Essay by

A Boy in a Man's Theater

Essay by

I’ve always said that the American musical hasn’t meant much to me. I don’t really connect to most of those stories told through singing and dancing. Then I saw a workshop performance of the Lisa Kron/Jeanine Tesori musical Fun Home, adapted from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel. There I was on stage. I’ve seen a few other plays featuring gay women, and often those women have been beaten senseless (Stop Kiss) or found dead by hanging (The Children’s Hour). But here was a full-blown musical about a boyish girl, growing up with a closeted gay father, discovering her creative potential—and well, it happened. I understood the power of the musical. I memorized every song. I sang them over and over and over. I wept during every rehearsal—there was an actor on stage who looked like me (well, like me in a younger and cuter kind of way). And though it wasn’t my exact story, it was my story. And I know when this musical is finally produced, I will see it a hundred times and never be tired of it.

a man looking at the camera
P. Carl. Photo by Asia Kepka. 

 

I am compelled to talk some truth about finding yourself “other” in a white man’s world—about the importance of insisting on being seen. I didn’t want to be the one to take this on, but as I’ve been searching for other voices to jump into this discussion, I realize I’m asking them to perhaps risk their own livelihoods down the line—I’m asking them to risk what I haven’t wanted to risk myself.

 

Clothes Make the Men
In 1987, a few days after having worn an ankle-length knit skirt, a long cream colored knit sweater, off-white hose, and black flats to a dressy dinner for Junior Parents Weekend, I went into my dorm room closet and tossed out all my girl clothes. I realized I had reached a pivotal moment. I was a year from graduating from college, and heading into adulthood. For someone of my gender, it meant I would have to embrace womanhood, and somehow after that night, I knew I wasn’t ready—that I’d never be ready. In about 2002, Lynette drove me blindfolded to a local tailor in Minneapolis for a birthday surprise and had three men’s shirts made to fit me. That moment transformed my entire universe and depended entirely on the fact that we both were working full-time and could afford such crazy excess. But between 1991 and 2002, I wandered uncomfortably through men’s clothing stores, a boy covered by too much fabric in a man’s world that I aspired to some day call my own. The problem was I was just too small. Nothing fit right. My neck was too narrow and my legs too short to ever fit in real men’s clothes. And the pain of it wasn’t just about size, but the humiliation of the search for the right outfit was more than I could bear. Once in awhile some kind gay sales clerk in Nordstrom would take pity on me and try to help me find a shirt in the smallest neck size, but often, I was ignored, refused service, or told I couldn’t try on clothes in the men’s dressing room. Women who sold men’s clothes were the worst, one refused to pull out a man’s shirt from a display case I wanted to try on saying simply, “that’s for a man.” And I realize now, that in some ways, I’ve never grown up, because I had no choices to grow into that suited me. I don’t feel at all like a woman, and well, when someone calls me lady, I don’t know who they’re referring to. Many of my tomboy friends have taken the plunge and transitioned to manhood and I think they are brave and amazing, but I don’t feel like a man either. I’m a boy as best I can figure. I like to play video games, basketball, read graphic novels, ride my bike, and watch baseball. How can I be seen as an adult in the world if I'm not seen? I feel certain though, that I could have grown up if I simply had a gender available to grow into.

As we make our way into a very ugly and gendered political season, and as I look at the seasons of many of our regional theater stages, the most egregious being the one just announced by the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, well, I am compelled to talk some truth about finding yourself “other” in a white man’s world—about the importance of insisting on being seen. I didn’t want to be the one to take this on, but as I’ve been searching for other voices to jump into this discussion, I realize I’m asking them to perhaps risk their own livelihoods down the line—I’m asking them to risk what I haven’t wanted to risk myself.

