Off-Broadway’s Wicked Women Are Maybe Not So Wicked


I pulled out what’s left of my hair mulling a recent event I attended, called “The Wicked Women of Off-Broadway.” It took place Sun., Oct. 3 at the Snapple Theater Center, the latest in a series of panels offered by the plucky Off-Broadway Alliance. Moderated by Patrick Healy of the New York Times, the aforementioned coven included Annie Baker, Lisa Kron, Theresa Rebeck and Sarah Ruhl. That’s a heady quartet, and frankly I expected discourse on Emily Glassberg Sands’ report and the received wisdom of women being underrepresented on Broadway as playwrights, and, by implication, how Broadway is the center of the theatrical universe, and, by implication, though no one will actually come out and accuse any specific artistic director of sexism in their programming, artistic directors are sexist in their programming, and, by implication, there’s sexism because, well, men are awful and, well, it would be a serious gonad smasher, with not-so-subtle man-zipping, man-yelling, man-xystering (now there’s a word), man-warning, man-venting, man-usurping, man-taunting, man-smacking, man-railing, man-quieting, man-pushing, man-overboard, man-nailing, man-mashing, man-loathing, man-kicking, man-jousting, man-insulting, man-hating, man-grinding, man-fearing, man-executing, man-damning, man-castrating, man-bashing and, oh, man, what’s left? Anti-man-ish-ness. Nyeh.

But the panel wasn’t any of those things. The four women aren’t witches — at all. They were terrific.

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So much for the agendas we male blogger-advocate-reporter-journalists bring to the table, hm?

I don’t mean to imply the playwrights lacked for opinions — that’s hardly the case. If Rebeck were more blunt she’d be an deadly instrument. Kron, who one can’t help but adore, is a devil-may-care kind of caustic that’s refreshingly honest. They weren’t angry or bitter, accusatory or divisive. No, they weren’t wicked, really, so much as smart and self-possessed. Who knows if one of the Off-Broadway Alliance’s previous panels, “The Bad Boys of Off Broadway” (Stephen Adly-Guirgis, Itamar Moses, Adam Rapp, Christopher Shinn), presented the same qualities.

Three hairs, two hairs — look, I think it would be best for me simply to publish the quotes I took down. I mean, isn’t that sort of wonderfully analog? Let the wicked women who aren’t so wicked speak for themselves.

So here goes:

Kron, on making theater: “Where is the authenticity in this thing called “artifice”?

Ruhl, on unpaid or underpaid early-career playwrights: “I don’t think young playwrigths need [money].”

Rebeck, on producing theater: “I find a lot of the politics around it extremely unpleasant.”

Baker, on finding places to hear one’s work read, such as The Lark: “That’s why there’s graduate school.”

Rebeck, on being locked into endless play development: “…a web of endless deceit and intrigue.”

Ruhl, on regional theater: there “less terror [now that] regional theater is becoming more like Off-Off-Broadway.”

Rebeck, on dramaturgs meddling: “…endless fascination with telling a playwright how to rewrite a play.”

Kron, also on dramaturgs meddling: “…unsolicited and unwelcome dramaturgy…”

Baker, on who she writes for: “Am I writing for some elite theatergoing audience?”

Ruhl, on the pecking order of theater-making: “The playwright is supposed to be the one with the vision.”

Rebeck, on the Great White Way: “Broadway has become such a celebrity culture.”

Ruhl, also on the Great White Way, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig: “…crazy celebrity stunts…”

Kron, also on the Great White Way and her play, Well: “As corrupt as it is, it is the center of the American theater.”

Kron, on the difficulty of selling tickets to potentially interested audiences: “How many ways can we say ‘fuck you’?”

Kron, on the same subject: “Why is it so forbidding to buy a theater ticket?”

Rebeck on — you guessed it — Broadway: “Where are the American plays?”

They also attacked commercial theater, which was pretty audacious, I thought, given what the Off-Broadway Alliance is and does. Baker was repeatedly asked about her play, Circle Mirror Transformation, and whether it was set to move to Broadway or not — and why. She gave a string of incredibly insightful answers. Enough, in fact, that I’m going to now leave you hanging. I wouldn’t question her wisdom for a minute. Like I said, these ladies aren’t witches. They’re the fine future of the American stage.