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Katy Gentry

ENC 1102H

March 22nd, 2014

Broadway Might Not Be So White, But Is It Woman Enough? is a

written summation of a conversation had by two New York Times theatre

critics, in which they discuss the degree of gender equality and

representation on the Broadway stage in this most recent season. The two

critics whose conversation is presented, Laura Collins-Hughes and Alexis

Soloski, are both frequent writers for the New York Times, and the nature of

their work as individuals includes reviews, theatre news, opinion pieces, and

various other features. Collins-Hughes, who has worked as an arts journalist

since 1993, has worked as both a writer and an editor for several different

publications, and received the National Arts Journalism Program fellow at

Columbia University back in 2005. Alexis Soloski frequently writes for both

The New York Times and other well-known publications, such as The

Guardian, and currently holds a position lecturing at Columbia University.

This edited version of their conversation, published by the New York Times to

their website and in the print edition of their paper on June 5th, 2016, came

forth just a few days before the 2016 Tony Awards took place. As noted, this

piece has been edited from the original conversation, and there is no way to

know exactly the degree to which statements might have been amended or

what sort of things were omitted, whether it be minor filler words adapted or

if any content was rewritten or removed.

In the adapted conversation, Collins-Hughes and Soloski discuss the

successful shows of the 2015-2016 Broadway season, a season that has

loudly been hailed in recent months for its ethnically diverse productions,

including that of Hamilton: An American Musical, a retelling of the life of

Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers, as played by people of color,

as well as the revival of the musical The Color Purple, just to name a few. In

light of the then upcoming Tony Awards, and the ongoing praise of the

seasons ethnic and racial diversity as well as the use of female creative

teams as selling points, the two women take a critical look at the gender

diversity and presentation of women on Broadway, and also briefly touch on

the comparison between women on Broadway and women Off-Broadway,

expanding the scope of their article.

The article is presented strictly as the dialogue between the two

women, with the online publication of the article including the occasional

insert of an image, and ultimately, it argues that the number of women, both

onstage and off, has lots of room to grow, and that the depictions of women

onstage are not necessarily good representation, leaving something to be

desired of the gender parity on the Broadway stage. Despite the increase in

shows that are being led by female characters, the emotional and character

arcs of these female characters is, in their eyes, generally a rehashing of

what has been done before, or does not paint an accurate picture of

womanhood or the variety of women and their strengths. They also discuss
the focus that is put on a womans relationship to her children or the men in

her life, and often her worth or wholeness in direct relation to her children.

The largest degree of support provided in the article for their argument

is simply their own expert testimony these are two women who not only are

able to approach the subject through the lens of their own experience of

womanhood, but who are also well educated and have built their careers in

the world of theatre, and particularly in discussing theatre. That being said,

the fact that both contributors to this article on the portrayal of women

could, in some contexts, be perceived as a bias on their part, and Soloski

even acknowledges at one point that the both of them tend to favor shows

in which female journalists triumph, making note not only of their

subjective judgements but the way in which their own lives and careers craft

their exact perspective on these shows. This particular bias, though,

becomes more of a debate regarding overt sexism than the article directly

acknowledges. However, this consideration, as well as the discussion of how

female characters exist onstage in relation to their children or the men in

their lives, help to indicate to the audience that this conversation extends far

beyond simple theatre critique conversations like this are easily found in

other discussions of representation in media, and also indicate an

involvement in feminist discourse as well.

Collins-Hughes and Soloski also use a fair amount of terminology

specific to the field and the discourse communities they are touching on,
such as a reference to the Bechdel test, a standard frequently used in

feminist discussions to evaluate the female presence in media, based on the

characters and the exact content of their interactions. In order to pass, there

must be at least two named women, they must talk to each other, and their

conversation is about something other than a man. Collins-Hughes and

Soloski use it to discuss the two main women in Hamilton, and then proceed

to also include an alternate viewpoint, acknowledging that given the exact

nature of the relationship between the Schuyler sisters, and the way they

hold their own on an equal intellectual playing field with Hamilton himself,

the Bechdel tests qualifiers are not the most ideal to put this show up

against. While Hamilton fails to pass the test, the arcs and relationships of its

women are not completely discountable or unworthy of acknowledgement.

Soloski and Collins-Hughes also expand their argument by comparing

the gender disparity on Broadway against the shows produced Off-Broadway

in the same season. Referencing the compelling female characters in shows

such as Indecent by Paula Vogel and Revolt. She said. Revolt Again. by

Alice Birch, they start the discussion of these successful shows and the way

they crafted diverse, well rounded, and deep female characters, and the

unusual and honest way they were presented. Broadway is considered the

staple of American theatre because it is where the greatest amount of

money and commercial involvement is centered, however works in other

realms of theatre are in no way genuinely lesser in this discussion, Soloski

and Collins-Hughes are demonstrating that the need for better female
characters on Broadway is not hindered by what some might consider a lack

of marketability or audience for these shows.

Ultimately, their discussion is made to be accessible to the everyday

person, any reader of the New York Times or its theatre section an in-depth

knowledge of theatre is in no way absolutely necessary to follow the

argument the women are making, as there are links provided to information

about each show and the discussion of plot is explained enough, and coming

from a credible enough source, that a reader with no knowledge of the shows

can still follow the argument and the evidence that the shows provide. In

their conversation, Collin-Hughes and Soloski note the way in which certain

shows, such as Waitress, have used the fact that the show originated from an

all-female creative team as a marketing point, since it is such a rarity. It

becomes clear that both feel that while strides have been made in dealing

with the racial disparity on Broadway, the way that women interact both

onstage and offstage with productions are, for the most part, lacking, though

they do acknowledge that there were several compelling female roles

presented in Off-Broadway houses.

Ultimately, their opinions can be summed up in Soloskis closing

remark Next season, Id like to see women suffer a little less and run the

world a little more. In this past Broadway season, the emotional and

character arcs of female characters have overwhelmingly been tied to men,

their relation to men, or their suffering, and women deserve a much broader

spectrum of roles in the spotlight of Broadway. In relation to my argument

regarding the ways that diversity on Broadway has manifested, this article

provides a solid point of view regarding gender diversity on Broadway more

specifically, their discussion of the nuances in the kind of women being

presented in Broadway productions and the ties to traditional feminist

discourse creates a great basis on which to further facilitate a discussion on

these matters. Additionally, they briefly touch on the idea of casting women

in traditionally male roles, the gender-related counterpart to a method of

casting known as color blind or nontraditional casting in which people are

cast in a role generally considered to be of a different ethnicity or race than

their own. This brings up an interesting point to discuss as well, and in

conjunction to the testimony provided by these two women, the article gives

numerous quotes to pull from, as well as several shows to examine more

closely and discuss in my own context.

Collins-Hughes, Laura, and Alexis Soloski. "Broadway Might Not Be So White,

But Is It Woman Enough?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 May

2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.