THE 3 BEST THINGS ABOUT BEING A (FEMALE) PLAYWRIGHT

BViellieu-DavisBy playwright, Brigitte Viellieu-Davis

I recently wrote to Tiffany, our fearless LBDI leader, and asked if there were any topics she would love to see covered in a blog. She responded,  “I’m really interested in…what it means to you to be a female playwright.”

I don’t really have anything to compare it to…I’ve always been female. And I’m pretty sure I’ve always been a playwright, even before I was writing plays. There is a legend that when a journalist asked Arthur Miller if he was working on a new play he responded, “probably.” I’m not comparing myself to Miller, but I think all storytellers harvest details from their lives and subconscious 24 hours a day for their work. My creative career up to this point has mostly been focused on acting, on performing, so I am going to tell you about what it’s like for me to be (not just a female but) simply…a playwright.

So far it’s been grand and here are my top 3 shout outs to my life as a writer:

1. The Freedom to Be

…anything! Doesn’t matter if I’m a (female) playwright or writer, I can be genderless when I write. I can be male, female, transgender, old, young, not born yet, gay, straight, any race, religion, and from anywhere, even another Galaxy, if I choose.  Or, rather, my characters can be. As long as I’m paying attention and being as truthful as I know how to be, I can use any way to tell my stories.

Do I have a unique perspective as a woman? Sure! But you can also say I have a distinctive world view because I’m American, a native Midwesterner, the youngest of a large family, a NYC actor, married for 22 years, child free, middle aged, or short. Everything I am, all the things I read and watch, everyone I have met or meet, all the experiences that make up my daily life make their way into my writing. I love that my senses are this conduit, a channel through which the world gets interpreted, and I feel responsible to be open and receptive and then to tell the truth as best as I can in my work.

2. The Power of Being

…the source. Coming to playwriting from acting there is a palpable difference in the power dynamic. Over the last 22 years I have had countless conversations over coffee or cocktails (that’s a lot of alliteration) with fellow performers who bemoan working or investing their time (most often for no money) in a new play or musical with a writer and director for days, weeks, months, even years (in staged readings, workshops, or bare bones or regional productions) only to be replaced (with a “name” talent) when a producer gets involved. This has happened to to many of us. Directors get replaced too. I have witnessed playwrights have little say on casting or a creative team. I have seen them, and have been myself, bullied into making cuts or changes in the play, or have to fight for certain production values. But you can’t replace the playwright. A producer or theatre can decide not to do your play, they can try to steal it (but informed playwrights know how to avoid this), but they can’t do it without you, without your permission. There’s power in that.

3. The Satisfaction of Being

…realized. There is no greater feeling than seeing my work interpreted by a director, designers and actors. As an actor I’ve been part of sold out shows, had standing ovations, rave reviews and roses handed to me at curtain call. And yet nothing quite compares to seeing the words I’ve written, the characters I’ve built detail by detail, and the stories that have joyfully haunted my days come to life on stage. My husband and I don’t have children, but I have this progeny in the stories I have birthed. I am the mother of a body of work.

So there you have it…mother…only a female playwright would see it that way so readily. And I love this motherhood, this community of sisters raising up our voices and telling our stories, and of being — powerful, free and realized. What’s does it mean to me to be a (female) playwright? Like any mother would say, it means the world.

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