Antoinette Perry, Lorraine Hansberry and More! 11 Game-Changing Women in Theatre You Should Know

News   Antoinette Perry, Lorraine Hansberry and More! 11 Game-Changing Women in Theatre You Should Know
 
Did you know a woman launched the regional theatre moovement? And, which woman wrote one of the most popular and produced works of drama? Playbill.com spotlights 11 women whose work had an enormous impact on the world of theatre.

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To celebrate Women's History Month, Playbill.com looks at 11 women who changed the theatre industry by breaking new ground. Click through to read about a few of the women who were game-changers in theatre.

Zona Gale
Zona Gale

1. Zona Gale

The author of the novel "Miss Lulu Bett," Zona Gale then adapted the story of life in the Midwestern United States into a play of the same name, which made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1921). Gale was also a member of the National Women's Party and the Lucy Stone League.

Ellen Stewart
Ellen Stewart

2. Ellen Stewart

In 1961 Ellen Stewart, a director and producer, Paul Foster and others founded Café La MaMa, which became one of the most successful Off-Off-Broadway theatrical companies: La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. In 1992, Stewart was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Julie Taymor
Julie Taymor Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

3. Julie Taymor

A director of theatre, opera and film, Julie Taymor was the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (in 1997 for The Lion King). The recipient of a 1991 MacArthur Genius Fellowship, Taymor made her Broadway debut with Juan Darién, which earned five Tony nominations. Her theatre credits also include The Green Bird, Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, The Transposed Heads, Liberty's Taken, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"It's just ridiculous that it would take this long, and it becomes something you talk about when it should be the norm," Taymor told Playbill.com in 2013 when Diane Paulus and Pam MacKinnon took home the two Tony Awards for directing. "It should be much more common. Can you imagine someone saying, 'Oh my God! Two men won the Tony Awards for directing!'? It's fun when you turn it around."

Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry ©NYPL for the Performing Arts

4. Lorraine Hansberry

The writer of A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry was the first black woman to have one of her plays produced on Broadway. She also worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom. Her plays also include The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window and Les Blancs.

Wendy Wasserstein
Wendy Wasserstein

5. Wendy Wasserstein

A Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner, Wasserstein wrote many plays, including The Heidi Chronicles, one of the first modern feminist works produced on Broadway and now back at the Music Box Theatre. Her plays also include The Sisters Rosensweig, Isn't It Romantic, An American Daughter, Old Money and Third. Read Playbill.com's interview with The Heidi Chronicles director Pam MacKinnon here and star Elisabeth Moss here.

Lynne Meadow
Lynne Meadow

6. Lynne Meadow

Lynne Meadow has served as the artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club for more than 40 years. After applying to the Yale School of Drama, Meadow was made an alternate for the first-year class. She then went to New Haven to meet with the Dean of the directing department to ask why she was not accepted.

"He said it was very competitive. They had 4-5 places and well over 500 applications. I was so miffed because I really so much wanted to go to Yale and study directing. And I asked him the question: Did you accept any women? He said 'No,'" Meadow told Playbill.com. "I spent that summer in New Haven and I wrote a very impassioned letter explaining why I thought women could be directors just as well as men. That we had every ability to be able to do what the guys can do and the abilities that maybe guys didn’t have. I sent it to the school, and the next day I was accepted to the school."

Vinnette Carroll
Vinnette Carroll

7. Vinnette Carroll

Carroll made history as the first African-American woman to direct on Broadway with the 1972 musical Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, for which she received a Tony nomination. In 1976 she collaborated with Micki Grant and Alex Bradford on the Tony-nominated Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.

Carroll founded the Urban Arts Corps, where she served as artistic director. The non-profit, interracial community theatre provided a professional workshop for aspiring young actors in underfunded areas.

Margo Jones
Margo Jones

8. Margo Jones

Margo Jones is credited with launching the American regional theatre movement and for introducing the theatre-in-the-round concept in Dallas, TX. In 1947 she established the first regional professional company when she opened Theatre ’47 in Dallas. She also served as co-director of the original production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

Paula Vogel
Paula Vogel Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

9. Paula Vogel

Paula Vogel has been unafraid to address controversial issues such as sexuality, AIDS and child abuse in her plays. A Pulitzer Prize winner for How I Learned to Drive, her plays also include The Baltimore Waltz, Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief, The Oldest Profession, And Baby Makes Seven, Hot 'N Throbbing and The Mineola Twins. She led the graduate playwriting program and new play festival at Brown University. Read Playbill.com's interview with Vogel here.

Garry Hynes
Garry Hynes

10. Garry Hynes

The director of Broadway productions of The Lonesome West, Sixteen Wounded and Translations, Hynes was the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The co-founder of Druid Theatre Company, Hynes has also directed productions at the Abbey Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Exchange, Manchester, the Kennedy Center and the Royal Court Theatre, London, among others.

Antoinette Perry
Antoinette Perry

11. Antoinette Perry

An actress and director, Antoinette Perry helped found the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteen during World War II, providing entertainment to servicemen in several American cities. The Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Awards were named for her.

(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)

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