A few weeks ago I was contacted by Erin Guinup, a musician/teacher in the Seattle area who was preparing a lecture and paper on female musical theatre composers and wanted to include my work alongside the music of Kay Swift, Mary Rodgers, and Jeanine Tesori. In addition to showcasing some of my songs, she asked me to respond to the following quote by Rachel Crothers in 1912.
“Drama is drama…what difference does it make whether women or men are working on it?”
I thought about it for days. Initially, I thought maybe I actually agreed with the statement. If we're talking about equality in the workplace, isn't the goal to be gender-blind? But no, we can't be gender-blind when it comes to the creative arts. Nor can we be colorblind or age blind or nationality blind. A person's voice is a reflection of who he/she is, and we are not all the same.
I was reminded of the work playwright Julia Jordan has been doing to bring light to what she calls a gender bias in the theater. I reread the 2009 New York Times article about Julia's research, identifying some of the surprising sources of gender bias and watched again her keynote speech from the 2011 Dramatists Guild conference (which I attended). I re-read Marsha Norman's fiery essay "Not There Yet" and was reminded how powerful we women writers are as a community, as a network. Marsha's words challenge me out of potentially depressing thoughts about my own place in the industry, the reception of my work, the success of my shows. She makes me want to write more and write better.
Here is what I wrote to Erin.