Seattle Theater Has a Race Problem

There’s not a question mark in that title for a reason. Seattle Theater has a race problem. Today I’m specifically talking about a race problem when it comes to casting, but there’s a larger conversation that has to do with hiring directors, playwrights, dramaturgs, and designers. Basically, take anything I’m saying and you can apply it to any section of theater.

Who are you to say anything about this? 

Excellent question. I’m a white, cis-gendered female, queer playwright in Seattle. This does not make me uniquely qualified to talk about race. In fact, I was hesitant to say anything because people of color don’t need anyone to speak for them. But actors have careers to worry about. If they speak up, they might be labeled “difficult,” or, “hostile,” or any number of things that would make their very limited casting options possibly smaller. So I decided to speak up. I’m not going to call out any particular theater org in this, but no company is immune to what I’m describing. I’ve seen it all over town from the big houses to the fringe-iest fringe. I’ve also seen theaters get this right one season or one show and then completely get it wrong the next season or next show. No one is immune.

I highly encourage theater orgs to do an internal audit of their past five seasons (or even, past five shows) and see what their numbers are. Even better, write a blog post about your findings. Share them. Announce where you’ve been and how you’re going to change where you’re going.

And if you’re a white actor reading this, I want to be clear – no one is saying that you don’t deserve a certain role. You fought for what you got. No one is questioning that. But there should be room at the table for everyone. Let’s make it a fair and equal fight.

Okay…But you aren’t perfect. Your shows aren’t perfectly diverse. 

Yup. That’s true. I’m not perfect and I’m gonna lay out my numbers for you. Having a “commitment to diversity” as so many theater companies say they do should be more than lip service. Having a “commitment to diversity” doesn’t make you immune to fucking up. Having a “commitment to diversity” means that you actively care and try to do better. You don’t just use diversity for stats on grants. It means that when you fuck up, you accept that. You don’t offer excuses. You don’t try to defend yourself. You own it and you try to do better. Because turning a blind-eye to it helps absolutely no one. And saying, “Yeah but we didn’t mean to do that” contributes in no way to fixing the problem.

The first full-length play I ever had produced in Seattle had seven people. 4F 3M. We cast two actors of color. Neither role was a lead role. None of the characters were written to be a specific ethnicity. These characters were not caricatures of race. But two out of seven is not great. I can do better.

The second full-length show I had produced was 4 characters. 2F 1M and 1 trans male character not to be played by a cis-gendered male. We cast one actor of color. The role she played was a lead role. None of the characters were written to be a specific ethnicity. Her role was not a caricature of race. One out of four is not great. I can do better.

I have a third full-length show slated to be produced in the fall of 2016. There are currently seven roles for women. Again, none of the characters are written to have a specific race. However, I have already told my director that we need this to be a diverse show. Because if it’s not, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. It becomes an irrelevant piece focusing on the stories of white, young women instead of what I’d like it to be, which is a story about being a young woman (and also monsters). Period. If I omit voices of color from that play, that play might as well not be produced.

I can do better. Seattle theater can do better. So let’s do better.

But I see plenty of “diverse” shows in Seattle. 

Do you? Do you really? Cause I’m looking at the September surge of plays straight into November and far more of them feature all-white casts than don’t. And this hasn’t been the only time in Seattle history that that’s happened. The majority of the time that’s how it is. And often, when actors of color are cast, the roles are caricatures sometimes verging, or going full-overboard into stereotypes. Or, actors of color are relegated to the side characters. They very rarely take center stage unless the role is specifically written to be played by an actor of color.

And let’s be honest, even if SOME shows in Seattle are diverse, wouldn’t it be better if every show in Seattle was? I don’t need another twelve character play featuring all white men, do you? (I’d like to add here that diversity in body types, as well as gender presentation, and physicality would be nice, too. We’re not carbon copies of each other. Why do we continue to see mostly slim, able-bodied, white, perfectly feminine or perfectly masculine people on stage?)

But not every play is about race. 

True. Very true. So then why cast all-white productions? If it’s “not about race” then why choose to have an all-white cast? Casting a show with a person of color does not mean the show magically BECOMES ABOUT RACE. It means that you’re making a show outside of a limited world view.

I would also argue that having an all-white show is making a very bold statement about race. It’s saying, “People of color do not exist in this world.” Why would I want to see that? (Shout-out to the recent production of Is She Dead Yet? which I would recommend reading up on here, here. It was not an all-white production, but was a mostly-white production for a very specific reason.)

But it’s integral to the story that the actors are white.

If you’re doing a show in 2015 that requires an all-white cast, WHY? Just why? What does that story have to say that hasn’t already been said? If it’s REQUIRED, you better have a damn good reason (see the example above). And you should post a message about it on all your materials. Imagine if theaters that had all-white casts actually put on the program and website: “We chose to make this an all-white production because white people are the only ones who exist in the play for a reason that we will delve into now…”

But we didn’t choose. Actors of color didn’t show up to auditions. 

BULLSHIT. This is probably the biggest lie that gets thrown around. “We want to cast diversely, but no actors of color came to audition.” “I asked some people, but they couldn’t do it.” This is the thing I hear all the time. It sounds vague enough to maybe be true. You didn’t have to get into specifics and you get to say you did your due diligence. If actors of color aren’t showing up for your auditions, you need to look at why they aren’t. Have they come several times before only not to be offered a role? Have you historically cast mostly-white shows even if the audition breakdown is open? Were the roles you were considering them for flat stereotypes? Did you contact anyone who might have connections to POC communities in earnest to express your desire to cast not only this play diversely, but your future plays as well? Ask yourself these questions. If actors of color aren’t showing up to your auditions, there’s a reason. And you need to find out what that is if you ever want to change it.