Seeing Yourself on Stage
In my career in the theater I have mostly decided not to think about this problem of my gender dysphoria. I’ve always survived my otherness through stories, through imagining I could be anyone and anything—it was Spiderman for a long time. I’ve been so lucky to work in the theater and submerge myself into the stories of others, constantly lost in the possibilities of what I could imagine versus staying stuck in the limitations of the present moment. In other words, I didn’t want to focus on some of the painful realities of my own story, but have preferred instead to dramaturg and produce many other very compelling stories. I’ve been supportive of, but not super involved in, all the talk of women’s discrimination in the theater. I didn’t feel I was quite the right choice to be a spokeswoman for the cause, though the lack of women’s voices on our stages enrages me. I’ve kept quiet about that subject because in accentuating my otherness, I feared exacerbating it. And honestly, I didn’t want to ever be dismissed as someone with a chip on my shoulder, a victim of my own circumstances. I want to be taken seriously in this business, fit in to the degree that I can, and make good stories for the stage. So, I’ve made my way as a boy in a man’s theater—in a theater dominated by men’s voices, predominantly white, both straight and gay. And I like men, I identify with them. They are my best friends and I like making theater with them. And had god forced me to choose, I’m certain I’d have compared wardrobe choices and decided to be a man. But that said, I believe the transformative power of art rests in undiscovered stories, and if large not-for-profit theaters don’t lead the way in developing and producing those stories, then who will? And if we give the leaders of those theaters a pass because it might cost us something later, then we’re not being nearly imaginative enough about the possibilities for a new future for ourselves and our field. If a young girl/boy playwright came to me for advice about how to make it in this business, I would likely suggest they run like the wind from this crazy thing we call the American theater.

I’ve been wildly lucky to have found a place here, and I’ve been treated relatively well as a short, tattooed boy/girl in boy’s clothes, and I’m grateful for the artists I’ve met along the way whose imaginations and stories saved me from feeling unseen. I’ll never forget supporting Madeleine George’s workshop of The Zero Hour several years ago, and thank god Bonnie Metzger had the courage to produce both Sylvan Oswald’s Pony and Sarah Gubbins’s The Kid Thing, and rock on Basil Kreimendahl as you develop Orange Julius at the O’Neill this summer. And a quick tip of the hat to those who blazed some trail through this gender isolation—thank you Peggy Shaw, Paula Vogel, Susan Miller, Holly Hughes, and others I’m sure I’ve missed. I decided to pass, to pass as an arts administrator who could make myself relevant by fundraising, supervising, marketing—in clothes that could be either overlooked or admired as creatively quirky. But you, my tomboy playwrights, are attempting to tell stories that could subvert the reality of our donors and subscribers—and from what I hear from many of our artistic leaders, these are stories that will never resonate with our current audiences.

If women playwrights, those who are representing the stories of half of the population, and as Lauren Gunderson points out in her recent article, buying 70 percent of the seats, can’t find a place on our stages, it doesn’t bode well for those playwrights unable to comfortably embrace a single gender.

Narcissism or Art?
Joe Dowling, in defending the almost entirely white male season at the Guthrie, said on a public television program, that complaints about his manly white plays are “self-serving.” And I couldn’t agree with him more. For those of us passing in a man’s world, we’re exhausted from serving the man. I am anyway. Everyday I serve the worldviews of others. I am forced to file my taxes as a single person although Lynette and I have been together almost fourteen years. And damn if I don’t have to serve the two-gendered party system on every form that requires me to choose a gender—that’s every form, by the way. So I’m putting myself out there in the most self-serving way. Please call me narcissistic. I want more diversity on our stages and more short, tattooed folks running our theaters because I’m selfish enough to want many more moments like I had at that Fun Home workshop in December. Art rises from the unknown and the undiscovered. Sometimes different is better if only because it makes us stop and consider languages and cultures and ideas not our own. It forces us to engage the act of translation in the encounter with unfamiliar stories. I don’t think we shell out big money to see plays only to be comforted by stories we already know—I’ve met very few audiences who would articulate this as their reason for attending theater. If it’s self-serving to crave surprise, if it’s selfish to seek the new and the undiscovered, then I embrace my self-serving nature for the sake of the future relevance of the theater.  

