LOS ANGELES: The Kilroys, a collective of playwrights and producers dedicated to furthering the voices of female and trans playwrights, has announced the new members in its coalition. They are Jaclyn Backhaus, Hilary Bettis, Jennifer Chambers, Claudia de Vasco, Emma Goidel, Christina Ham, Jessica Hanna, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Obehi Janice, Hansol Jung, Chelsea Marcantel, Caroline V. McGraw, Bianca Sams, and Gina Young.
The Kilroys were founded in 2013 by 13 women to tackle the lack of gender parity in the theatre. Their main advocacy effort in that time has been an annual list , inspired by the Black List, of underproduced plays by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights. Another of their activist efforts included sending cakes to theatres around the country whose season lineups had gender parity.
According to founding member Sheila Callaghan, the decision to turn over the Kilroys brand to a new group of artists came for multiple reasons, mainly fatigue. The Kilroys is an independent volunteer operation. “We can’t continue to be an anarchist, non-institutionalized organization that has the flexibility and elasticity to adapt to the field—we can’t do that if we’re tired and if we don’t have new ideas,” she says. “With gratitude and surprise, the organization became more important than the people who made it. That’s why we decided to allow other people to take the reins and do what they want to do.”
Founding Kilroys members will serve in an advisory capacity. Callaghan also notes that when the group put out a call for new membership earlier this year, they heard from around 200 applicants. “The 200 applications were fierce!” she says excitedly. “The people who want to be helping are incredibly powerful people.”
The new members are a mix of artists in Los Angeles and New York; hitherto the Kilroys had comprised L.A.-based artists who had all met at a party. But similar to the founding group, the new members are a mix of playwrights, performers, director, and producers.
When asked why she applied to be a Kilroys member, playwright and performer Obehi Janice cited the group’s advocacy work. “I have been wanting to do advocacy work in the theatre, to be a part of something bigger than myself for a while,” she says. “From afar I’ve always admired the disruptive model that the Kilroys embody.” Her goals include building awareness of the group among industries outside of theatre, especially because gender diversity is a concern for many fields.
For playwright Chelsea Marcantel, her concerns include increasing visibility for trans and non-binary writers, and also diversifying theatre criticism. She notes that in the interview process to join the Kilroys, prospective members “ran on a platform” and were asked to bring ideas to the table. That means, she says, that “the sky’s the limit” for the new class, she says happily. “We have a lot of ideas for projects. We’ll have to see what the next couple of years bring.”
The next Kilroys list is expected to be released in 2019. To create it Kilroys members survey hundreds of theatre professionals around the country.