal quality on what the work is. No one goes to the theater to serve a social function."

I would have thought having a very specified political or social mission would actually help with grant proposals, and even in distinguishing yourself in a busy marketplace. But is it now considered too limiting to potentially turn off any segment of the ticketbuying audience?

Challenge or defend, anyone?

6 comments:

George Hunka said...

A symptom of the ideology of superficial inclusion. To exclude is to somehow be closed-minded and elitist, based on some perverse political idea of "identity," and what a horrible accusation that is. However there's very little fear of the very real risk that open-mindedness is only a hair away from empty-mindedness. And sometimes quite the same thing.

Anonymous said...

It’s a real problem in running a theatre. Mission statements are often written to serve the funding community only -- defining themselves right into a neat little corner that does not allow for any lateral growth.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm much more turned off by the word "Project" than the word "Women's". "Project" just has too much of a whiff of blueprints and meetings and brainstorming sessions and "Let's all sit in a circle and share" and endless yammering about all the different things that "theater" can be; it's a word that seems to value the process over the result, which is very nice if you're actually part of the process, but not if you're a ticketbuyer.

The Playgoer said...

I'm grateful to Anonymous #2 for picking that out. I have long vowed never again to see any play with the word "Project" in the title.

As good as "The Laramie Project" may have been... I worry for all it may spawn.

Put some imagination into your titles, people! At least Beckett had the humility when at a loss to simply call it "Play."

Anonymous said...

Boy, did "The Laramie Project" feel like one...

Yes, the earnestness of the name The Women's Project was probably not helpful to them by 2006. Nor, based on the shows I saw, was their work's only so-so quality.

Anonymous said...

Boy, did "The Laramie Project" feel like one...

Yes, the earnestness of the name The Women's Project was probably not helpful to them by 2006. Nor, based on the shows I saw, was their work's only so-so quality.