Paula Vogel and Mfoniso Udofia Discuss Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Gender Roles in Writing and Dinner With Medea

By Carey Purcell
27 Jul 2013

Mfoniso Udofia

Citing the low percentage of female playwrights with work being produced, Vogel said, "I actually believe that the greater the supply of amazing plays written by women, the greater the demand will grow. It's a matter of accessibility, of being able to say to young women who would never even think of this as a possibility: ‘You know what? You've got stories. You've got your family. You're witnessing something. You've got a legacy.'"

Vogel described the energy of the current culture as "remarkable," saying, "I've been working with writers for 30 years...There's a fierceness and asking no permission and taking no prisoners of the work of women writers right now. It's very exciting to look around and see the women — as we say it, base camp — here. They're all extraordinary."

The study on gender in the theatre also reported that plays written by women bring in more money than plays written by men. While the current statistics of Broadway and New York stages do not reflect this financial success, Udofia and Vogel said they are confident that will change.

"At some point the demographics have to shift in the same way the demographics are shifting in this country right now," Vogel said. "And hopefully those demographics will shift in terms of diversity of voice, in terms of women, in terms of points of view. Because there's a hunger to hear those stories."

This hunger is felt by both Vogel and Udofia, and it has been satisfied, at least temporarily, by their weeks working at Sundance.

"I had a hunger when I came here," Vogel said. "I feel that audiences are hungry, but I think it's writers who also have to be hungry. It's that same spirit that makes us want to share bread together. I think for so many women, this is not about making a product. It feels to me a spiritual commitment and a witnessing together. I haven't seen this since I started trying to be a writer in the American theatre."

One aspect contributing to a lack of plays written by women cited in the 2009 study was the audience viewing female protagonists as unlikable.