You Could Choose What Play To See Based On Its Gender Parity

A theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Want to see what local productions are achieving gender parity? Now you could. StageSource has launched an online calendar of New England theater, StagePage, that includes the designation "Standing O."

StageSource began using the designation for plays on its paper calendar sent out to members a few years ago, but by creating an online calendar with this designation, it hopes to provide this information to a broader audience.

“About four years ago, there was a hunger and a desire to bring focus to female-identified artists in Boston and to the work of companies, larger organizations, that were doing the work of female artists or putting female artists forward in their creative teams,” said Dawn Simmons, StageSource’s executive director.

In order to get a "Standing O" designation, a production must meet three of five criteria:

  • Have a female director
  • Have a female playwright
  • Employ at least a 50 percent female cast
  • Employ at least 50 percent female design team
  • Tell a female-centered story

It’s no secret that there is a gender disparity in many professions — and the performing arts is certainly one of them.

A gender parity task force at StageSource came up with the designation, Simmons said. It allows any member listing on StagePage (there are about 200 organizations in New England) to opt in to be considered for a "Standing O" — and the majority of theater companies in the region have opted in, she said.

An on-going study at Wellesley Centers for Women, which looks at theaters within the League of Resident Theatres, homes in on women in leadership positions. In recent years, the study found that women generally occupy only around 25 percent of leadership positions in theater.

StageSource study released in 2015 (which studied the 2013-14 season in the Boston area) found that 23 percent of the plays produced were written by women and that men outnumbered women by two to one in the fields of director, scenic design, lighting design, sound design, projection design, violence design, and music direction.

In the years since the organization began putting the "Standing O" stamp on plays, Simmons said there has been a surge of companies producing plays that meet the criteria.

There are currently 11 plays are under the "Standing O" category on the website. (The shows with the designation can be found by selecting "Show Filter" on the top left corner of the website then clicking the "Standing O" filter.)

Flat Earth Theatre's "Not Medea" is one of the current plays with the designation. The play follows a woman who "takes over" the Greek tragedy Madea to tell her own story of love, lust, motherhood and forgiveness. New Repertory Theater's "Cardboard Piano" and Fresh Ink Theatre's "The Earth Room" are also on the list.

Simmons says it's critical to pay attention to parity in productions.

“It's just it's important to shout it out,” she said. “It's important because ... half of our membership and half of the theater community in New England, more than half, is female-identified. So it's important to make sure that those voices are pulled out.”


Headshot of Cintia Lopez

Cintia Lopez Arts Fellow
Cintia Lopez was a fellow for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team.



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