The Department of Theater and Dance received the 2014 50/50 Applause Award from International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) for having more than 50 percent of its produced plays written by females.
UCSB is one of 67 recipients in nine countries to have won the Applause Award. Out of the six plays produced at UCSB in the 2013-2014 school year, four of the plays were written by female playwrights.
Department of Theater and Dance Chair Risa Brainin said she is honored that the university is a recipient of the ICWP award.
“We are very proud to be part of this international movement to create a gender parity across the world,” Brainin said.
According to Brainin, the Season Selection Committee is an organization that goes over and chooses plays to be produced at UCSB. In 2014, the Season Selection Committee made a conscious effort to produce plays written by women, Brainin said.
Third-year theater major Charles Grant said the 50/50 Applause Award is a demonstration of the Theater and Dance’s program to provide a wide array of perspectives, particularly from “the female voice” which, according to Grant, “isn’t often heard.”
“It is also great that our department decided to choose many productions that were written by females because it gives power and voice to the female perspective,” Grant said. “It also gives the opportunity for females cast in those productions to be able to tell those stories that need to be told.”
In addition to her involvement with the Department of Theater and Dance, Brainin was also named presidet of the National Theater Conference this year, a national non-profit dedicated to support for and advocacy of American theater. According to Brainin, there is a Women Playwright Initiative within the National Theater Conference, which she hopes will influence the department on campus.
Kris Bauske, Applause Award co-chair and ICWP board member, said the award marks a progressive change in theater, placing the Theater and Dance program at “the vanguard of social change.”
“The organizations that received the award step out of that comfort zones and say that they are going to challenge the audience to become in tune with the voices of female playwrights and help them to progress along so that they are as interested in plays written by women as they are written by men,” Bauske said.
However, Bauske also said there is still room for improvement, even within organizations that have received the award.
“We are pretty much evenly sliced. We are about 50 percent men and 50 percent women. And yet the majority of plays being produced are written by men,” Bauske said. “That tells us that society is putting a lot more importance on stories about men by men for men, or that women are just not having the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
According to Bauske, consumers of art should be more cognizant to producing stories that women will be likely to value.
“Typically, the storytellers that I have heard are women,” Bauske said. “It’s not that women are incapable of creating the same art that men are. It’s just that people need to become more attuned with the stories that women find important.”
Brainin said the Department of Theater and Dance will continue to progress and to produce plays that are written by a diverse groups of people.
“This year we focused more on writers of color. We want to have a diversity of voices,” Brainin said. “We are focusing on playwrights from different countries, from different ethnic backgrounds. We are trying to reach out to all kinds of communities.”