A unique collaboration among Big Ten theater departments is putting female playwrights, directors, and actors in the spotlight while sparking campus conversations about important social issues.
In the spring of 2014, the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, consisting of theater department heads from Big Ten Conference universities, began to commission plays starring, written by, and directed by women as part of its New Play Initiative.
Alan MacVey, director of the Division of Performing Arts at the University of Iowa, proposed the initiative in 2010 to counteract the lack of complex roles for women—young women in particular—and the lack of female playwrights in the industry.
Female roles, often written by men, were frequently written as supporting or minor characters with fewer lines than their male counterparts, which would prove problematic for theater departments when selecting scripts for students to perform, says MacVey. He saw the initiative as a way to address this imbalance and give female students more opportunities at lead and dialogue-heavy roles.