This cycle has to stop because actors of color leave town for places more open to casting them. It feels like every couple of years Seattle theater realizes they have a POC community and so they actually invest in telling those stories. And because actors of color are oftentimes only considered for roles that specify race, they are shit out of luck the next season when the community pats itself on the back for such a diverse season of theatre, but now back to regularly scheduled exclusivity.

We have some truly talented actors in town and I’ve seen many of them leave or threaten to leave in the last two years simply because they aren’t getting work. Because they are only considered, or most often only considered, for those roles that specify race. If you’re not open to casting actors of colors in roles that are “default” white, put it on your audition listing. I dare you.

Okay. We did have a few actors of color come to auditions, but they weren’t ready.

Sure. Okay. But let’s be clear, that’s SOME actors of color and that’s because they’ve rarely or never been given an opportunity. It’s a perpetuating cycle. Do you know how actors get better? They act. They get an opportunity to be in the rehearsal room, on stage, perform, wash it off, and do it again. They get seen in that production and they are offered another role after they audition again. They learn again in that role. They get better. They get seen. Etc. That’s the way it works for all actors. But if you don’t have that first opportunity, you don’t get to play at all. This is a larger problem that we as a community need to work on solving. (Some interesting ideas are being tossed around which I hope we actually get to see come to fruition). Also, white actors who are “not ready” audition plenty. I still see several more of them on stage.

That being said, if you’re not seeing actors of color who are ready, you’re not looking hard enough.

But it’s a period piece. 

So? Diep Tran had this to say after seeing HAMILTON on Broadway:

“I wept. Openly. I’m talking about tears-rolling-down-my-cheeks weeping. Because I had just seen a three-hour musical about the founding fathers, and the main characters – Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson – were played by actors of color. Because the last song was given to a Chinese-American actress playing Eliza Hamilton.

It wasn’t historically accurate by any means, and it was one of the most powerful images I’ve seen this year.”

We tell stories. We suspend our disbelief. Don’t give me that bullshit again. If you can’t imagine 1776 without it’s all-white mostly-male cast, save us all some time and DON’T DO IT.

But Shakespeare – 

I’m gonna stop you right there. Unless you’re going full-out period, as Shakespeare intended, and not letting women be in your show at all, don’t give that to me. And if that is what you’re doing, see above. DON’T DO IT. What possible relevancy could it have if it needs to completely ignore whole populations of people to make a point?

But, but, there’s a person of color in our office/show/cast/design team and he/she didn’t say anything. In fact, we’ve worked with people of color before and they’ve never ever told us that what we’re doing is wrong. 

Seattle Theater has a race problem. Look at the Gregory Nominations. Look at the artists performing on stages right now. For every 20 white actors in shows, you might find one actor of color represented in a production. With odds of making money or getting hired like that, do you really expect an actor of color to tell you that they don’t like what you’re doing? That they don’t see themselves represented on your stages? That your representation of their race was offensive in a particular show? If they did, would you make excuses and blather about all of the above instead of listening to them? Do you understand the term White Fragility? And do you honestly expect POC exclusively to educate you instead of educating yourself? I’ll tell you right now that we (meaning the entire community) talk. So just because it’s not being said directly to you, doesn’t mean things aren’t discussed. I have heard in the past two months several unpleasant things about companies with people I like and admire in them. But no one is immune. Just because we’re in a liberal city doing theater doesn’t make anyone exempt from understanding the many different sides of this infinity-sided die.

One of my friends was told not to come into audition because they wanted to cast the show “traditionally” (whatever the fuck that means) and so they would not consider them for a role. If reading that doesn’t turn your stomach, you don’t belong in theater.

Well, what do you expect me to do about it? 

I expect you to speak up. And I’m not talking about actors outing companies. They are often not in a position where they can do that (though if you are someone who feels called to do so, then do). But nothing is going to change unless we start speaking up. That means if you’re a party to a conversation in which something questionable is said, you speak up. You hopefully speak up in the moment, but even if it takes a day or two to register, you speak up. That means if you’re on an artistic team in the casting room and they’re about to make a final decision, you ask them why it’s an all white cast. You ask for them to see more people. As a director, you should be asking to see as many actors of color as possible and not just for small roles, but for leads. As a playwright, you should talk to your director and casting director about how you’d like to cast. If diversity is important to you then make sure you are actively making it important. You’re not waiting until it’s too late to do anything about it.

NYT just put out this great article about Oregon Shakespeare Festival and their commitment to racial diversity and gender parity. It’s incredibly important. And if you don’t think it is, you shouldn’t be making theater.

Most of these decisions are unconscious. No one that I know in theater actively thinks to themselves, “I don’t want to cast people of color in these roles.” But that’s why I bring it up. Because when you’re making final casting decisions, it should be a discussion. You should be making an active choice. You should be thinking about what your choices are saying to the larger community. And if you want to make it at all-white cast, I want you to tell your patrons/board/community why. If you can’t articulate a reason that is not one of the aforementioned B.S. reasons, STOP.

I also expect you to listen. If someone says they see a problem, listen to them with an open heart even if it’s hard, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’ve been called out before for saying or doing some stupid shit. It’s always uncomfortable, but you get better and you learn, or you end up showing that you are someone who really doesn’t care.

Run the numbers of your organization. Run them and look at them honestly. It’s a great way to have an unbiased look at how you’ve handled diversity and it will hopefully help you do better in the future.

Do better. Don’t shout down voices of dissent. Don’t make excuses. Our community as a whole will be better for it. Seattle theater has a race problem. It goes deep. The only way out is to talk about it and turn the talking to action. Put the money where your mouth is and do better.

On Female-Identified Actors, Their Auditions, and Reactions to Their Auditions – Or, What the Hell?

