Birds, broads, babes and MILFs are among the many slang words used to describe women. You know, the minority sex that makes up the majority of the world’s population. The gender that accounts for 52 percent of American movie-goers (per 2016’s MPAA Theatrical Market Statistics) and 66 percent of New York theater audiences, season after season (per Broadway League’s 2016–2017 Season Demographics).
Despite these stats, both the film and theater industries continue to be dominated by male writers, directors and actors. So, it’s refreshing to note the 2018-2019 season lineup for Chicago’s Raven Theatre is solely devoted to the female experience with four works by and about women.
“No theater can connect with our ‘cultural landscape’ without consistently including the voice of women on its stages,” says Raven Theatre’s Cody Estle. “It thrills me that, for the first time in [the company’s] history, each production features a female playwright, two of whom are Pulitzer Prize winners.”
Indeed, Estle’s debut season as artistic director starts with “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” (through Nov. 18, 2018) by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-nominated playwright Lynn Nottage. “This is the first time Raven Theatre has produced one of her plays,” notes Estle. “As a theater known for producing the classics of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, it seems only fitting to include Lynn’s voice among these greats.”
Set in 1950, “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” (featuring Chanell Bell, Brianna Buckley, Brandi Jiminez Lee, Terence Sims and Emily Tate) follows a family experiencing change in a nation consumed by racial and social tension. “Audiences will connect with the struggles of this family,” says Estle, “while getting a glimpse into a time in our past whose complexity resembles that of today.”
Raven’s season continues with Estle directing “How I Learned to Drive” (Feb. 7 – March 24, 2019) by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel. The humorous and heartfelt memory piece stars Jeff Award-nominated Eliza Stoughton.
Before the season concludes with the Chicago premiere of Laura Eason’s Chicago-set story “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” (May 2 – June 16, 2019), it will present Anna Jordan’s drama “Yen” (March 21 – May 5, 2019) directed by Elly Green.
“I have been drawn, throughout my career, to female characters who create change, and act as catalysts,” says Green. “We are living in a wonderful age of playwriting where the women portrayed on the page, and on stage, are allowed to be as complex, flawed and contradictory as their male counterparts.”
As Estle explains, “The central characters in each play face critical moments of change in their lives. While always difficult, change opens the way to new beginnings. I look forward to sharing these characters’ new beginnings as we shepherd in a new beginning for Raven Theatre.”
For tickets to and more information on Raven Theatre’s 2018-2019 season, visit www.raventheatre.com or call 773-338-2177.
Photo courtesy of Raven Theatre; from left, playwrights Paula Vogel, Lynn Nottage, Anna Jordan and Laura Eason