Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The theater's gilded ceiling

Playwright Theresa Rebeck has been contributing to the Guardian's theater blog, and her latest post is a doozie. Basically she addresses a New York Times article that trumpets a renewed focus on men on Broadway—as opposed to the estrogen-flooded past 100 years, no doubt. Rebeck takes that idea to task and I cannot emphasize how great it is to see her anger boil over, especially since she remains funny to the end.

You have to laugh—and Rebeck does, darkly—when reading such lines from Charles Isherwood's piece as "Broadway is also shining a bright spotlight on the male psyche this autumn." The thing is, looking at the male psyche is interesting, but there's a myriad issues swirling around the manner in which it's done on Broadway. For instance, why does the looking have to be done by men? They are controlling the discourse from beginning to end, putting on a great party honoring themselves, and women—who, Rebeck reminds us, make up 60 percent of Broadway audiences—should feel honored to foot the bill.

"Is it a reaction against last season, when the New York stage seemed to be overtaken by domineering women?" Isherwood wonders. He's referring to the main characters in August: Osage County and Gypsy, by the way, not to headstrong playwrights or directors. And since when did two women amount to an overtaking anyway?

Let's bring a teeny tiny bit of perspective and look at that exact same 2007-08 season. What do we find? Men with image issue (Cyrano de Bergerac), men dealing with revolution (Rock ’n’ Roll), drunk men talking to other drunk men (The Seafarer), men inventing cool stuff then fighting over it (The Farnsworth Invention), men finding art (Sunday in the Park with George), men finding themselves (Passing Strange), men running the country (November), men counselled by bad, bad women (Macbeth). Good thing there will be more about them this year, right? Cause it was getting a little tight for them on Broadway for a while.

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