by Jonathan Alexandratos
As you read this, a revolution is changing the art of playwrighting. At its heart? Science plays. Its vanguard? Women playwrights.
A director whose work I greatly admire told me that, when you’re in the center of this movement, it feels more like evolution than revolution. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, whenever I discuss women changing the look and sound of 21st Century drama through science plays at conferences or lectures, tragically few seem to have heard the news. That’s okay, though; we’re all here to learn, and we all take good notes.
So, in the hopes of broadening the discussion, I’d like to recognize the women playwrights at the heart of this shift and highlight how their work is reshaping the form and content of modern theatre. All of the women I will discuss have used the science play to alter the way plays are written and/or seen.
The term “science play” refers to any play that aims to use theatre to discuss aspects of science. It is not science fiction, in that most science plays are not speculative – they refer to verified, though perhaps not certain, events. The fact that these plays usually contain some aspect of experiment puts them in a unique position to abandon theatrical tradition. They might, for instance, break certain dramatic rules because experimentation is already a prominent theme in the plot. If the story features an experiment, why not allow the form to test boundaries, too?
And this is precisely the reason women playwrights in particular are revolutionizing the way we write plays: they have spectacularly married experiments in plot with experimental form to constantly challenge the traditions of playwrighting.
For the sake of clarity, I’ll list a selection of women playwrights, below, and brief notes on how their science plays have changed the craft. For the sake of convenience, I’ll go in alphabetical order. This list is nowhere near comprehensive. Read more