Indecent director Rebecca Taichman was the only female nominee in the category for Best Direction of a Play at the 71st Annual Tony Awards. (Rachel Chavkin was the only woman in her category for Best Direction of a Musical.) When Taichman heard her name called, she looked as if she would fall down.
When the Tony winner greeted the press in the media room after accepting her statue at Radio City Music Hall, she immediately expressed surprise. “Firstly and honestly, I’m genuinely in shock and overwhelmed, so that’s real,” she paused. “I think I never did dream [of this] because I was such an unlikely candidate.”
While an experienced director, Indecent marks Taichman’s Broadway debut; it also marks the Broadway debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel’s. The fact that Vogel’s debut arrived 19 years after she won a Pulitzer has left the theatre industry buzzing: How could that be?
“I do think the notion of a Broadway show versus an Off-Broadway show is something that particularly has been applied to women—that we are writing smaller plays,” Vogel told Playbill in a separate interview.
The numbers prove it’s just as tough for women directors as women playwrights. Taichman is only the sixth woman in Tony Awards history to have won Best Direction of a Play, though it marks the seventh occurrence as Marianne Elliott has won twice. Garry Hynes was the first woman to win the honor—in 1998.
“I remember in great clarity in 1998 watching the Tony Awards when Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes won [Best Direction of a Musical and a Play, respectively] and I thought ‘Wow a woman can win?’” Taichman recalled. “It made it visible and I think what is visible becomes possible.”
Taichman’s win marked a milestone moment—one theatre hopes to build on. Still, diversity in entertainment can feel like a fluke. The 2015–2016 season was a banner year for ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and ability diversity. Yet this year appeared much more homogenous.
Taichman believes theatre onstage and backstage should more accurately reflect audiences. “The majority of people who see our show are women,” she said. “It’s a strange thing that such an inequity exists [behind the scenes].
“I hope this amazing thing that just happened helps encourage women all over of every color and taste and style and viewpoint to make theatre to tell stories that matter to them. I think that’s what we need more than anything.”