Lillian Hellman and why women are slightly less under-represented in theater now

Carol Hall got me my second job in the Broadway world, so I’m selfishly thrilled to read that she received a Lilly Award this year.  Wait, the award went to Katori Hall?  Even better, I get to be happy without feeling selfish!

You ask, what’s a Lilly?

From the Lilly Awards website, “The Lilly Awards were started in the Spring of 2010 as a way to honor the work of women in the American Theater.  The founders of The Lilly Awards, or The Lillys as we affectionately refer to them, are Julia Jordan, Marsha Norman and Theresa Rebeck.  The awards are named for Lillian Hellman, a pioneering American playwright who famously said “You need to write like the devil and  act like one when necessary.”  The awards continue in the tradition of her spirit and annually honor the work of women in the American Theater.”

The Lilly Awards are decided by the Committee for Recognizing Women in Theater, which is made up of 25 professionals working in the theatre.

This year, Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to actress Estelle Parsons and playwright Tina Howe. Awards were given to actors Cristin Milioti (“Once”) and Nina Arianda (“Venus in Fur”), directors Diane Paulus (“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”) and Sarah Benson (“Elective Affinities”), playwrights Katori Hall (“The Mountaintop”) and Leslye Headland (“Assistance”), and set designer Heidi Ettinger.

Here are some things that nominators have said:

“This is an opportunity to congratulate and celebrate the contribution made to the American theater by spectacularly talented women — often not acknowledged by the theatrical community during the end of season awards,” said Lillys co-founder and playwright Marsha Norman. “Our honorees have worked hard to set the standard high for all theater artists, and we feel honored and privileged to acknowledge their significant and profound contributions.”

And from Julia Jordan, “Each year we have done the Lillys someone has been pregnant, giving birth or was literally breastfeeding (on stage.)  I was pregnant year one and Sarah Ruhl had just given birth to twins (with a show on Broadway and another downtown), last year Sarah Benson was a week from her due date.  This year we had hoped to have previous winner Amy Herzog, whose play 4000 Miles is playing at Lincoln Center but she has literally just given birth days ago.   Never mind all the women who are raising their 3, 4, 5… 17 year olds.

Women work and have children at the same time.  That’s it.”

And one more from Marsha Norman, “Whining does no good, so we decided to give a party.”

Here’s a link to an article by Melissa Silverstein, The Lilly Awards: Saving Women from Disappearing in Theatre, an article that pretty much sums it up.

And here are some pix of this year’s participants.


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