• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Julia Jordan Set Aside Playwriting to Win Gender Parity in Theater


Jan 7, 2024


One day around 2003, she recalled, Auburn came over “because I was really depressed about it. And he said, ‘Why don’t you try switching the gender of your protagonists?’” (Auburn, reached by email, confirmed he was a good friend of Jordan, but said he does not remember this incident.) Writing male-focused narratives was, in any case, a conventional strategy for female playwrights at the time.

“I literally took my most autobiographical play, and I made me male. And I called it ‘Boy,’” Jordan said. “Almost immediately people wanted to produce it.”

To Jordan, a longtime leader in the fight for gender parity in theatrical production, all of this was context for the creation of the Lillys, which she started with the playwrights Marsha Norman and Theresa Rebeck. The catalyst, though, was their collective outrage, in the spring of 2010, that one of the season’s best-reviewed Off Broadway hits, Melissa James Gibson’s “This,” was ignored by the existing award-giving bodies.

The new accolade was for “everybody who should be getting awards, and who should have been getting awards and didn’t,” said Jordan, who, with Juliana Nash, wrote the acclaimed musical “Murder Ballad.”

At the 2023 Lilly Awards, held in late November on the “Stereophonic” set at Playwrights Horizons, the hair and wig designer Cookie Jordan and the actors Liza Colón-Zayas and Ruthie Ann Miles were among the honorees. The playwright Kirsten Greenidge and the composer Georgia Stitt each received $25,000 prizes, funded by the Broadway producer Stacey Mindich, meant to buy them time to write.


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