Widgets Magazine
New Women in Theater company to provide platform for women and non-binary students to explore more roles
Women In Theater (WiT) aims to provide a space for women and non-binary actresses and producers. (Courtesy of Holly Slang)

New Women in Theater company to provide platform for women and non-binary students to explore more roles

A new student group sets out to show that all the world’s truly a stage – with more balanced gender representation.

Women in Theater (WiT), a newly formed theater company, seeks to provide a platform for women and non-binary students interested in theater to have the opportunity to explore more roles in the traditionally male-dominated field. Cofounded by Holly Slang ’18, Lillian Bornstein ’18 and Emma Jackson-Smith ’18, the company recently held their first interest meeting.

WiT’s three cofounders have all been active in the theater community on campus. Their common interest in gender issues and putting on shows with alternative-gendered castings led to the formation of the company.

“It was the three of us that came together and said, ‘Why is there not a theater group that caters to women’s interests and why is there not a friendly space to talk about gender in theater?’” Slang said.

In general, females in theater have been underrepresented not only in casting but also in production. Only about 24 percent of all plays produced across the country in 2014 were written by a woman, according to American Theater magazine. Hoping to address these issues, the company will also serve as a platform for performing original work written by women and non-binary people in the community.

“It’s harder for female and nonpbinary people to succeed [in theater] because of the very specific types of roles that are generally available and the way the industry works,” Bornstein said. “There are frequently many more female and non-binary artists than there are roles available, and even when they are available, they’re frequently not as dynamic.”

Although the club is meant to address the need for more female opportunities in theater, the idea for WiT is not a response to any perceived discrimination on campus.  

“The student groups on campus do a pretty good job of being inclusive, but just the theatrical canon and the shows that are available with conventional casts are still pretty masculine centered and binary,” Bornstein said. “[Our company’s] not a critique of any of the groups on campus, it’s more of accessing a general need in the theater community.”

For their company’s debut, WiT members decided to produce “12 Angry Men.” The play depicts a jury swaying between declaring guilty or not guilty in a murder case. One juror’s conviction slowly influences the other 11, one man at a time. WiT will be looking for an entirely non-male cast to portray the characters. The goal is to act out the unique personalities rather than acting based on any male stereotypes, according to Jackson-Smith.

“[The play] contains 12 men, but there isn’t much in the characters that make it necessary for the actors to be men,” Jackson-Smith said. “It’s also an acting-centric show that doesn’t have much technical flair. It’s easy to make intimate and delve into the characters, which is a nice way to start the group.”

As a part of its mission for female empowerment in theater, the company also has a Women in Theater Tech Initiative (WiTTI) program to encourage more female participation in tech. WiT also plans to hold a series of workshops throughout the year to encourage interest in theater among the greater community.

“[WiTTI is] aimed at getting more women involved in tech,” Slang said. “It’s definitely true that there are not as many women doing tech.”

WiT recognizes that there are already many theater company groups on campus. However, the co-founders believe competition will not be a problem, since many actors and actresses participate in multiple theater groups.

“A lot of our members have been involved in other theater communities, so there is a lot of room for artistic collaboration [with other groups],” Bornstein said.

Audition opportunities for “12 Angry Men” have been released. Those interested in acting and production can contact Slang for more information.


Contact Ariel Liu at aliu15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Stanford Drama Grad

    Great idea and great start, but you should also consider producing plays by living female playwrights. If their plays aren’t published yet, you can reach directly out to them. A great source for such plays was the recent Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington, DC. http://www.womensvoicestheaterfestival.org/ I also recommend the plays of Stanford alum Karen Zacarias. More than the fact she is female, her plays often have remarkable roles for women, which has made her a popular choice in recent years for college drama departments and regional theaters alike. I would think her plays Legacy of Light, Just Like Us, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and The Sins of Sor Juana would all be great for Stanford. http://www.karenzacarias.com/plays/

  • hollys7

    Thanks for the suggestions! WiT is definitely committed to staging work by female and non-binary playwrights (both living and deceased). We will produce two to four main stage productions a year, one of which is reserved for plays written by women. – Holly Slang, Executive Producer of WiT