Recently, there was a minor kerfuffle in our little Seattle hamlet over auditor responses following the Theatre Puget Sound Unified General Auditions. Every year, TPS graciously arranges a week-long cattle-call audition for local actors (Equity and non-Equity) to introduce or re-introduce themselves to local casting directors, agents, and freelance directors. Every year, the Generals also sends out a survey to the auditors so that they can comment how to make things better for next year, and also to highlight some specific concerns for actors. These things are supposed to be helpful tidbits for actors, and some of them are. Most of them are contradictory and some of them are, well. Bad. Really bad. The responders this year made a few choice comments about female-identified actors that shook some dust-up.

Shane Regan, one of the wonderful talents in our community and also the organizer of TPS Generals (as well as the Gregory Awards) and all around nice person, posted the collected responses to his Facebook page where I first took notice. I was not the only one, but the conversation spiraled from there into setting up a podcast discussion with Katie Woodzick on Theatrical Mustang. She gathered myself, Shane, L. Nicol Cabe, and Rachel Delmar to discuss the issues brought up by the auditors. If you’d like to listen to the podcast go here.

We’re all also social media folks so you can follow us here: @shaneregan @racheldelmar @nicolthegreat @TheWoodzick @cmeak

To read the full selection of comments made by the auditors, read here. Most them are harmless and what you’d expect. (Funny story, no one could figure out the exit so that’s the majority of the comments.)

And here are some of the comments that made me angry.

What were the most common mistakes made by actors this year?

“Too many female monologues revolving around sex, dating, and relationships. It would be great to see a less sexualized selection of work from female artists.”

What were the most overused pieces, playwrights, plays, done by female actors?

“As always, Helena, Hermia and Juliet.”

“breakup tirades. Not funny. Just hostile.”

“I would like to see young female actors stop playing whining victims. If you are going to do it – then remember to show some strength. Vulnerability is great but what is more interesting is showing women of strength. That gets my attention.”

“Topics of: dating, sex, relationships”

General comments you wish to make to actors who may want to do the general auditions in the future.

“Don’t dress in provocative clothing and expect sex to get you a job.This goes for choice of pieces, too.”

“Wear clothes that you can move in. We are not looking for people who look glamorous, we want to see artists who can use their instruments effectively and with intention. Teetering on heels serves no purpose.”

So, yeah. There’s a lot to unpack here. The whole podcast deals with these issues and I’d encourage you to listen.

Interview with EM Blackwood

I’m lucky enough to know a talented writer and she just published her first book called Outside EverbrightI loved this book so much and I wanted to ask my friend a few more questions about it and genre writing in general. You should check out her website as well:


Temper Eve plans to waste her twenties the way she wasted her teens: starting barroom brawls and stealing everything that isn’t nailed down. Temper needs only two things in the world: action and anonymity. Her close ties with Everbright’s criminal underworld supply plenty of both.

All of that is destroyed by a stranger in a chance encounter.

Now Temper is on the run, host to an alien presence called the queen, and targeted by everyone from local law enforcement, who want to use her as a weapon, to the medical laboratories, who want to use her to cure the disease that kills everyone before they reach the age of forty.

So much for anonymity.

Temper has found a way to undo what’s happened to her, to get rid of the queen and return to a safely inconspicuous life inside the gritty hell of Everbright haven. But it means leaving.
And life on the outside is a death sentence even more certain than the husk.

Tell us a little bit about the dystopia you’ve written (world specific, not plot). What captivated you to tell a story set in this dystopia? What makes this society unique to you?

Here’s my premise: we worship youth in Western culture. Not just the physical beauty of youth — though that’s a huge part of it — but we’ve agreed as a society that we only have a short window of time to decide who we are and what path we’re going to take in life. If you hit thirty, thirty-five and you don’t know what you’re on Earth to do, the conventional wisdom says you might as well just switch over to auto pilot and coast along whatever path you’re already on. You’re done. You can’t decide you want to be an astronaut when you’re fifty. If you haven’t been on that track since your early twenties…it’s just not going to happen.

I remember when I was graduating high school, I thought it was absurd that there was such tremendous pressure to pick a college and pick the career path I would follow for the next few decades of my life. I wasn’t even legally responsible enough to consume alcohol, but I was supposed to know enough about myself and the world around me to choose My One True Path? I was an idiot, and I knew it. Why were so many older, wiser people encouraging an idiot to make enormous, uninformed decisions?

The world of the Mutant Eve series is an exaggeration of this absurdity. It posits a future in which a mysterious disease called the husk kills you somewhere between age thirty and forty. There’s no cure, and no one is immune. The world belongs to the young. And most of them spend their time the way the young always have: drinking, getting high, cliquing together, wasting time, loving fiercely, and tempting the world to destroy them. I can’t imagine a world more wild, passionate, hopeful, stupid, or savage than one populated exclusively by young people.

Temper Eve is not necessarily a “likable” character, which is sometimes a negative for female characters because of the expectation for women to be likable (ie. noble, vulnerable, soft, lawful good, neutral good, or just good etc.) in order to want to follow them on their journey. Male characters, on the other hand, can fit into a variety of boxes, even being psychopaths, and readers will revel in their awfulness without mention of “likability.” Can you speak to Temper’s character? What was her inspiration? Do you think she’s likable? Do you give a fuck if she’s likable?

I definitely don’t give a fuck if she’s likable. But I like her quite a bit.

Sometime during my college career (yes I eventually went,) I realized that the phrase “strong female character” was shorthand for “has boobs plus weapon.” It was such a shallow phrase that it was applied to almost every female character, like a quasi-feminist candy coating. But most of the time, the characters the phrase described were underdeveloped and over sexualized, apparently only present to add a flash of pretty-scowl or sexily tattered clothing to the scenery. I knew I was writing an action-adventure story, and I knew I wanted all the “boobs” in the story to actually be doing something with their “weapons.” More than that, I wanted them to have goals, plans, hard-won victories, colossal fuck-ups, and crippling regrets. Otherwise, you’re just watching boobs. And if that’s all you want, porn will probably deliver more of what you want in much less time.

