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.
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
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
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.
PS Alas, we do not receive any state or federal funding.