Each year since 2014, The Kilroys publishes a list of unproduced and underproduced plays by women, trans and non-binary writers who, historically, face more discrimination than other groups. The List 2020 similarly reflects this group of underrepresented artists but specifically lists titles for which productions were canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent theatrical shutdown.
This year’s list also differs in its sources for selection. In past years, The Kilroys used survey responses from industry leaders; for 2020, the list was informed in part by The Dramatist Guild, Theatre Communications Group, and National New Play Network.
The Kilroys are a collective of writers, directors, and producers based in Los Angeles—Jennifer Chambers, Claudia de Vasco, Christina Ham, Jessica Hanna, Obehi Janice, Chelsea Marcantel, Bianca Sams, Gina Young—and New York—Jaclyn Backhaus, Hilary Bettis, Emma Goidel, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Hansol Jung, Caroline V. McGraw.
Every play on The List 2020 was about to receive its first or second professional production; was written by a woman, trans, or non-binary writer; and the play was canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. “What makes this year’s List different is that it is a living list,” says Ham. “So, while these plays represent the data that we have collected on productions up to July 7, we have created a form for artists to feel free to self-report their impacted productions all the way until December 31. We will update these submissions monthly so that they are a reflection of an ever-growing list of writers who’ve suffered a blow during this pandemic.
“We really want this List to be a useful starting point for when theatre climbs out of COVID restrictions and is able to start producing again,” Ham continues. “We want to make sure that the artistic leaders do not regress into programming the usual number of works by cis-white men because it’s convenient. This List serves as a reminder to allow them to remember where we were and here are the plays.”
Marcantel noted that spring seasons often mark the time when theatres produce works by women, playwrights of color, etc. “It’s been stated that theatres tend to do their riskier work in the Spring,” Ham explains. “This ‘riskier’ work tends to be new plays by women, trans, and non-binary writers and writers of color. The belief is that theaters are able to make their money in the fall season, which is usually reserved for classic plays and plays by men.
“We believe the logic behind that allows the theatre the opportunity to fill their coffers more confidently with these works thereby branding plays by the aforementioned underrepresented writers…riskier,” Ham continues. “To combat this, we need artistic leaders to be willing to program outside of what the spring part of the season has become known for with these plays that provide convenient tie-ins to Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc. We need artistic leaders to be willing to relegate new plays more into the mix of the earlier part of their season and to also be willing to put these plays on their main stages as well.
“Our industry needs to remember that every play used to be a new play at one point.”
Ham, Marcantel, and their cohort create and publish this list to prevent a backslide in the industry. Some steps to continue forward progress? Provide assurance “that once these works are produced, artistic leaders will examine the make-up of their seasons and make a commitment to have work that not only reaches for gender parity, but is also a truer reflection of the world that we live in,” says Ham. “Another step would be moving these plays out of the spring and to the early part of the season. An additional step would be to move some of these works to the main stage. The audience has been trained to believe that any play that has not made it to the main stage is less worthy than the classic work and work by cis males that tend to take that coveted spot. That should change. Artistic leaders have the power to make that change.”
But The List isn’t just meant for producers and artistic leaders. Audiences can ensure more inclusive offerings onstage by speaking up with their ticket purchases and attendance (once theatres are up and running again). Write to your local theatre and tell them what you want to see. “If the actual audience begins to demand it as well, it will also start making a huge difference towards the work that we’re doing,” says Ham, “so that there will not have to be any more lists.”
Click here to view The List 2020.
On Tuesday, July 14 (8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific) The Kilroys will host a virtual celebration on Zoom to honor the plays and playwrights featured on The List. RSVP details can be found at TheKilroys.org.