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From Page to Stage: Behind the Scenes of Women-led Theater Productions

Photography by Elisabeth Caren at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

In the dynamic world of theater, women are not only taking center stage but also stepping into leadership roles behind the scenes. From directing and producing to writing and designing, women are reshaping the landscape of theater productions, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative approaches to the stage.

Creative hubs of women-led production companies like The Kilroys, known for advocating for gender parity in theater and amplifying the voices of female playwrights. Founded in 2013, the collective includes playwrights, directors and producers in LA and NYC who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action.

In 2018, The Kilroys passed the baton from the founding members to a “new class” of 14 radical theatremakers composed of writers, producers and directors Jaclyn Backhaus, Hilary Bettis, Jennifer Chambers, Claudia de Vasco, Emma Goidel, Christina Ham, Jessica Hanna, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Obehi Janice, Hansol Jung, Chelsea Marcantel, Caroline V. McGraw, Bianca Sams, and Gina Young.

The Kilroys List/Web was created to champion underproduced plays by women, trans, and nonbinary Playwrights but also highlight some of the Theatermakers/Collaborators (actors, directors, dramaturgs, producers, etc) who work tirelessly to create and advocate for their work.

Women's Project Theater Founder, Julia Miles
WP Theater Founder, Julia Miles

Now in its 46th Season, Women’s Project Theater, is the nation’s oldest and largest theater company dedicated to developing, producing, and promoting the work of Women+ at every stage of their careers. Founded in 1978 by Julia Miles as Women’s Project Theater, WP Theater has earned acclaim as a home for Women+ theatermakers, historically marginalized in the field, to hone their craft while becoming leaders, change-makers, and advocates in the industry.

The trailblazing theater company continues Julia’s legacy having produced more than 600 Off-Broadway plays and developmental projects and has partnered with a number of other New York theater companies for co-productions, including Playwrights Horizons and The New Group.

Satomi Blair, Jasmine Batchelor, and Maechi Aharanwa in the Playwrights Realm production of “Mothers” by Anna Moench at the Duke on 42nd Street. Photo by Daniel J Vasquez.
Satomi Blair, Jasmine Batchelor, and Maechi Aharanwa in the Playwrights Realm production of “Mothers” by Anna Moench at the Duke on 42nd Street. Photo by Daniel J Vasquez.

Founded on the principle of supporting early-career playwrights, The Playwrights Realm is a dedicated platform committed to nurturing emerging talent in the world of theater. With a focus on providing comprehensive services, the organization aims to help playwrights refine their craft, realize their artistic visions, and build rewarding careers. By offering dramaturgical guidance, production support, and generous stipends, The Playwrights Realm ensures that aspiring writers have the resources and encouragement they need to thrive. Through their commitment to fostering a nurturing environment, the organization plays a vital role in shaping the future of American theater.

We believe the best art can arise anywhere and speak to us all, and we’re committed to breaking any institutional barriers that prevent it from happening.

Before founding The Playwrights Realm in 2007, Katherine Kovner was a freelance director and the Artistic Associate at Classic Stage Company. She was the Directing Fellow at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, a member of The Soho Rep Writer Director Lab, and of New Georges. In 2014 she was the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theater Women. Katherine is a graduate of Brown University.

It’s evident that women-led theater productions are not only breaking barriers but also championing representation and inclusion on stage. Through their commitment to diverse casting choices and thought-provoking storytelling that amplifies marginalized voices, these productions are reshaping narratives and challenging traditional norms in the theater world. By centering diverse experiences and perspectives, women-led theater is paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable artistic landscape, where every voice is heard and celebrated.

Let’s look towards the future and envision a more equitable and inclusive industry. From mentorship programs and networking opportunities to advocating for policy changes and funding initiatives, there are countless ways to support and uplift women in theater as they continue to make their mark on and off the stage.

The featured image is credited to The Kilroys. All images are used courtesy of the respective artists, and all rights are reserved.