Dobama Theatre Gives Voice To Female Playwrights
Award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau's “Sunset Baby” opens Dobama Theatre’s 2018-2019 season tonight. The show is the first of a series of six plays, all by female playwrights. When artistic director Nathan Motta began to choose the shows for the season, he didn’t go in with the intention of selecting works by only women writers.
“It just so happened that three or four of the plays that I was heavily leaning towards programming were written by women. I think representation and intentionality are really important. So when I was looking for the last few slots for the season, there were so many wonderful plays still on the table written by women that I thought, ‘this is an important thing to do and an important time to do it,”’ Motta said.
“I love the way that Nathan tells the story that it wasn’t something he set out to do for a certain quota or benchmark. He’s choosing to work with all female writers, but that those were the stories that were popping to him. Once he noticed that trend, he leaned in, which is an exciting way to move forward,” Wansley said.
Traditionally, the amount of works staged by female playwrights has lagged behind their male counterparts, although as of late more women are seeing their plays produced. Morisseau feels that the kind of focus that Dobama is placing on female writers can only help that number continue to grow.
“I think once we have theatres that will stand in support of allowing these women’s voices to take center stage, you’ll see a shift not only in the writing of the plays but the producing of the plays nationwide. It helps when there is a collective nationwide effort to stand behind the voices of women. It’s very important for my work and its very important for the work of my peers,” Morisseau said.
Gregory White and Mary Francis R. Miller in "Sunset Baby" by Dominique Morisseau [Steve Wagner Photography]
Morisseau says having “Sunset Baby” be part of Dobama’s “Six Women-Six Plays” season is about more than staging a show written by a woman.
“’Sunset Baby’ is one of my post powerful roles for women that I have. It is a woman leading a cast of men. She is the most savvy and really the strongest character in the play.”
Motta’s wish is that “Six Women-Six Plays” will not only entertain but provoke thought.
“Theater asks questions, and that’s how it makes its statements. People are asked to come into a communal space to experience something together and then talk about it. When you deal with human relationships, regardless of the points of view of each character and the circumstances they’re in, everyone brings their own life experience to what they’re viewing and a different perspective. So, that’s how we have these conversations, and that’s where action starts,” Motta said.
Mary Francis R. Miller and Gregory White in "Sunset Baby" by Dominique Morisseau [Steve Wagner Photography]
Morisseau’s hope is that we reach a point in the future where we won’t notice when a theater company chooses to stage a season filled with female writers.
“The goal is to make it a movement not a moment, so that we aren’t just having this ‘great trend’ because it is cool or topical, but that it is actually a long-term shift in our industry and our world. I’m hoping that this means this is not a surprise, just like it wouldn’t be a surprise for there to be multiple people of color in a season, not just the ‘person of color’ or ‘woman’s slot.’ We can then stop looking at ourselves in these compartmentalized ways and see ourselves as a very necessary, urgent and ongoing part of the social conversation.”
Hear Morisseau, Wansley and Motta talk more about some of the shows that make up Dobama's "Six Women-Six Plays" season.