The Playgoer: Nobody Good Enough for the Wasserstein Award?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nobody Good Enough for the Wasserstein Award?

Hardcore playwrights out there might already have spent all weekend following the ruckus going on over the Wendy Wasserstein Prize--meant for an emerging female dramatist under 32 years old. And by emerging they mean truly not emergent yet--no previous NYC productions beyond 199-seaters, or on regional mainstages, and no prior previous national media exposure or tv/film success.

The committee basically was going to pass on awarding anyone this year claiming no acceptable entry met the requirements. Apparently all the good young female playwrights are already working!

This led to a playwright's angry blogpost, a petition, and now an apparent reconsideration.  Time Out's Adam Feldman unpacks it all.

Personally, I feel most sympathetic to the argument that if someone sets aside $25,000 every year for a playwright, then the profession is better served by someone getting that money, as opposed to it just sitting there.

3 comments:

Leigh Hile said...

"Personally, I feel most sympathetic to the argument that if someone sets aside $25,000 every year for a playwright, then the profession is better served by someone getting that money, as opposed to it just sitting there."

I've mentioned this already, but I wonder if the how and to whom that $25,000 set aside was distributed was actually a huge part of the conversation. This is all speculation, but I'm told there was enough money set aside in the fund for at least four years. This being the fourth year, and the country's economic climate being what it is, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some private speculation about whether or not the award has a future. So, if that happened to be true, and if it's also true (I haven't read them myself) that none of the nominated plays this year were all THAT awesome, I can sympathize with the decision to save the money, let the prize live to see another year, and award the money next year to a play that REALLY shined. Just playing devil's advocate.

Jack Worthing said...

Of the many things getting short shrift in this discussion (the selection process, the limited funding, etc.) I'm surprised that the position of several women I know is being ignored - that is they're opposed to prizes like this because it ghettoises them. They're not female playwrights, they're playwrights, and things like the Wasserstein reinforce the idea that women are a separate constituency. Thoughts?

JBranch said...

I'm probably jumping in too late for anyone else to see my thoughts, but I'll comment anyway.

Jack Worthing: Excellent point, which I'm sad to say hadn't occurred to me until I read your remark. In this particular case, though, I wonder a few things that I haven't found out in some quick reading: what's the stated rationale for the prize; did Ms. Wasserstein herself have anything to do with establishing it; if so, what were her thoughts on the situation of women playwrights in America?

It may be that women playwrights are still, at least to some extent, ghettoized anyway. (I say "still" because I'm guessing that Wasserstein felt something of the kind to be the case in her earlier years.) My impression: not so.

These thoughts lead to others, which are basically a can of worms, such as: Are playwrights in general ghettoized in the American theater? And if women are underrepresented anywhere, isn't it at the highest levels, i.e., artistic direction and general management?