Temper is a lot of things that women “shouldn’t” be. She’s callous, she’s impulsive, she’s unapologetically violent. She’s also vulnerable and uncertain, tempted to form relationships with the people around her even though she’s sworn off the obligations that come with giving a shit about anyone. She’s conflicted, opinionated, and prone to enormous, stupid mistakes. So fuck “likable,” she’s interesting.

Since this is going to be a series, is there anything you can tell us about the themes you imagine the books exploring in the future along with the ones explored in the first book? 

The main question I wanted to explore in this book is, “What would happen if someone received the power to save the world…and she refused to do it?” I wanted to discuss the responsibility that comes with power and more importantly, think about whether the recipient of great power is allowed to define the parameters for its use.

To put it in a less bloviate-y way: if you have the ability to save the world AND you have free will, don’t you also have the ability to decide that the world doesn’t need saving? As much as it’s your responsibility to use your power for “Good,” isn’t it also your responsibility to refuse to use your power if you think “saving the world” will only result in a lateral move?

There are other concepts wrapped up in the story: good of the many vs. good of the few, the arbitrary ethics that come with belonging to a group (i.e., “I’d kill to protect my family, but I won’t kill to protect that ‘other’ family”,) the value of taking any action, even if it isn’t the right action.  I think all of these questions are engrossing, particularly because I find very few convincing answers.

All that, plus there are tons of explosions. I like explosions.

What sort of tropes are you sick of seeing in the genre? Are there things that really don’t fit into your aesthetic?

Aside from the emptily strong female, I get bored with easy answers and obvious choices. You save the princess because she’s in danger. You kill the bad guy because he’s eeeeeevil. You save the world because that’s what’s always done.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve got no problem with the real world continuing to exist, and I would absolutely do what’s necessary to save someone in danger in the real world…but if stories are used to define our values, I think it’s worthwhile to think about the stories that exist in the lesser-explored negative space.

What if you don’t save the princess, and she dies and turns into a horrifying poltergeist hell-bent on revenge? Is she a good guy or a bad guy at that point? Do we root for her?

What if the eeeeeevil bad guy manages to execute the Dastardly Plan…and then despairs of his absence of meaningful companionship? What if he really just wants to be loved, and he tries to adopt a puppy at the shelter and they won’t let him have one because he’s eeeeeevil. Do we feel sorry for him or do we want to kick him some more? If he’s genuinely repentant and we can’t forgive him, are we the bad guys?

Why not let the world implode and see what happens to civilization? What things change? What things remain? And what does all of that say about being human?

My book is a sci-fi adventure story. A lot of people die, and most of the deaths would be considered murders; preemptive self-defense at best. It’s mushy ethical ground, and I think a society that is comfortable with these mushy ethics is compelling. More compelling is a character living in a mushily-ethical society who doesn’t necessarily accept the mushy ethics herself.

When can we expect to read more about Temper?

I’m working on the next book now and hope to have it out before the end of the year.

An Apology, Podcast, Coded Language, and #SeaArtsFeminism

Katie Woodzick asked me to be on her new podcast Theatrical Mustang. The episode was uploaded yesterday and I had a chance to listen to it this morning. Over the course of the conversation we talked about my plays, Seattle theater, gender parity, and casting diversity. We had a great time and an amazing conversation in which many awesome things were said that I 100% believe to be true. I had such a great time recording this and really want that to be the end of this post. But it’s not.  I stand behind most of what I said on the podcast, but when I was listening to it this morning a certain moment struck me that made me re-evaluate some things about myself.

Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I believe in casting diversely. But that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to being wrong or being racist. Specifically, even though I did not intend to be, I was racist on this podcast. Here’s the specific moment that caught my attention:

“This is also a problem I have with Shakespeare and the very limited way that we look at Shakespeare sometimes in Seattle, which is not very creative. It’s just let’s put all these white guys on stage and oh, even though we have this servant role that could be played by anybody and is an internship opportunity for a young actor in town. Let’s give it to this white guy who’s just graduated college instead of the 15 white ladies who are waiting over here. Or, you know, other people of color. Just as a thought.”

I know what I meant. I know that what I meant was, “How about casting some women or people of color, or BOTH, cause INTERSECTIONALITY.” But that’s not what I said. In fact, throughout the podcast when I say “women” it could very much be read as “women who have my experience,” or the shorthand, “white women.” (I’m queer, too, but let’s just start here.) There’s a very real problem in feminism when it excludes women of color, and/or erases their ethnicity and tries to lump their struggle in with the exact same causes as white women. Feminism has historically not been great at inclusion. And while I consider myself a champion of diversity in Seattle theater, in this moment I failed. And I’m truly sorry.

Why bother calling it out? Who’s gonna notice? It was just one moment. Geez.

No. It wasn’t one moment. Throughout the podcast I used coded language. I said, “women” throughout knowing that out of my mouth as a white woman it would mostly mean “white women.” I know this. I’m familiar with this concept and have explained it to others. And in that moment, it left my brain. It left my brain because I don’t have that lived experience of being excluded because of being a non-white ethnicity. I was saying women. But I wasn’t talking about all women.

I’m an ally. I like to consider myself one, anyway, and being an ally and wanting things to change means that you acknowledge and apologize when you get something wrong. I knew a lot of white women who were upset about the Patricia Arquette backlash a couple of weeks ago because, “We were attacking a woman for not being perfect all the time.” That’s not true. Patricia Arquette was speaking for white women in that moment. Was she intending to? I don’t think so. But for the 1000th time, intentions don’t matter. Our effect on others matters. Our words have power. And when we have the mic (in this instance, the podcast mic) we need to use it and respect that what we’re saying has meaning and weight.

Yesterday, I participated in an online conversation under the hashtag #SeaArtsFeminism. Over the course of the conversation I brought up something I also mention in the podcast. I challenge organizations to know their numbers. Know the breakdown of women to men in all areas – directing, acting, writing, designing. AND know the numbers for your POC to white people in the same fields. AND SHARE THEM. Own them.

