Do they just not care?

By playwright, Jennie Webb

That’s what you say to yourselves when you’re doing the most important things in the world for the most important reasons and everyone you talk to seems to be too selfish or shallow or stupid to realize it.

Right.  But we’ve all been there.  And I can’t deny that this particular, particularly pathetic, phrase has been popping up in conversations regularly ever since my friend and colleague, playwright Laura Shamas, approached me at the end of 2009 and said, “No one’s producing plays by women and what the f*** are we gonna do about it?!”

Okay, to be honest those are my words. But it was Laura and her passion that lit the fire that started the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative.  (She probably actually said something intelligent and civilized, like “The gender parity issue is finally coming to the forefront and after all the hard work of women in New York, it’s time for us to take action on the West Coast!”)

So Laura and I co-founded LA FPI (yes, it’s all about the branding – and being able to flash a badge: “I’m with the FPI”) to support women playwrights and to draw attention to the fact that too few female voices are represented on stages today. Too few women’s stories are being told.  Too few women artists are working.

Can you think of anything more important?  Of course not!

And how validating it was to find other women – and yes, men – who were as excited and enthused – and, yes, pissed off – as we were. We’re now 200+ LA FPI “instigators” who are part of this all-volunteer, grassroots, leaderless initiative that we hope will inspire positive action of the “Si, se puede!” over a few beers variety.

But of course, along with the “This is fantastic! What can I do?”s, we do get a lot of blank stares and “What’s in it for me?”s.  And on some days, after enough of these negative reactions or non-responses, we find ourselves saying, “Man!  Do they just not care?” (Well, Laura says “Man!”  I generally use another word.)

Luckily, even if we’ve started to cry or scream or channel Joan of Arc by this point, we’re also hit by the big picture ridiculousness of our situation. I’m talking the everything’s-relative-we-all-do-what-we-can-it-all-makes-a-difference-ness.

I remember that I have amazing friends who do things like run theater workshops in Columbia about the role of theatre in peacemaking while I sign online petitions.

I think about the work of organizations like Planned Parenthood, the HRC and NOW  to name a few, and it doesn’t take me long to cop to the fact that that I’m more of a dilettante than an activist, even with the badge.

I look at the theater companies across the country that have been devoting themselves to actually producing plays by women. And they’ve been doing it for a long time now.  (Funny how certain issues don’t go away.)

But does that mean my weenie efforts are worthless?

I hope not.  Because the fact is that I do care.

Like a lot of us, I’m over-committed and under-employed and always feel like I could be doing more.  But I have to think that what I actually do – whether it’s writing plays to shed my own kind of would-be light on issues like a women’s right to choose, violence against women, and women’s roles in family and modern society; or creating a space for playwrights to stretch and develop new plays as “Seedlings“; or corralling the fabulous Katherine James, Jen Huszcza, Sara Israel and Tiffany Antone into the FPI – does matter.

I mean, we can’t all produce women’s theater festivals to bring artists together and raise awareness and money for a good cause . . .  Or wait.  Maybe we can.

Ms. Antone?  Let’s talk over a cocktail or two, shall we?  (As long as we can swear.)

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