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Polly. Right on! Thank you for your insightful article. I know I identify with it in so many ways. Theaters use the excuse of audiences to not diversify...to be always mainstream...but it's a false excuse. Empathy is theater's secret weapon...and the more unique and defined a character is...the more compelling and strangely universal the play becomes. Love, KZ

powerful thoughts and feelings in this piece -- put together so elegantly. to hear you speak about this after you've truly given so much was inspiring to me. thanks! missin' you!
amy

Thank you, Polly. Just reading posts like this, which reflect aspects of my struggles as a lesbian playwright, is uplifting. I'm reminded of the importance of writing my truth and inspired to keep seeking audiences and champions of my work. And your wardrobe woes also resonated with me, having been on many frustrating shopping trips with my butch wife. (And damn the IRS man - we would have saved $500 if we could have filed jointly this year.) We need to keep creating & supporting work that reflects our lives and communities, and demanding that it see the light of day.

Thank you for this beautiful essay. It makes me proud, again, to be a theater maker, and to keep such brilliant, passionate company.

Thank you, Polly, for your raw, beautiful essay. I found myself remembering moments of outrage that I've stuffed down for fear of being perceived as bitchy, whiny, bitter, having the chip on my shoulder etc. I thought, like one of the other writers, that I'd just be so damn good so as to earn a place at the table with the big boys. An early play of mine, "Dream of a Common Language," was about that. Set in the Impressionist era grappling with the challenges of balancing love and work but really, I mean, really, about what it does to the soul to just not be at the table. How crippling it is. How it fills you with nagging self doubt until you almost stop writing. At a run-through (without costumes) some visitors thought the play was set now.

Some years ago (before I had turned 50) I heard an interview with Annie Proulx asking her how she'd gotten the voices so right in "The Shipping News" and she talked about how she sat in diners and cafes and just listened. And the interviewer asked her if that didn't bother people, and she said, "Oh, there's no one more invisible than a 50 year old woman."

That's why I got tears reading your essay, Polly. Because of the effects of that invisibility. On anyone who feels that. Feels other. For all the undiscovered stories. For all the ways it shuts you down when you feel that you are someone who's just not worthy of being at the center of a story.

When I was in college and secretly carrying around this dream of being a writer, I took every damn lit class offered and what struck me was that there were no women on those lists. Oh, of course, you could read them in the Women's Lit class or even British Women's Lit, but the message that sent to me was that you could be a writer, maybe, but you couldn't be a heavyweight. You couldn't be in the "American Lit" or "British Lit" just the margins. Not taken real seriously.

I have felt that theatre is a young man's profession. The hours and pay are highly incompatible with family life. For about a decade now, I really have not known how to balance that. I grew weary of the "fight" for the place at the table. Honestly, I just grew weary. Reading your essay, Polly, reminded me of how sad and weary and bloody angry I have been and am.

Oh, Polly, what an exquisite essay. Thank you for making it personal, and thank you always for your open-hearted clarity of thinking.

As large budget theaters approach becoming quasi-commercial outfits, I think we should seriously debate WHY these behemoths continue to keep their non profit status. If a principal programming benchmark has become the bottom line: go ahead program as such, seek out investors, take the risk with their money and produce popular work for the masses. Charge as much as the market will bear and deal with the risk. That's America. That's Broadway, baby.

On the other hand, I'd advocate strongly to see the creation/transformation/endorsement of true non-profits theaters whose primary, even sole mission is to strengthen, empower and diversify the artistic community while serving the local population. Strictly control how much money is spent on marketing, development, sending work to New York or paying their leadership... compared to money that goes into the hands of artists and craftspeople who are empowered to guide the direction of the institution and whose security and health is the theater's highest priority.

In order to revitalize the non profit resident theatre movement, we need to actively interrogate what it has accomplished to date. From my 30 year perspective it has not met the goal of providing a creative home for artists around the country. I look at artists' disenfranchisement, their split focus due to endless shilling for work and the bowing and scraping we endure to remain on good terms with ADs who run their organizations "like small South American countries" as Jon Jory used to say.

