The Unit is a year-long residency designed to nurture new work. The writers attend bi-monthly meetings with the Goodman's artistic team, culminating with public staged readings of their completed works.
The Goodman's decision in selecting all female playwrights is particularly important in light of recent statistics showing that only one in five plays produced this upcoming season are written by women. The results were published this month by the American Theatre Magazine, showing that 21 percent of plays set to be produced are written by female playwrights, down from last year's 24 percent.
The Goodman's director of new play development, Tanya Palmer, told Playbill.com that it wasn't a deliberate decision to exclusively select women for the program, but that it happened to be they were the writers they were most excited about. Each year, playwrights are asked to submit samples of work as well as pitch ideas for new developments.
"Each brings a unique perspective and set of experiences to the group, and the plays they have proposed to work on over the next year promise to be challenging, relevant and full of life," said Palmer.
It has always been a priority for Palmer, at the forefront of new play development in Chicago, for the Goodman to nurture underrepresented voices. This is highlighted in the theatre's impressive track record of developing new works by more female writers and playwrights of color. Over the past decade, the Goodman has produced 35 world premieres—68% of which were authored by a woman and/or a playwright of color. Playwrights Unit alum Nambi E. Kelley, to name one, will soon stage the world premiere of For Her as a Piano at Chicago's Pegasus Theatre. For more information on the upcoming Goodman season and their programs, visit GoodmanTheatre.
When asked about the gender gap in plays being produced in the U.S. currently, Palmer's hopes for the future remain bright. She is confident, especially in the community of Chicago writers, that women are producing some of the strongest theatrical material available and will continue to do so.
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