Amidst Criticism That The Season Lacked Diversity
The Ruins of Civilization will be a world premiere Manhattan Theatre Club production in spring 2016. It is written a British playwright named Penelope Skinner, whose previous plays include The Village Bike (staged at MCC last year), Fred’s Diner, and Eigengrau. Skinner has received several awards for promising young playwrights, and she recently co-wrote the screenplay to the feature film How I Live Now.
However, the buzz about the announcement of her world premiere at MTC was not focused on her precocious accomplishments; rather, it has been squarely aimed at the discussion of how she is a woman. The reason is that Lynne Meadow, the artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club, had previously announced seven of the eight plays of their 2015 to 2016 season, all seven of which are written by white men. This was revealed in a post last week in American Theatre Magazine. There was immediate outcry online, with prominent playwright Paula Vogel tweeting “for a woman in theatre who attended Bryn Mawr, where is your sisterhood?” Then the playwright Kristoffer Diaz followed up with a tweet that said he would love to discuss strategies for approaching the goal stated in MTC’s mission to produce works “as diverse as NYC itself.”
Nonetheless, An Excellent MTC Season of Accomplished Playwrights
Manhattan Theatre Club produces both Broadway and Off-Broadway. Their Broadway season will kick off with Sam Shepherd’s 1983 play Fool for Love at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, starring Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda. That play is directed by Daniel Aukin, who staged a rendition at last summer’s Williamstown Theatre Festival. The next Broadway show at the Friedman Theatre, which will open in January 2016, is Richard Greenberg’s play Our Mother’s Brief Affair, directed by Lynne Meadow and starring Linda Lavin. In April 2016, MTC will produce a Broadway production of Florian Zeller’s new play The Father, starring Frank Langella in a production directed by Doug Hughes. The Off-Broadway offerings, presented at New York City Center Stages I and II, include Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire directed by David Hyde Pierce and starring Holland Taylor, Rachel Dratch, and Marylouise Burke; Important Hats of the 20th Century by Nick Jones and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel; John Patrick Shanley’s new play Prodigal Son, directed by Shanley and starring Robert Sean Leonard; and Nick Payne’s play Incognito.
Two of the Eight Plays are Directed by Women
The recent announcement of Penelope Skinner’s The Ruins of Civilization was made in haste due to the backlash, and the director has not yet been fully confirmed, but it is slated to be Lila Neugebauer. Skinner declared she felt strongly that a woman was best to direct this play. The only other female director of the season is Lynne Meadow herself, who is to direct Richard Greenberg’s Our Mother’s Brief Affair. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the season came together with all white playwrights and only one woman. In the past four seasons, 43% of the plays were written by women and people of color. Over the past ten years, there have been three seasons at MTC where no playwrights were female, but in five of those years at least half of the playwrights were women. This includes last year, where Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway was brought to Broadway amidst similar criticism that MTC continually failed to produce a play by a female playwright on their Broadway stage. Also over the past four years, 28 of the 49 commissions that MTC made for new plays went to women and minorities.