When the largest non profits have skimmed the cream of every major city's philanthropic community, enriched their top management while even the most successful artists are forced to moonlight as screenwriters or professors to approach their level of security in their chosen careers, we know we have done it wrong.

I feel confident that any move towards rebalancing the power/money equation between artists and institutions will result in a more responsive and accountable leadership. And that's the single most important thing we can be working towards.

I think the Guthrie's season is sadly unsurprising. The Guthrie represents the height of corporate culture in the theatre world with an extremely well paid executive in comparison to the average worker (let alone artist), a monolith of a building and an extraordinarily top-heavy administration. The Guthrie represents one extreme of the American theatre. They do what they do very well (we all wish we had such strong donors and fundraising prowess and machines to play with), but it comes at a price. The Guthrie has no intention of sacrificing its financial success by being a cutting edge theatre, a social theatre, a progressive theatre or an egalitarian theatre. As maddening as it may be to those of us who work so hard in a mostly poor theatre to push the art and try to create social justice and equality, we shouldn't be surprised that corporate culture is what it is and does what it does. I think its important that we shine a light on it, as Polly has done so well, and perhaps, in time, that light will trigger a transforming photosynthesis. We can hope. In the meantime it's back to the trenches to do the best work we can.

Thanks for this. I've been doing some work on Margaret Webset, Hallie Flanagan, Eva Le Gallienne, and other pioneering producers and the kick in the head is how long these ambitions have been under discussion, to reflect the breadth of humanity.. And here is is expressed as eloquently as ever. So if not now then when?

Thank you Polly for an inspiring essay.

We have unfortunately seen corporate mono-culture arise in the malls of American theatre run by market-driven moguls more than artists. As a result, too many of us can't find a shirt that fits and have to pass as part of the boys club to fit in. Thanks to Howlround for focusing on the need to empower artists' and their exquisite, tailor-made creations.

Currently in SF's Bay One Acts festival is Chris Chen's "A Game," with a cast of two women playing characters who are in a long-term relationship.

Hi cgeye:Most of the students in my playwriting classes are women. It is disturbingly clear that, even in San Francisco, even for out lesbians, it can be frightening -- hand-tremblingly, voice-shakingly terrifying -- to present the full range of their experience out loud. The best thing the classes may do is to help these writers bear in mind that all kinds of people are interested in and moved by what they have to share. I do know of one upcoming play that I would say aces the Bechdel Test: Our Practical Heaven, to be produced next season by the Aurora Theatre (Tom Ross, Artistic Director) here in Berkeley. The cast is six women, ages 18-80. So ALL the scenes are between women, mothers and daughters, siblings and friends. The subject of men comes up from time to time; mostly not. And yes, the characters love each other and some are attracted to each other and would rather be with each other than with anybody else, and nobody is seen as failing to take the place of a man. The script doesn't demand that anybody make out onstage. The climactic scene is between two women in their early 50s.I'm as proud of it as of anything I've ever written. I didn't set out to write a play with an all-female cast; I hesitated a long time, actually. I just kept eliminating the characters that interested me least, and this is where it wound up. I'm not pretending to speak for anybody but my characters.The Aurora isn't marketing it as The Play With All the Women In It. They're just listing the three extraordinary artists playing the leading roles and letting that speak for itself. That seems best. By the way, the play in the same slot in the current Aurora season just closed, after a smash-hit extended run. It was Annie Baker's Body Awareness, directed by Joy Carlin. Amy Resnick and Jeri Lynn Cohen were terrific as the couple in the center of the piece.

This was a great, heartfelt post, but it was also a call to action.

Can anyone reading this post report whether they know of any play in their region, open now or in the upcoming season, that features a lesbian character?

And if it features a lesbian character, do those character's actions include passing the Bechdel Test?

It includes at least two women,who have at least one conversation,about something other than a man or men.

If a play has such a scene, it's admirable; if it has a lesbian in that scene *who doesn't take the place of a man* (in stalking, creepiness, misogynist rhetoric), then that play should be shouted from the rooftops -- so we know this desire for representation isn't as hopeless as women playwrights' production parity.

