the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tom Ross responds to Carol's open letter

Still working on my TBA Conference wrap up!  In the meantime, I'm very pleased that Tom Ross of the Aurora has allowed me to post his response to playwright Carol Lashof's open letter.

Read below.

Dear Ms. Lashof,
Yes, you are right that next season we do not have any women playwrights represented in our roster of five plays. That was certainly not my aim nor is it something I am proud of.  As a playwright, I would imagine that you understand that a theatre’s seasons come together in more of an organic way than simply saying that we are going to do plays xy&z and then obtaining the rights to plays xy&z.  This is particularly true when you are a small 150-seat theatre like Aurora.  Playwrights and their agents, both woman and men alike, like to give permission to produce their work to the larger houses so they can make larger royalties.  In preparation for this season, I tried to obtain the rights to five plays written by women and in all instances was rejected.
I certainly have no prejudice against plays by women.  We recently closed the Bay Area premiere of Annie Baker’s play, “Body Awareness” to great critical and financial success.  Last season, both our world premiere of Allison Moore’s play “Collapse” and Alice Childress’ infrequently performed “Trouble in Mind” were big successes. Additionally this season, we commissioned Margret Schaefer to translate a new version of Schnitzler’s “Anatol.”
As far as Aurora theatre going backwards, that is actually incorrect.  There have been huge strides in diversity at Aurora in all ways since I became Artistic Director 8 years ago.  I am not going to get into statistics but I have produced far more plays written by women in my 8 seasons than our founding artistic director did in her 12.  Additionally, in those same 8 years, 23 Aurora productions have been directed by women and 17 by men.
Sexual diversity goes well beyond playwriting and directing here.  We hire many women set, lighting, costume designers, electricians and scenic artists who work with us regularly. Muriel Maffre, the former prima ballerina of the SF Ballet initiated, conceived and co-directed a version of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” here last year utilizing Mary Chun as our music director/pianist and featuring alternating female violinists who appeared onstage.
I appreciate your passion and how hard it is for anyone in theatre, whether they are playwrights, actors or designers, to have their work appear on stages.  I understand that women and racially diverse playwrights are produced less than Caucasian males.  I have devoted my life to producing and creating the best work I can and am proud of the strides we are making here at Aurora to represent a diverse group of people behind the scenes and on our stage.
I am supplying a link to an article (its 2 ½ years old)  by Robert Hurwitt in the San Francisco Chronicle about the production of female playwrights in the Bay Area Theatre you may find of interest.
Tom Ross
Artistic Director
PS Alas, we do not receive any state or federal funding.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, thanks for writing this letter. This is a difficult issue, and you speak mindfully and compellingly about it.