The Kilroys Are Here

The Kilroys Are Here

Underrepresentation is a systemic issue in every step of theatre, starting with which playwrights are produced. This lack of representation doesn’t come from a lack of creators; there are hundreds of thousands of playwrights who offer unique outlooks and fascinating stories we haven’t seen on the stage. And yet year after year, almost every production I hear about seems to be of a play by some old cis man. Frankly, I’m fed up with the likes of Stoppard and Miller. But there’s a group dedicated to taking action against the gender imbalances of the industry.

The Kilroys describe themselves as a group “who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action.” The group was originally founded in 2013 by a group of thirteen industry professionals, including literary managers and dramaturgs as well as several playwrights. This group, most notably, began to publish a list.

Every year (starting in 2014 and with the exception of 2018), the group has released a list of plays by non-binary, female, and trans playwrights. The plays included in these lists are either un- or under- produced and were recommended by industry professionals. Last month, they released the 2019 list. There are thirty-three plays on the list, all of which were written by trans, female, or non-binary playwrights.

Plays make it on to the list through recommendations. All recommendations come from industry professionals who reads at least forty plays annually. The List is compiled based on the frequency of these suggestions— the most suggested plays make the list. There were 315 nominators this year, all of whom suggested between three and five shows. 803 different plays were nominated in total. The thirty-three that made the list were suggested at least five times and at most nineteen times. In addition to this year’s main list, the Kilroys include forty honorable mentions, each of which were recommended to the Kilroys four times in the process.

The List includes a wide variety of plays— from the historical, such as Charly Evon Simpson’s exploration into the history of gynecology in Behind the Sheet, to the futuristic, such as Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Babel, a story about genetically tested predetermination. This array of works highlights the talent of trans, female, and non-binary writers across genres and topics. If a theatre company is searching for a show with a particular theme, there are likely several options to be found in the Kilroys’ catalog.

Those options are being chosen. The Kilroys, as cited in an article in the New York Times, have seen at least a hundred of their recommendations be chosen for production. The playwrights already existed; they always have. The Kilroys’ List is bringing much deserved attention to these artists by making the work easier to find and, more importantly, providing professional approval for the unknown writers.

A common excuse for not producing diverse writers is that companies, theatre or otherwise, don’t know where to find these writers. In the age of the internet especially, this is false. All it takes is a little research. In the age of the Kilroys’ List, that has already been done. The Kilroy’s prove that there is a large quantity of high-quality of work by female, trans, and non-binary playwrights.

Photo of the founding members by Elisabeth Caren.