With a focus on uplifting women in theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company recently announced its @PLAY initiative is supporting two female playwrights through the process of producing plays.
Bekah Brunstetter and Charly Evon Simpson, the two female playwrights chosen to have around a year of commission each with PlayMakers, will complete a residency with the company to write and develop plays.
Vivienne Benesch, producing artistic director at PlayMakers and director of the @PLAY program, said both local playwrights were selected because of their relationship with PlayMakers and focus on the contradictory nature of people and their ability to come together.
“@PLAY is really formalizing a priority that has been central to my mission and vision with PlayMakers since I got here five years ago, and that is to really make PlayMakers a home for the development of new work for the American theatre — specifically to amplify womens’ voices within that work,” Benesch said.
“Both Bekah and Charly have a humanity, a generosity and a bravery that I would like to be the foothold of what the @PLAY program is for years to come," she said.
Benesch is the 16th female artistic director of a League of Resident Theatre. She said female leadership in the industry has more than doubled during her career, but there is still a long way to go.
Lynden Harris, the founder and artistic director of Hidden Voices whose play “Count: Stories from America's Death Row” premiered at PlayMakers in 2017, said @PLAY is an example of the theater industry’s shift towards inclusivity.
“Women are over 50% of the population, so it seems pretty clear that they should be represented on stage and in leadership positions to that degree,” Harris said. “It is a thrilling time to be a woman in the arts.”
Playwright and actress Heidi Armbruster premiered her play “Dairyland” at PlayMakers in 2019. Armbruster said one reason @PLAY is so inspiring is because it helps bridge the gap in the lack of confidence that female playwrights often face.