When the Baltimore Playwrights Festival kicks off in July, three of the five playwrights will be women. By contrast, in its most recent season, Broadway can claim no such diversity. The 2013-14 season on Broadway had no new plays written by women, and the immediate future is not much better. So far, according to playbill.com no new plays by women have been announced for the upcoming season on Broadway.
It is a different story in Baltimore with the BPF. There are three new plays by women: Mrs. Maslow’s Boarding House, by Cheryl Adam, a look at the residents of an offbeat boarding house in Baltimore; The Soulman’s Soul by Joycelyn Walls, a two-act, fictional, musical play based on the life of Gospel, Pop & Soul Singer, Sam Cooke; and Under the Poplar Trees by Rosemary Frisino Toohey, focusing on two prisoners in a concentration camp: one an idealist, the other a realist, who become friends under the most desperate of circumstances.
The women playwrights this year are joined by two talented playwrights who are men. In a Yellow Wood by Garry Michael Kluger focuses on the plight of the author of children’s books who must deal with the hard reality of his wife’s sudden death. Fourteen Days In July by Lewis Schrager tells of the ultimately futile effort in July 2000 by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at Camp David to hammer out terms of an historic Mideast peace agreement.
Women playwrights have been recognized by the BPF numerous times. Kathleen Barber, Rosemary Frisino Toohey and the late Carole Weinberg have all won first prize twice. Other women playwrights honored with first-place awards by the festival are Kimberley Lynne and Mimi Teehan. All of these women, and many others, have also been honored with second or third prize awards. Dozens of other women have participated in the Festival since its first season 33 years ago, and dozens more will have the opportunity in the years ahead.
The importance of women in the Festival is permanently noted in the First Prize award given every year: The Carole Weinberg Award for Best Play. Carole Weinberg, a playwright and Goucher professor, died of cancer in 2002 at age 54. Festival organizers chose to honor Weinberg because of her great talent as a playwright and her tremendous richness as a person. As a playwright, she examined social issues, such as racial prejudice and the women’s movement, with sensitivity and insight. As an individual, she came to epitomize the best of the Festival: she was a talented playwright, but also a caring teacher who provided collaborative support to other playwrights working to perfect their skills. Her strengths enriched the festival, those who took part in it, and the Baltimore theater audience. Every year the name Carole Weinberg is equated with the best of Baltimore Theater.