Hi CGEYE,

I can't say my play AGE OF ANDY has been produced yet, but two of the four characters (all of equal importance) are lesbians. I didn't set out to do this, it's just what the play seemed to demand. And yeah, it completely passes the Bechdel test -- again, not by any pre thought out design. They're just funny, smart, ambitious people.

The play had a wonderful reading at id Theatre in NYC last year, but so far nothing else.

Is it because the play has lesbians in it? Or because I'm a man who tends to write good roles for women? Haven't a clue. But I agree with you: shout from the rooftops indeed.

Like Mark, I also have a play that passes the Bechdel test. An earlier version had a production, and I'm sending around the new version now.

It not only passes the Bechdel test, it's about two women in a committed relationship. They kiss each other. Several times. They hug. They argue. Neither of them "takes the place of a man."

Although it annoys the hell out of me when -- occasionally -- someone says, "Oh, Cathy's definitely the man in the relationship."

Argh.

Thank you. It's good to be reminded of our responsibility when making art, and nurturing it, and to be inspired in the process is even better. Thank you.

Thank you for your honesty. You are speaking for every one trying to move the needle on this art form. There is universal power in the specific, we all knew that but thanks for the reminder.

Such a beautiful and vital piece, Polly, an exquisite reminder of how self-satisfied we often are in the theater about pursuing things that are "unknown and undiscovered," but how rarely certain core paradigms actually get shifted. Thank you!

Polly, you are a champion. I adore you and this brave, beautiful piece of writing, and that's just for starters.

Lovely, powerful piece, Polly. I'm grateful that you'll be part of our Boston theatre community and look forward to meeting and welcoming you.

Polly, what a magnificent article. Brava, bravo, brava, bravo -- those are for the woman and the boy and the girl and the man in us all.

Thank you, Polly, this is a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for applying both the personal and political perspective here. With admiration, Sara

Yes Polly. I must also mention the brilliant and lovely Claire Chafee (Why We Have a Body).

It's notable that gay male characters on stage (as well of course as running theaters) are now commonplace but so shatteringly few plays centered on lesbians. Even my students (gay, straight, male and female) are comfortable with gay male characters and often write them but almost NEVER have lesbian characters.

I just saw a comedy by a revered and prolific British playwright here in London (last name begins with A), one whose work I admire for its political sharpness. But half way through, here we were again. The inevitable lesbian joke. The punch line --as usual, the simple word 'lesbian'-- enough to set a good part of the audience off into uproarious laughter. I assume this white male playwright is also straight, but it's not only straight, white men making us the butt of their jokes. We're the one everyone can make fun of without any consequence. And no one is out there pushing to bring our voices on to the stage. I've heard talk of a lesbian mafia someplace out there in the theatre universe. But if it exists, these women aren't allowing work on to their stages that reflects their lives. And if they're not getting such work sent their way, well gay women are quite aware that to produced they have to disguise or they will be marginalized. I never talk about this stuff. Thanks, Polly.

Yes please! We need more outlets for varieties of gender expression in this hyper gender specifc world. Thanks.

Dear Polly,Thanks for having the courage to write this beautiful article that rings of Truth. I am a better person, with more sensitivity and understanding, for having read it.You have done a service to the world in opening people's eyes and building bridges. Write on! (Right on also fits)

Brava brava brava. Excellent article and brave. I will repost on Facebook and hope your thoughts travel far out into cyberspace and affect millions.

Beautiful, Polly. Very excited about FUN HOME. PS re the Guthrie season: I'm happy to see Propeller on the list at least. I've seen them several times and they really stretch and tweak settled notions about gender. The caption on their picture calls their productions "traditional"--the productions I've seen were anything but.

Thank you for sharing such important thoughts and needed perspective on the state of theatre today. I think that many people look for "themselves" on stage - physically, sexually, emotionally - and TOO MANY stories are not currently being told (or if they have been written, they aren't being produced).

A great article, Polly, and one that gives me a lot to think about as a theatre artist. Ever think about publishing these as an anthology of some kind?

