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Stories on Stage


Susan RubinI am a playwright living in Los Angeles. That might sound like an oxymoron. “Playwright” means New York City. Right? To make things more complicated, I am a woman.  Shouldn’t I be a man? Given the statistics on male-to-female produced playwrights I have been a very lucky “little lady.” Why? Because I’ve had residencies at two major LA theatres since the beginning of my playwriting career.

The great thing about making theatre in LA (for male or female writers) is that the majority of actors in the United States spend some of their time here. Many of them like to do plays while they’re here, even if they’re in LA to get a TV or film job. So you’ve got an amazing talent pool to draw on.

For many actors, doing a play fills their soul. But a film gig can pay the rent. Most people need some of both. And sometimes that conflicts. If an actor commits to a run of a play, and then they get a “real” job — meaning TV or film — they will probably quit the play. I have had actors leave to do car commercials on opening night. I tried to make the case that she should give up this potentially lucrative job because the play needed her, and her soul needed the play. She answered that her landlord needed the rent. The Mercedes commercial won out.

LA, as I said, has a huge talent pool, but theater in LA is like one of Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters. In NYC, theater is king. I don’t say queen because neither city treats women like queens when it comes to hiring us as writers, directors, actors, or designers in our field. The current ratio of female-to-male produced playwrights in NYC is  — wait for it — 15 percent. And that’s an exciting new high!

I said this to a very smart friend and she told me that we’ll be treated like queens when we “live in the vibration that we are queens.” And she’s right. Sort of, or partly. There is always a new Lena Dunham, a woman who defies all the limitations and does her own amazing work. Rock on Lena! Tell us your own story your own way.

I advocate that we all find our inner Lenas! I also advocate that every woman believe she can work in the entertainment industry on her own terms, but to do that, she needs to be canny, strategic, and a damn good fundraiser!

I deeply believe that the stories we get told, on stages, on screens, on iPhones, are incredibly important. Men tell the majority of those stories, and no matter how feminist-y they are, the voice is not a woman’s voice. And we need women’s voices, not only because we are 54 percent of the population, but also because men have told most of the stories since the first cave man clubbed his girlfriend.

With the 21st century, and the Millenial Generation bringing huge changes to the way women and men relate, make households, divide work, have sex — we need stories that catch up with these new ways of being. I’m taking another swing at onstage story telling in July, 2013.

“eve2”, my new play will be opening at Bootleg Theatre. “eve2” is a re-boot of the story in Genesis: the story where Eve gets blamed for seeking Wisdom and Knowledge. But we need every crumb of Wisdom and Knowledge we can find. The play is surreal and dreamlike.  I hope it gives Eve a second bite at the apple,  a chance to “live in the vibration” of somebody who is free.


About Susan Rubin

I am primarily a playwright. My work’s been performed in Cuba, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and New York. The World Premiere of my newest play, “eve2” opens at LA’s Bootleg Theatre in July, 2013. It’s a surreal take on Eve and Adam, only this time, Eve gets a second bite at the apple! I write documentaries on subjects from women's reproductive rights, to the rise of the radical right wing, to violence against women. The documentaries tell brutal truths; they are balanced for me by my plays that are comedic, magical, musical and surreal. Telling stories with a different voice. I write for Ms Blog - part of Ms Magazine, founded by Gloria Steinem, and currently the longest existing feminist magazine in the US. Blogs let me talk to a large audience about difficult issues with irony and humor. Six of my Ms blogs are now a web series, “Vagina Dialogues” on Funny or Die.