Caridad Svich on the Lack of Female-Written Works in Theater
“I can name a 100 female writers who are making incredible work, but where can it be seen?”
It’s a good question that Caridad Svich poses. The OBIE-winning playwright is brining her thought-provoking show The Hours of All Things to the first-ever Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival, which she calls a powerful chance to examine what exactly “women’s theatre” is.
“It feels a little like the feminist movement or like the identity politics movement,” she says. “It’s bringing back ‘women’s theatre’ into the lexicon, and it’s been a while since that’s happened. It’s celebrating and really looking at the notion of ‘girl power.’ What do we really mean by that?”
And, indeed, there is an ironic sense of “girl power” when it comes to the theatre: The majority of theatre-goers tend to be female, yet only one-fifth of the productions staged at the nation’s largest theaters are written by women, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Svich says it’s time for that to change.
“If there are five big theaters in a town, look at what they are doing in a season,” she says. “If they’re not representing the full spectrum, then talk to them. Most theaters are getting community and public funding. The public has a stake in that venue in terms of the work that is done. Talk to them about it. Tell them it’s not representing us as a population, and our mothers and fathers and sisters and trans friends. Make some board members and artistic directors a little nervous. Holding up that mirror is important.”
The show she’s bringing to Philly is in some ways a mirror that’s held up to the audience. The one-woman play focuses on, to use Svich’s words, an “average Jane” who awakes into her own “political consciousness.”
“She’s been living her life to stay invisible, to be a good citizen, to be in the system,” Svich explains. “It’s an ordinary woman who wakes up one day who has extraordinary thoughts. How do I continue to be a good citizen in the world? What does it mean as an American to honor the ‘American experiment’?”
Svich says that the Occupy movement greatly inspired the work, and that “other forms of protest action,” like the Black Lives Matter movement, need to have Americans examine how to make the country that we want to live in. Theatre can help that, too.
“Theatre is a democratic space,” she says. “We’re rehearsing democracy every day. We walk into the rehearsal room and everyone has their own personal stuff to deal with, but they make something together. If the world worked that way, we’d be able to work toward the greater good. That’s kind of the idea of this festival. It felt right to me.”
‘The Hour of All Things’ runs Thursday, July 30th, at 8 pm and Saturday, August 1st, at 1 pm at the Asian Arts Initiative at 1219 Vine Street. The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival runs July 30th to August 2nd. For tickets and more information, go here.