This is just thrilling to read. As a young, queer playwright, I am glowing at your insight, humor, and sharp, intellectual observations and opinions. BRAVO and THANK YOU.

Dear Polly, thank you for this thought-provoking piece. We have to hold our leaders in the field and ourselves accountable for the exclusionary artistic choices that are made and the continuing lack of representation of 'others' (gender as well as race/ethnicity) on our national stages.

This is an incredibly moving essay, Polly, that does the best of what an essay can do. And it makes me think about how we're simply missing out on so many good stories by skewing seasons in such a particular status quo way. And, by the way,I love your short tattooed self. Keep thinking and writing, Polly. Thanks so much for this. K

Yes yes and more yes. Your just made me realize: I think of theater almost always as metaphor because I almost never see a direct, representational image of myself. So I am always identifying with characters as metaphors for and expressions of something deeper than their physical-gender-age-race-etc. make-up. I mean, I have to relate to SOMETHING, right? I keep LOOKING for stories that tell mine more directly..... alas... so few. We will have to find them or write them. Your voice here is INDISPENSABLE. Gosh, thank you, Polly. Fantastic.

Tina, it's really interesting right--the way we effectively use metaphor and then become less conscious of what we're missing. It's why Fun Home took me by such huge surprise. I had no idea how much I needed to see a representational image once in awhile, that I was starving in my own profession. And yes, let's look for stories and write them!

To note, Split Britches got back together for a retrospective last week:

http://splitbritches.wordpr...

-- and there really isn't a bar for like-minded folk to at least start a listserv, or Google Group, to talk about plays that reflect our experiences. It would take more for lesbian playwrights to start a workshop, but a blog that lists plays either by lesbians or featuring lesbian characters could reside separately, or be placed onto a site such as AfterEllen.

And, yeah, I'm being very reductionist about not including bisexual, transgendered and other playwrights whose concerns are intersectional, but after decades of supporting everyone else's representation, holding the door open for them, lesbians no longer register on stage as people with their own stories. Change has to start somewhere, and the first step is to determine what we already have.

Thank you, Polly, for this brave and important piece from the heart, the soul, the mind. I will absolutely share this with others who need to read it.

We hear so much about perception theory today, but perspective theory is, I think, a more productive discursive playing field. I really, really want to be moved and to be humanized and chastised and startled and presented with other. If you lead us farther and further into that terrain, Polly, you will do even greater service than you have done here with these words that flow like a rushing river through your landscape. A season without perspectives is a season without perspective. And GIWTIHWT.

When I grow up I want to be like Polly Carl. That was thought provoking, and deep, and beautiful commentary about a serious issue that's plaguing this American Theatre and I really thank you for wisdom and that fire deep inside that you shared with us.

Final comment: we're lucky to be in landscape that's extraordinarily rich with talent...talent that comes in all kinds of diverse forms. Can we agree as a field that breezy statements about "just choosing the best work" are no longer acceptable? Thank you, American theater!

did that sound preachy? I guess I am preaching a little bit, but only because I think about this a lot. & I don't think anyone in the American theatre is an avowed racist/misogynist who's actively pursing their white/male power agenda through programming a theater season. I don't. But I do think that the diversity problem won't cure itself if we leave it to inertia. We have to care--passionately--about making this right, and then be honest with ourselves about what we have to do to make that possible. It has to be a priority. We have to work hard to fix it. And then & only then will it actually start to change. That's why I feel the need to do a little preaching. Because leaving this to inertia is still an action...and it has consequences.

First of all, this is wonderful. So beautifully written & so true. Thank you.

Secondly, I'm in awe of theater's power to build a sense of community. I think it happens in two directions--maybe call them vertical & horizontal--as you identify with the characters on stage (vertical) and as you experience a shared journey with the other people in the audience that night (horizontal). When it's working right, you leave the theater feeling more connected to the people you saw represented on stage and the people who experienced their story with you. I'm saying nothing new here--these are truths we all know & have felt in our own lives.

But--to say this quite starkly--I think the community building power of theater is a morally blind force, one that can be used for good or evil.