I still think this is important to do as a baseline, but it also erases the overlaps. It negates intersectionality.

One of the things that was said yesterday on Twitter involved having to choose feminism over other identities because it’s not inclusive. There are times, as a queer cis-female feminist, I feel like I don’t say I’m queer because it “clouds” the issue. I’m  too many things and I feel like that confuses people. But then, when I think about women I know who are queer and people of color, jesus. I got nothing. Their erasure is bigger and even more political. Which one do you choose? Which side do you fall?

I’m gonna quote Ijeoma Oluo (who if you’re not following on Twitter, please start).

I expect theaters to fess up to there numbers. All their numbers. I want them to fess up to their numbers because I think when we look at ourselves honestly, we’ll start to see the real problem. Book It Repertory actually posted their M/F breakdown yesterday on adapters, source material, and directors. While they had 77% women directing, 58% women adapters, their source material (novels) was only 15% women.

I was stoked they did it. They crunched the numbers and they are looking at what they can do better. And while I applaud them for that, there’s still more. There wasn’t a POC breakdown. And of the 15% of the authors that were women, none of those were women of color. And of the 77% of women directing, I’m pretty sure none were women of color, either. I’m not saying this to punish them. I’m happy they shared their numbers. I think more theaters should. I think that we need to start analyzing this at all levels and that only starts by being honest about where we are. I think it’s a great way to start a conversation by saying, “This is where we are now. But we want to be over there.” And then actually taking the steps to make it a reality.

So, that’s why I wanted to post this apology. I’m sorry that I’m still using coded language. That when I said “women” it translates at “white women.” I do not want to be that person. And I will strive not to be that person. I will continue to call myself out as I call others out. And I apologize to anyone who heard the podcast and felt excluded. That’s not how I want my feminism. I want my feminism to be inclusive of women of color, queer women, trans* women, poverty-stricken women, disabled women, etc. And because of all that, I think it’s important to acknowledge when you say something offensive so that you learn, in the hopes of being a better ally in the future.

What’s New and Next?

As January comes to a close, I realize that so many things have happened, or are happening but I have done a piss-poor job at telling anyone about it. So, here’s a less piss-poor list of upcoming and current shenanigans.

Seattle Repertory Writers Group 2014-2016

Starting this past fall, I began a two-year residency with Seattle Repertory Theatre. They are paying me a small stipend to meet with the group of other writers every other week to work on a single full length play per year. This will culminate in a reading in June of the play that I’ve been working on. And then the process will start again in the fall of 2015. I’m joining 2013-2015 residency playwrights Holly Arsenault, Arlitia Jones, Lisa Halpern, Brendan Healey, and Bryan Willis with my fellow 2014-2016 residency playwrights Karen Hartman and Josh Beerman.

I’m currently working on this year’s full-length and while I don’t have many details to share, I will say that it’s an odd play involving a puppet creator and Japanese translator.

Stay tuned for the dates of the reading in June.

Smut at Spin the Bottle February 6 at 11pm 

Catherine Blake Smith has asked me to write dirty, delicious smut for Spin the Bottle at Annex Theatre in February. I couldn’t be more stimulated by this. I have never written smut, much less read dirty things publicly.

Here’s the full line-up:

Fun duo FUTURE FRIDAYS playing some tunes!
The tempting tokes of the BEARSTONED BEARS!
A snippet of PANEL JUMPER!
Three tastes of Radial Theatre Project’s LOCALLY GROWN featuring YANA KESALA! AMONTAINE AURORE! & KEIRA MCDONALD!
Alluring audial amorousness from L’ORCHESTRE D’INCROYABLE!
A preview of Annex Theatre’s NATURAL!
The long-overdue debut of smut by COURTNEY MEAKER!

All kept together well by the incomparable TERRI WEAGANT

14/48 Projects Young Guns Veteran Playwright February 20 & 21st at Cornish Playhouse

For the third time I will be entering into the terrifying endeavor that is 14/48 The Worlds Quickest Theater Festival. I will be writing two, brand-new plays in 48 hours based on nightly drawn themes. These plays will be rehearsed, tech-ed, and produced the same day they are written. It’s a delight to be asked again. Come down and join the fun at the Playhouse. There are shows at 8pm and 10:30pm on both nights.

This 14/48 is especially wonderful since it happens to also fall on my birthday week. So your birthday present to me is coming out to see the show.

InfinityBox Theatre Project October 15-17 2015 at Ethnic Cultural Theater at University of Washington

David Mills and Catherine Kettrick approached me for their annual playwright-scientist mash-up. The subject this year is biotechnology and what it means to be human. I’ve been paired with biotechnologist (and physicist) Robert Carlson. I’m not sure what I’m going to write, but my reading list has gone up exponentially.

I have no idea what I’m going to write about, yet. But I can tell you that I’ve already had an incredibly interesting conversation with Robert Carlson and I’m stoked to take a stab at things.


Here’s my performance regrets in The Stranger, published at the start of this year.

For Playwrights

On Monday I attended Artistic Freedom & Artistic Responsibility Forum at Seattle Repertory. There are many accounts and recaps of the event from The Stranger, Seattle Times, and this heartfelt response from Sharon H Chang. You can also watch the whole thing at Howl Round or look up the #SeattleAFAR Twitter feed for more reactions. 

During the conversation, Pamala Mijatov (my director for Chaos Theory) dropped my name because of a casting note that I try to put before my plays in some form or another. She read the note and encouraged people to use it as a cross stitch sampler because she’s clever with them words. Shortly after the forum, I started receiving requests for the text in full so I decided to post it here. Feel free to take and modify as needed for your plays and in your casting notices.

