The Kilroys List, like the theatre field, looks a bit different this year. Culled by a group of Los Angeles- and New York-based playwrights, directors, and producers, the annual list, started in 2014, is an aggregate of un- and underproduced plays by writers who are women, trans, and non-binary. The list is usually curated by industry leaders through a survey, but the latest iteration of the list is a living document (i.e., updates are welcome) designed to lift up the work of new plays slated for the 2020-21 season that were postponed or canceled because of the pandemic.
“We wanted to honor the work that was going to be done,” explains playwright and Kilroy member Monet Hurst-Mendoza. “There was a significant amount of trans, gender non-binary, and woman-led productions that were already happening—and then just to see them get canceled was a big blow.”
Indeed, the 2020 spring season was shaping up to be “radical,” says Kilroys member Gina Young. The 2020 compilation of slated productions shows an uptick in works by writers who are women, trans, and gender non-binary. “There’s going to be a tinge of sadness when you look at how far we’ve come and how many productions have been canceled or postponed because of this this pandemic,” says Hurst-Mendoza.
The 2020 list currently showcases the work of 135 playwrights, nearly four times the length of past lists, and it will continue to grow through the calendar year. The Kilroys will accept new submissions of works affected by COVID-19 from July 7 through December 31. Playwrights can submit qualifying productions here. The criteria for the featured plays remain the same as past years, with an added caveat that the work must have been postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. The plays must be penned by a playwright who is a woman, transgender, or non-binary, and must be a first or second production.
Included in the 2020 list are many playwrights with multiple productions halted, including Caridad Svich’s plays Ushuaia Blue, Town Hall, and Eva Luna; Lia Romeo’s The Forest, The Agency, and The Lucky Ones; Inda Craig-Galván’s A Hit Dog Will Holler and Black Super Hero Magic Mama; and Madhuri Shekar’s Dhaba on Devon Avenue, Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St Catherine’s, and House of Joy.
This year’s list will continue to carry the torch, and will serve as an invaluable reading list and resource for theatres looking for works to program when theatres reopen their doors. “The goals are manifold—to honor the work that should have been, to offer a snapshot in time, and make sure this ‘lost season’ is not forgotten,” says Young. “To keep these plays top of mind, so that they ultimately get the premiere they were promised. And as always, our goal is to broaden the reading list for anyone who cares about new work by women, trans, and non-binary writers.”
The process of pivoting the list was driven by both grief and an urge to take action. The biggest challenge was moving through the “mourning period,” concedes Young. “The feeling of indescribable loss when our entire artistic community went dark all at once and everyone was scrambling inside their own little bubbles.”
In addition to Hurst-Mendoza and Young, the current cohort of Kilroys includes Jaclyn Backhaus, Hilary Bettis, Jennifer Chambers, Claudia de Vasco, Emma Goidel, Christina Ham, Jessica Hanna, Obehi Janice, Hansol Jung, Chelsea Marcantel, Caroline V. McGraw, and Bianca Sams. The group took time to reflect on their own postponed and canceled projects before gathering information about the field-wide loss.
“It was a gargantuan task to figure out what was cancelled across the country,” concedes Hurst-Mendoza, one of the members of the collective who aided with the data collection. Theatre Communications Group, the Dramatist Guild, and National New Play Network worked with the Kilroys to gather listings of postponed and canceled productions. “It was a communal effort in a time when the theatre industry was experiencing unprecedented change, and coming together was more important than ever,” adds Young.
On Tuesday, July 14, the Kilroys will host a celebrating Zoom event to honor the playwrights featured on the growing list.
“We are signal boosting these underrepresented artists and holding space for their work—this fermata,” says Young. “Spring is traditionally the time in the season when a theatre ‘takes risks’ on new plays, women playwrights, Black, and Latinx playwrights. This concept in and of itself is problematic, and it also means that with these plays being canceled or postponed, these voices would not be heard this year. We want to remind theatres how radical their programming was becoming, and we want to hold them accountable. No backsliding when we go back to business as usual.”
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