Jill Westerby

The new Hearth Collective spotlights women playwrights

A new play-reading festival addresses the failure of mainstream theater to include women playwrights

Diversity. Inclusion. Equity. For all of today’s theatermakers, these are pressing issues—or at least they should be, as the art form fights to maintain viability and relevance in contemporary society.

To some folks, addressing these values means shaking things up. The Kilroys, for example, describe themselves as “a gang of playwrights and producers in LA who are done talking about gender parity and are taking action.” Their motto: “We make trouble and plays.”

To others, the key is to create a comforting experience, something that makes theater feel welcoming and warm, even to those who’ve felt left out by it in the past. That’s the ethos of the Hearth Collective, a new Portland theater group formed by Courtney Freed, Megan Kate Ward and Jill Westerby, whose larger interest is the showcasing of new and under-produced plays.

The two approaches come together on Sunday in the Kilroys List: A Festival of Contemporary Plays, at Portland Center Stage’s Ellyn Bye Studio.

Last year, the Kilroys compiled a list of 46 plays, selected through a theater-industry survey, intended as “a tool for producers committed to ending the systemic underrepresentation of female and trans playwrights.” For its first event, the Hearth Collective presents readings of three plays from the list: I Enter the Valley by Dipika Guha at noon, Bliss (or Emily Post Is Dead!) by Jami Brandli at 4 p.m., and The Oregon Trail by Bekah Brunstetter at 8 p.m.

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