While I’m happy that it was mentioned, I’d also like to say that it’s not a solution to the problem of diversity on stage. And it certainly doesn’t address the problems of diversity in other areas of the theater production including administration, directing, dramaturgy, design, etc. But it’s one possible tool you could use as a playwright. 

If diversity is important to you as a playwright, tell your director. Insist on not defaulting the ethnicity of your characters to white, able-bodied, skinny people. Be demanding about it. You should also seek out artists who you’d like to see speak your words. For better or worse, like hires like. So the way that we buck that trend is to recognize it and work against it. We’re only going to get better as a community if we are actively trying to improve. So, especially if you’re a white playwright working with predominantly white people, this little notice on the second page of your script might help to serve as a reminder that it’s 2014 and we are a diverse nation with diverse people. Our productions should try like hell to reflect that. But it’s only a reminder. And a reminder only works if you act on it.

“About casting: Families can be multi-racial, members of friend groups do not look like copies of each other, and the default appearance of characters should not be able-bodied, slim, caucasians. In short, this should not be a homogenous looking cast, and certainly not all white.”

One Minute Play Festival

Seattle participated in its first One Minute Play Festival a few weeks ago in the midst of Chaos Theory‘s run and a whole slew of job-related things. You can watch the full thing at Howl Round TV here.

Or, for your reading pleasure, here are the pieces I submitted.

“With a” directed by Desdemona Chiang

Two women, SONJA and DUNCAN, sit next to each other looking out. Maybe they just tried to have sex. Maybe they are at the end of a very long day in which, yet again, they didn’t say anything new or interesting to one another. They have heard each other’s stories. It’s over. They both know it. They look as if they have sat there for a long time. DUNCAN tries to say something and can’t quite do it.

SONJA: I think it was when

DUNCAN: No it wasn’t

SONJA: Yes, it was. It was when I asked you if you’d ever change your mind about oysters.

DUNCAN: That’s ridiculous.

SONJA: I know.

DUNCAN: We’d only been dating for a month.

SONJA: But that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew we weren’t…

They sit.

SONJA: Should we yell, or something?

DUNCAN: Do you want to yell?

SONJA: I just thought. You know. After three years. Shouldn’t it end

DUNCAN: with a bang?

SONJA: Yeah. Stupid.

DUNCAN: I could yell, if you want.

SONJA: That’s sweet.

DUNCAN: I guess we should go.

They sit.

SONJA: Or. We could

DUNCAN: Sit here?

SONJA: Yeah. For just a little

DUNCAN: A bit longer.

SONJA: Yeah.

They sit.



“In Line” directed by Ali El-Gasseir

Three strangers stand in line. The world is on mute.

ONE: You’re standing in line.

TWO: You’vebeenstandinginlineforthelongesttimeyoucanpossiblyimagine.

THREE: You’ve been standing in line on the worst week of your life. You got dumped, of course. That effing bill got sent to collections because hospitals can’t send bills to your email like normal people.

TWO: Seriously, has the line moved at all?

ONE: Just one inconvenient piece of business before you carry on with your day.

THREE: When you get home, you’re gonna pour the largest bourbon in the largest glass in the world and cry. Softly. All night if you have to. Show them all you can commit to something.

ONE: It’s moving slowly. No need to get bent out of shape about it.

TWO: You could have done this any other day. But no. You’re here on your day off. Like a genius. You could be in bed, moron.

FOUR enters talking on a cell phone and cuts the line obliviously. They each want to react and confront him, but they don’t. They may cough and subtly try to get FOUR’s attention, but mostly they just stare angrily at him. FOUR talks on his phone completely unaware.

ONE: What a jerk. Someone should say something.

TWO: Screw this day.


FOUR is next. The line moves.

THREE: You will sell your soul to Satan if that guy gets syphilis in the next twenty-four hours.



Gala Schmala at Theater Schmeater – Seance featuring Julia Griffin and Karen Jo Fairbrook, directed by J.D. Lloyd; June 6-14

On The Boards Northwest New Works – That’swhatshesaid featuring Erin Pike and directed by Katherine Karaus; June 13-15


Chaos Theory Press and People Quotes

chaos theory cover photo

Chaos Theory premiered at Annex Theatre April 18 – May 17, 2014.


Frannie hits the pathetic rock-bottom when her girlfriend, Mack, disappears. Frannie’s friends, Seth and Bach attempt to get her over the post-break-up hump through a series of steps. Unfortunately, Frannie is unable to face the reality that she was abandoned without a word by a feeling, thinking human being and instead tries to come up with any other solution to Mack’s disappearance (in one scenario, bears are involved). Seth and Bach admit defeat on getting her to see reason and reach the last step of “realizing that sack of shit isn’t coming back,” so they give her a book about chaos theory and parallel dimensions. This is how Chaos Theory begins, with a little un-reality.

After reading the book Frannie, Seth, and Bach resolve to build a machine to take them to one of these parallel dimensions where Frannie and Mack will unite and they all will generally find peace and harmony with universe. Their journey progresses through different realities and levels of denial, with a laugh track and dance sequence all before a new woman, Josie, comes to steal Bach’s heart away from the project. The friends start to face the truths of adulthood, abandonment and building a freaking cool machine in their living room. Things start to reach an equilibrium and then –

Mack comes back. The machine, ostensibly, has worked. But what does that mean? Was it meant to work? Are they actually physics geniuses? Or, is this Mack a fake? A doppelganger from a parallel universe? And what ever happened to Josie? Plunging into a dark world, the friends must now decide the fate of Mack to save Frannie and the world, or succumb to the horrible changes that are taking over each of them.

2014 Cast and Crew

Frannie – Keiko Green 
Bach – Evelyn DeHais 
Seth – Drew Highlands 
Mack – Jana Hutchison 

Stage Manager – Kaeline Kine 
Scenic Designer – Robin Macarteny 
Costume Designer – Amy Escobar 
Lighting Designer – Gwyn Skone 
Sound Designer – Kyle Thompson 
Props Designer – Robin Macartney, Emily Sershon 
Production Manager – Catherine Blake Smith 
Technical Directors – Ian Johnston, Emily Sershon 
Graphic Design – Ash Williamson 
French Translation – Evelyn DeHais 

Production photos.


