How can this be? Women hold up half the sky as the saying goes, but there seem to be precious few roles for them on Broadway. According to a New York Times article, “Lead Roles Aplenty, But Not For Women,” while there are close to a dozen new musicals on Broadway, virtually none of them have major roles for women. The same seems to be true of this current crop of plays as well. And one of the meatiest female roles going, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, is being played by a guy. What’s going on here?
The author of the Times article declined to speculate, but the same thing happened last year, so we might be on the verge of a trend. However, for us as writers, this could actually be good news. Why? Mainly because wherever there’s a void, there’s an opportunity. I remember hearing a panel of agents who specialize in YA books saying that there is a real dearth of compelling YA characters and stories for boys — and they were almost pleading with the writers attending the panel consider taking up the challenge.
Clearly, the lack of strong female roles on Broadway poses the same kind of challenge. It also means that there are a lot of talented actresses out there who may be looking for exciting new works that offer them strong parts. All this adds up to an open invitation for us to be creative and bold in this arena. It is really encouraging me to think about pulling out my play of Sojourner Truth and taking a look at it. Now there’s a strong woman with lots to say — and the courage to say it! Just think of all those untold women’s stories out there, just waiting for us to listen and give life to them.
As writers, we’re the ones who find these stories and shape them. It all starts with us. We’re the mythmakers, the voice-givers, the heart-hearers. So let’s listen closely to all those women yearning to be brought to life — and make sure they get their day in the sun.