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Female empowerment drives ASU MainStage's latest theatrical season

September 2, 2016

When the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre set out to finalize its 2015-2016 MainStage season, the idea of female empowerment was at the forefront of the discussion.

And why wouldn’t it be? It’s no secret that gender diversity issues have plagued Hollywood and Broadway for years. The most recent Hollywood Diversity Report showed that only one in eight film directors is a woman. And earlier this month an article in The Guardian lamented Broadway’s continued lack of plays and musicals penned by women.

It’s not much better in the Phoenix metro area where some theater companies will not feature a single production written by a woman in their 2015-2016 seasons, as local theatre critic Robrt Pela noted earlier this year.

With these issues in mind, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre decided to take action by programming a theater season featuring a majority of female playwrights. 

“There’s been a good deal of discussion about the miserably low number of plays by women getting produced in major U.S. theatres, as well as the dearth of women’s stories on stages and screens,” said Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and artistic director of the MainStage theater season. “At the recent 2015 Oscars, all of the films nominated for best picture were stories about men, and all of the nominees for best original and best adapted screenplay were men.

“That will not do.”

Five of the seven theater productions in the upcoming MainStage season tell stories that focus on female characters, and the majority of plays were written by women.

“This is nothing to be smug about. This shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. It should be the it-goes-without-saying normal,” Gharavi said. “But sometimes leading, sometimes innovating, can just mean doing the obvious.”

The MainStage theater season isn’t just about celebrating women. It will also focus on American culture. There are two productions for children. There’s even a world premiere of a play by one of the school’s MFA students. But the common thread is celebrating the work of female artists.

With that, here is the complete MainStage theater lineup. Find more information or purchase tickets here.

“A Streetcar Named Desire”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-17, 22-23, 24; 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 25
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Wyatt Kent
Written by Tennessee Williams

This classic of American theatre and cinema follows the fragile and refined Blanche DuBois, who has fled to her sister’s New Orleans apartment to escape financial ruin. There she is confronted by her own past and fresh calamity in this Southern Gothic tale of lust, lies, brutality and madness.

“Dry Land”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30-31, Nov. 1, Nov. 6-8.
Where: Studio 133
Directed by William Partlan
Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel

The creation of up-and-coming playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel, “Dry Land” tells the story of two high school swimmers, Amy and Ester, who are drawn together by the need to secretly terminate Amy’s unwanted pregnancy. An intimate and searing portrait of teenage friendship and desperation set in a girls’ locker room. Mature content.

“Brooklyn Bridge”
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13-14, 19-20, 21; 2 p.m. Nov. 15, 22; 11 a.m. Nov. 20 (student matinee)
Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse
Directed by Ricky Araiza
Written by Melissa James Gibson

Meet Sasha, a 10-year-old with an impending essay deadline, absent parents and no pen. In her quest for a writing utensil and for company, she wanders through her apartment building, where she meets a variety of colorful tenants, who tell her stories about the Brooklyn Bridge and help her to confront her fears. Appropriate for families and young audiences.

“Lasso of Truth”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12-13, 18-19, 20; 2 p.m. Feb. 14, 21
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Pamela Fields
Written by Carson Kreitzer

Bondage, Gloria Steinem and lie-detector tests all figure into this racy tale about Wonder Woman’s origins and the lasting effects of her legacy. This is a story about the nature of comic books, truth and love. Mature content.

“The America Play”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19-21, Feb. 26-28
Where: Studio 133
Directed by Nia Witherspoon
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks

In this contemporary classic of the American theater written by a Pulitzer Prize winner, a character called the Foundling Father who bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln runs an attraction that allows passersby to  re-enact the president's assassination for the cost of a coin. This production will mark the 10th anniversary of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s Theatre & Performance of the Americas program.

“She Kills Monsters”
When: 7:30 p.m. March 25-26, 31, April 1-2; 2 p.m. March 26, April 3
Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse
Directed by Lance Gharavi
Written by Qui Nguyen

To rediscover the younger sister she lost to a tragic car accident, Agnes must embark on a quest into deepest, darkest geekdom in this action-packed, ’90s-themed romp through the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. The line between fantasy and reality blurs as Agnes battles her own demons and learns to embrace the unordinary. Appropriate for families and young audiences.

“on display”
Where: 7:30 p.m. April 15-16, 20-21, 23; 2 p.m. April 17, 24.
Where: Lyceum Theatre
Directed by Phil Weaver-Stoesz
Written by John Perovich

Jack, a shut-in artist who lives on the Lower East Side, is faced with tough choices when his mother unexpectedly passes. Mary is determined to get his work into a gallery with the help of a curator, but their innocent partnership develops into a dangerous dance of exploitation. Splatter paintings are a grisly metaphor in this play about art, abuse and revealing the unseen in this world premiere by ASU MFA playwright John Perovich.

ASU Art Museum
klmontg2@asu.edu