For its 2019-20 season, ISU Theatre will produce six shows written by women, bring two female 2019 Tony Award winners to Iowa State, host a yearlong symposium series on gender in the arts, celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage and commit to a national "50/50 by 2020" initiative promoting gender equity in theater. It's what you might call a "HERoic" undertaking.
According to the Dramatists Guild of America's 2016-17 season count, only 29% of plays produced in America are written by women. The percentage drops to 24% for plays produced in Iowa's Great Plains region.
ISU Theatre will address the gender gap with a "HERoic" season that features plays and musicals written by women.
"It's time for a change," said Brad Dell, associate professor and ISU Theatre director. "We are eager to commit to gender parity and a more inclusive canon in future seasons. Our season will celebrate the importance of women's voices in the arts, humanities and sciences, and encourage others to commit to equal and equitable space at every table for women now and into the future."
ISU Theatre's season includes a community-focused series of climate change plays, a fun-filled family musical about George Washington, a poetic and contemporary retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey" through an immigrant perspective, the spirited story of a high school girls soccer team, Dolly Parton's high-octane "9 to 5" musical and a puppetry drama that ponders the enormity of the connection between humans and the natural world.
"There is a magic that happens when you bring more diverse voices to the table," Dell said. "This is a season of big questions, soulful storytelling, hilarious comedy and powerful possibilities."
Tony Award winners
ISU Theatre also planned a yearlong symposium series, "HERoic: Gender Equity in the Arts," which includes lectures by two 2019 Tony Award recipients.
Rachel Hauck, 2019 winner for best scenic design of a musical for "Hadestown," will present "Knowing How to Break the Rules: Set Design on Broadway" Oct. 6 (7 p.m., Memorial Union Great Hall).
Ali Stroker, the first actor in a wheelchair to earn a 2019 Tony Award, was selected as the best supporting actress in a musical for "Oklahoma." Stroker will present "Turning Limitations into Opportunities" on April 6, 2020 (7 p.m., MU Great Hall).
The symposium series will include roundtable community conversations after the Sunday matinees of each ISU Theatre production. These conversations will feature local experts and guest artists who will lead discussions relating to the productions, gender equity, representation and diversity.
"We are excited to invite audiences to participate in this conversation and provide students opportunities to engage with local, regional and national artists and scholars," Dell said.
Dell hopes this year of programming is just the start. ISU Theatre already is looking toward its 2020-21 season with plans to participate in the national theater community's "Year of Jubilee," a celebration that envisions every American theater producing works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability and LGBTQIA-identified artists.
New York-based director Arpita Mukherjee will be one of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Artists in Residence. A Eugene O'Neill Directing Fellow and member of the Lincoln Center Director's Lab, Mukherjee will offer a series of guest artist masterclasses and direct ISU Theatre's production of "Anon(ymous)."
Five recent alumnae will return as guest artists to direct and design the "HERoic" season.
2019-20 "HERoic" season
All performances will be held in Fisher Theater. Season and single-show tickets are available through the Stephens Auditorium ticket office and Ticketmaster, or the Fisher Theater box office one hour prior to performances.
Climate Change Theatre Action: Lighting the Way
Short plays address climate change issues and present a call to community action in partnership with the international Climate Change Theatre Action initiative.
"Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure"
Oct. 25-Nov. 2
A White House field trip turns into a magical adventure with our most famous founding father, who helps students discover the true portrait of America.
A young refugee travels the U.S. on a search for his family in an imaginative adaptation of Homer's "The Odyssey."
Feb. 28-March 7
From the safety of their warm-up circle, an all-girls soccer team navigates the big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vim and vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors.
"9 to 5"
Based on the hit 1980 film, "9 to 5" delivers musical comedy and feminist flair when a trio of overworked office workers kidnap their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss.
"Of the Deep"
April 24-May 2
In this new play featuring puppetry and original music, residents of a small coastal village discover a massive whale carcass on their shore and must confront practical and existential challenges.