When the people depicted in your work on stage and filling the seats in the audience more-or-less represent the diversity of your local community, your theater makes that community stronger, helping us all to understand one another better, identifying commonly held values that transcend difference.

But when both art and audience reflect an existing elite, then the community building power of theater becomes a regressive force, serving to reenforce (and even justify) unearned privilege.

I'm drawing large, stark lines here, but I actually feel we've been too kind to ourselves for our slow progress on diversity. I'm so grateful to work in a form with the power to engender radical empathy... it's a gift and a privilege. I don't believe we can justly claim to serve our communities--and receive in exchange public subsidization through the tax code--if we refuse to employ that power.

I don't expect to see lesbians on the stage, anymore. Of course, I'll see women who say they love women, but they never really kiss other than that kiss that happens out of obligation, and more often than not the kissers will wear copious makeup and long nails, without anyone thinking through what that says about how they have sex or live their lives.

I'm not saying lesbians are only butches, but I am saying that lesbianism on stage is portrayed so as to not frighten anyone in the production team, and that means full assimilation. Something as simple as a haircut, as a signifier, is never seen. Gay characters, at this juncture, get more respect and attention, because somehow they still function as the nonthreatening best friends of straight female characters, and -- we all know this spiral.

It's just that when I read a post like this, I remember to be angry, then depressed that my anger will change nothing. If theatres can't even add women's voices to a greater part of their efforts, lesbians aren't even a thought.

Thank you for having the courage to speak up about this issue. Your voice helps all of us. Hopefully, we can make things better for ourselves and future generations of theatermakers.

Oh! Is the whole future-theater-person-with-a-closeted-gay-dad thing the reason I felt instantly happier the moment I met you? Or is it my long-time soft spot for Huckleberry Finn? Whatever it is, I'm a fan. And I would quietly say, as a (straight) guy who wrote a play (premiering next season at the Aurora in Berkeley) with a cast of six women (aged 18 to 80), the gender of the writer is not the only issue at play when we look at gender equity in new American plays.

LOVE LOVE LOVE this, Polly. I love the gender clarity of it. This piece comes from such a deep place inside you. Thanks for giving us a peek.

I love this. Gorgeous gorgeous truth. I had just told someone here that the Guthrie battle has made me face some sad truths about ME. I now understand that I have spent a lot of years not complaining about this shit because I wanted to play with the boys and have a seat at that table. My narrative was that if I wasn't at that big table, it was because I CHOSE not to be. If I complained I'd be seen as bitter. I thank Dowling for helping me see that I was doing that (cringe). I'm done worrying and I'm totally prepared to be New York Loud on the Prairie now. Thank you for telling your story and in doing so with such honesty, giving me some extra strength to keep this fight up here. LC

Thanks Lisa for your courage and leadership in this conversation. I totally know the struggle of this, I've tried to walk this very fine line of not being too loud, getting at the big tables and having a voice at them but now that I've done that I see that the big tables don't change unless we're loud and insistent and willing to take huge risks. Glad we're in this together.

Fear and apathy are as powerful forces as censorship. Thanks for being brave. Thanks for making it personal. So inspiring.

Leah, Thank YOU for your leadership in this, for being the one of the first people to say "no" -- I hope the MN community continues to push this conversation forward and please let us know if HowlRound can be of any service as you try and deepen the discourse.

Dear Polly,What a beautiful article, representing an important and moving perspective. Many thanks for your honesty and integrity in all you give your time and energies to.

In the Method Gun one of the characters says of the great Stella Burden, "she found me and gave me work and now the work I get is based on that work." That line makes me think of all the women who have created my life in the theatre: Shawn Sides, Lana Lesley, Madge Darlington, Sarah Richardson, Melanie Joseph, Peggy Shaw, Deb Margolin, Anne Bogart, Deborah Hay, Polly Carl and on and on and on. Which is just to say white men have been served and taught and lifted and supported and loved so much. I can be a better reflection of that service and teaching in my own life and in the American Theatre.