In 2019 I did the #52PlaysByWomen challenge, going to see, reading or listening to a play by a female writer each week of the year. I deliberately spaced it so that I did one a week, mainly to try and see what that kind of routine would do to my week and my own work.
My plan for the year was to read playwrights that were new to me, and get my hands on plays that I’d heard about on social media but never actually read. This meant buying a lot of scripts since unfortunately, the “plays” section at my local library (or any library I have access to) contains basically no contemporary international plays.
So, some of my personal stats for 2019 (or at least estimates). Out of the 52 plays:
- I read 33 in script form, watched 10 productions and listened to 9 radio plays (radio turned out to be a good friend in this challenge)
- 37 plays were by UK or American writers, 11 by Finnish writers and 3 “others” (Australian, Belgian and Swedish)
- 43 were from the 2010s, 4 were from the 2000s and 5 were older than that (1900s).
- 47 were original plays and 5 were adaptations of previously existing stories (novels, etc).
- Some writers I read more than one play by and around 20 of the writers were people I read for the first time.
Reading (and seeing and listening to) these plays, and regularly interacting with plays in this way, felt like a continual shot of energy. Even though I didn’t specifically seek out as broad a range of plays and styles as possible that’s what I ended up getting, just because of the range of writers. Some of them were amazing reading experiences (“Can you writer like THAT?”), some of them in every sense traditional and no less great writing. As a writer it kept me alert to the range of possibilities inherent in theatre.
Several were plays and writers I’d been curious about but never had a specific reason to read up until then. So the challenge definitely helped me priorities in my reading, and gave my play reading structure during the year. And I didn’t limit reading to only plays by women, I read other works as well, but I think a lot of the plays I interacted with during the year (and which I feel a better writer for having encountered) would never have reached my “to read” pile if it wasn’t for #52PlaysByWomen.
If I were to do it again (I’m still undecided) I’d take a slightly different approach and I’d want to read classics and I’d want to re-read plays. Since there’re always so many plays and books to read, re-reading seems indulgent, but for some reason I’m in a phase were I feel the need to go back and revisit plays that I’ve read in the past. To see how they strike me now, if they’ve changed or if I’ve changed.