Preview from Capitol Hill Blog

Preview from Capitol Hill Times.

Review from TheSunbreak.

Meaker shifts the audience/performance relationship drawing us into the concerns of the characters by resting our entire understanding of the play on the question the characters must answer. Their search goes from frivolous to effective, but Meaker is wary of copping out with a deus ex machina or a simple twist (a la Sixth Sense or Fight Club). As with the rest of this very real universe of soft-edged gender and orientation this is not a world of either/or, but of multiple possible answers. Meaker suggests the possibilities without committing to any one. In Chaos Theory uncertainty is, for once, both comforting and satisfying.”

Review from Seattle Weekly.

“Amid this absurdity, Meaker and director Pamala Mijatov force us to make sense of the action, but in the end we succumb to the hopelessness and futility of existence, love, and identity. Chaos Theory starts off gimmicky and cute, yet it ultimately makes us, and Frannie, confront the limits of common sense.”

 In local playwright Courtney Meaker’s new absurdist tragicomedy (aptly subtitled “A Play Seeking Order”), there seems to be exactly that—a series of events that don’t fit together. That doesn’t mean there isn’t exposition; in fact, Chaos Theory is replete with rather dense character development, plot twists, and pathos.”

Review from Drama in the Hood.

“…the play written by Courtney Meaker was intimate, polished, and had the audience feeling as if they were a fly on the wall of a hilarious sitcom.”

“Though the play has a blatant speculative science-fiction slant to it, it is surprisingly and refreshingly character-driven. The play grapples with ideas of perception of reality, time relativity, gender binaries, friendship dynamics, and heart-wrenching moral dilemmas.”

“Thanks to Meaker’s smart writing and the excellent cast, the play had me wishing I could be friends with Frannie, Seth, and Bach, and be a part of their quick back-and-forth verbal banter.”

“Prepare to have your brain twisted into a pretzel with ideas of alternate realities and parallel universes. Though the events of the play were confusing at times, the writing and acting never felt pretentious or overbearing, because the characters felt just as confused and conflicted as I felt sitting in the audience. Reminiscent of Inception, the ending will force viewers to make their own mind up about what really happened, what is about to happen next, and whether the characters are actually experiencing reality or the alternate realities of a parallel universe.”

Review from Seattle Actor.

One of the things I like best about Meaker’s writing is the inclusion of LGBT characters without that ever being part of the plot; without that ever being a problem in itself, rather they are just part of the world.”

Seattle Playwright Courtney Meaker has made a very impressive introduction into the local theater scene. Her play “Buckshot” was a strong announcement of her confidence and skill in telling intimate stories of real people. In her newest play, “Chaos Theory” now being presented at the Annex Theatre under the accomplished direction of Pamala Mijatov, she is even more ambitious.”

 Social Media

Joe Zavadil, Actor, via Facebook – My sister and brother in law wanted to see a show while they were in Seattle, so I took them and my nephew (who live here now) to the best theatre in town. The Annex did not disappoint. All four of us were impressed, amazed, and enthralled by ‘Chaos Theory”. The script is one part Ionesco, one part Pirandello, with some Christopher Durang and Tina Fey thrown in. The cast is spectacular; the is staging innovative, all around one of the best, funniest shows I have seen. Thanks for impressing the outta towners, y’all! 

Walking While Fat and Female – Or, Why I Don’t Care Not All Men are Like That

I started walking between 5 and 12 miles a day about year after I moved to Seattle. The main motivator was a crippling anxiety about being late coupled with an inconsistent public transportation system (that will now become less consistent, yippee). Additionally, working in an industry with late nights (I house manage for various theaters) means that if you’re reliant on public transit, you will be waiting for an hour at a scary bus stop with Mr. and Mrs. Meth Addict at 1:30 in the morning. Walking became a way for me to take control of my commute. It was my time. Four mile walk to work. Four mile walk back. In the rain. In the dark. In the cold. Every season. Sometimes with tunes. Sometimes with “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” Sometimes talking to myself. And sometimes with silence.

When I moved to Seattle I weighed 260 pounds. Because I walk so much (and lead a pretty active life here) I now hover between 175 and 190 depending on the the time of year. And I’m fucking strong. I run several times a week and I’m training for my first triathlon. But I’m still fat. And I’m good with that.

I never started walking places to lose weight. I started walking because I like to walk and because it was a chance for me to have my time before and after a stressful day. It was a chance for me to explore the city and see it in a way that people driving past wouldn’t ever be able to. Walking became a lot more than just my time though. It’s how I started writing again. Being in my head with time just for me to talk out an idea, or listen to character voices jump-started my imagination after a few years of feeling lost.

So, why not walk?

According to a number of men who seem to come crawling out of their hidey hole around this time of year here’s why:

  1. I’m a woman.
  2. I’m fat.
  3. I’m sexy.
  4. I’m a cunt.
  5. I need a man.
  6. I’m walking.
  7. I’m walking with another woman.
  8. I have tits.

Last night, I was walking across a crosswalk while fat and female. Two guys in a white SUV rolled down their window to say. “Hey, cunt. Cunt. Hey. You’re fat. Fat, fat cunt. Fat. Fat. Cunt. ” I didn’t even realize they were talking to me at first. By the time I’d made it past their car, the guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window to continue yelling at me. Changing it slightly to make it very clear, yes they were talking to me, and yes, they wanted a reaction. I didn’t have one. I was in my time. My time to walk, to think, to decompress after a long day. I just kept walking.

