Female playwrights and the Abbey

 

Sir, – I am writing in response to the recent announcement of the Abbey Theatre’s programme for 2016, “Waking the Nation”, because I feel extremely disheartened and let down at the lack of female writers.

I know many gifted female playwrights. At the Lir Academy, which trains actors, playwrights, designers and directors, the majority of playwrights in the MFA programme are female. It has been the same for the past three years. Why is this not reflected on our national stage? I am currently enrolled in this programme which now feels futile.

Or why did they not look to the Fringe or Dublin Theatre Festival, where there are always new and emerging female playwrights and directors. These are not obscure places to look if the Abbey was actually serious about fostering and developing a diverse range of voices.

And if these new female writers aren’t given the opportunity to make the leap, how will things ever change?

Historically, I know the canon supplies a lot more famous plays by leading male playwrights and, especially in the commemoration of 1916, I understand that this will draw a crowd. But I am struggling to see an effort to try balance the work.

The Abbey has a shameful track record of gender inequality for playwrights on the main stage and addressing this should have been made an urgent priority. We are, after all, half the audience, and we were also around during 1916. You would think it would have had the foresight to have anticipated this and would have been looking for the past few years to commission.

I am frustrated and offended at the apparent lack of effort to equalise things on the Abbey stage. It begs the question, why should I go and support my national theatre when I cannot see the female voice being represented or respected?

– Yours,etc,

ERICA MURRAY,

Dublin 7.