That’s my automatic response of self-preservation. Just keep walking. Don’t react. Don’t turn to look at them. Don’t stop. I’m a hot head in certain situations. I work customer service so I’ve got it pretty well under control, but in the heat of the moment if I don’t count to 10, I will say or do something that will escalate a situation. And when you’re a woman who walks home alone at night, you learn not to escalate. Because whoever is yelling at you from their weapon (a car is a weapon) could decide to hit you with it. Or could chase you. Or could jump out and run after you at the next stop light. So I keep walking.

Being a woman (cis, trans, or otherwise) means that you grow accustomed to men and sometimes women, commenting about your body on a regular basis without provocation. When I run, there’s the occasional man that feels it’s his duty to tell me, “You go, honey. You’re gonna lose that weight!” as if that’s why I’m running, to fit in with what the expectation of what a woman should look like and be. I’m a good fatty. I run. I’m trying to be thin.

A man once came up to me on the street just to tell me that I was too fat for the dress that I was wearing. Thanks, arbiter of my fashion fat. I couldn’t do it without you.

A huddle of male teens asked me to suck them off as I walked past them after 9 pm. They made it clear that they didn’t want to fuck me. I was too fat for that. But oral sex would be all right. They were doing me a favor, you see.

Again. I don’t escalate. I don’t acknowledge. I’m not saying this is the right way to deal with these situations. I’m saying it’s how I deal with them. I’ve tried others. But there’s no reasoning with stupid. And there’s also a greater risk of escalating a situation when you engage it. Being a woman means that I already feel unsafe 50% of the time. And when I’m alone, I don’t need to feel even more unsafe just to make a point. No matter how much I want to say, “Fuck off” or “You know someone has said the same thing to your mama, right?” I just keep walking or running past because saying the greatest, most eloquent, feminist statement is not worth dying for, right?

So, I do what I believe most of the women I know do – try to talk about it. Share it with people after it happened. Let them know that it happened. That it keeps happening. But then, I’m met the resounding, “Not all men are like that, you know.” (Seriously, do you want a cookie for not being a douche?) Or, “Walking by yourself is dangerous.”

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not feeling like I can say anything to the jerks* that yell at me. Like I can’t react. And that I can’t even share that this experience happens daily with supposed allies. Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is – misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullshit behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.

I want to share these stories. I want to know when it happens to other women, my friends, and colleagues. And I want the men and women in my life to know that it happens, too. It’s not isolated. And even if not all men are like that, it sure happens a helluva a lot, so maybe start being on the lookout for it. Be an actual ally in this instead of just saying that you aren’t like that, but what I do is dangerous. That being out past 9 is dangerous. That helps no one, least of all the women who have to be out past 9, or the women who should go out past 9 because it’s a fucking right to be out whenever the fuck we want to be.

Me walking home at night or in the day time (harassment isn’t just a nighttime activity) is as safe as you driving your car home, by which I mean, it’s inherently dangerous. Everything has risks. But walking while fat and female – that’s apparently the riskiest of all, dude.

*In a previous version, this was “fucktard.” A number of people reached out to me to tell me that they found that to be offensive to those with an intellectual disability. I did not intend to use language that was insulting. However, intentions don’t matter. I respect that it was offensive and have removed the word from this post. I hope I will be able to remove it from the posts that have now circulated the internet, though I likely won’t be able to edit them all. Thank you.

One Minute Play Festival, Schmee Gala, NWNW and more!

It’s been crazy pants town time (this is a combination of words that vaguely go together) at Meakerland. Here’s what’s coming up or down the pipeline. (What direction do pipelines go?)

One Minute Play Festival May 10 & 11

A little over a month ago, I received an email from Dominic D’Andrea about writing for the One Minute Play Festival. I wrote two, one- minute pieces for the festival. With a will be directed by Desdemona Chiang and In Line will be directed by Ali El-Gasseir. The festival will take place at ACT Theatre. The full list of playwrights and directors is here. It includes some of my favorite playwrights including Keiko Green, Stephanie Timm, Wayne Rawley, and Juliet Waller-Pruzan. Purchase your tickets here.  

seth and bach popcorn pretzelChaos Theory Through May 17

CHAOS THEORY, a play seeking order opened! Reviews are coming in and they’ve been highly positive so far. We still have four weeks to go so I’m anxious to hear other thoughts about the play. Getting to hear how people are making sense of the world is what truly excites me about this piece. Are Frannie, Bach, and Seth the same person? Is Mack/Josie real? It’s been great to hear audience reaction and theories about the sanity levels of the characters. Plus, it’s funny. Get your tickets at Annex Theatre.

Gala Schmala June 6 – 14

Doug Staley from Theater Schmeater contacted me to write a short piece for the upcoming gala, which will also be the first performance in the new space. The guidelines for the piece was incredibly effing broad – history of theatre/backstage feel. So I wrote a two-hander about Charlotte Cushman called Séance. The Gala will feature many of my favorite people including fellow playwright Keiko Green who’s currently playing Frannie in Chaos Theory (it’s all connected) and Raymond Williams who’s my marketing buddy with Macha Monkey Productions. Tickets on sale soon!

That’sWhatSheSaid at NWNW Festival June 13 – 15

It’s getting closer. Northwest New Works Festival produced by On the Boards is getting closer, and That’swhatshesaid is going to be an epic part of it. The final draft has been submitted. Erin Pike and Katherine Karaus are hard at work to make it honest and piercing. This piece is highly conflicting for me. It’s purposefully taking female characters out of context and putting them in the mouth of one female character in a way that was not intended by the playwrights. As a playwright, this would drive me nuts. However, it’s so interesting to hear what female are characters are saying in the 10 most produced plays, especially from this past year where the list was actually more diverse than it has been in years. I think this piece is going to be highly polarizing and, quite possibly, difficult to watch. (Spoiler: women were written to cry a lot and have quite a few random outbursts.) Tickets are going on sale soon.

After that? I don’t know. Hit me up.