Artistic director Lisa McNulty has refocused the mission of New York City’s WP Theater.
Lisa McNulty still owns a hoodie that was given to her by WP Theater’s founder Julia Miles in 1999, emblazoned with “21 Years of Making Work by Women!” At the time, McNulty was the institution’s literary manager, her first paying job in the theatre. After running the literary department, she left, only to return a few years later as the company’s associate artistic director. After leaving once more to work as a producer on and Off-Broadway, in 2014 McNulty was back again—this time as artistic director.
“It seems kind of crazy that my entire professional career has surrounded this institution for 20 years,” says McNulty, who is now leading WP into its 40th anniversary season. “WP’s mission, what this institution is trying to do, has shaped me as a person of the theatre.”
Though the organization has undergone a recent name change—from Women’s Project Theater to simply WP—its mission has remained constant: develop, produce, and promote the work of women artists (and now female-identifying and trans artists) at every stage in their careers.
McNulty says the name change was not so much a rebranding as a way to indicate a new phase for the institution. She realized that theatregoers had preconceived notions about what type of work a “women’s theatre” might produce—something she is determined to dismantle through more eclectic and diverse programming. A look at WP’s 2018 season, with its mix of dance, new work, revivals, and both early-career and established artists, is a shining example. In addition to the annual Pipeline Festival, WP presents PORTO from Obie-winning playwright Kate Benson and directed by Susan Stroman Directing Award winner Lee Sunday Evans—both women on the rise.
“By presenting as broad a spectrum of work and human beings as possible,” says McNulty, “I’m trying to combat the idea that a theatre which supports women is one thing.”
McNulty says that the most important thing she does at WP, however, is the Lab, the theatre’s two-year residency for early-career playwrights, directors, and producers. In an attempt to combat the idea there aren’t enough women theatremakers, the initiative culminates in a biannual festival of new works showcasing their talent. The program also prioritizes community. “Beyond introducing those artists to the field, I’m graduating a cohort of 15 folks who become each other’s primary collaborators,” says McNulty.
As McNulty reflects on her time at WP, as well as a tumultuous political year, she can’t help but feel proud of the theatre’s enduring mission. “It’s exciting to be leading an institution that has a mission that is beyond just making important work,” she says. “To focus on providing space for artists who don’t get space elsewhere feels really important me—and it feels particularly important right now.”
Adrienne Campbell-Holt is set to direct Rebeck’s dark comedy of gender politics this fall.
Krysta Rodriguez (Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
WP Theater has teamed up with Segal NYC Productions to present the Off-Broadway premiere of What We’re Up Against by Pulitzer Prize nomineeTheresa Rebeck (Mauritius, Seminar, NBC’s Smash).
Adrienne Campbell-Holt (Dry Land, Empathitrax) will direct a cast lead by Teen Choice Award winner Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Spring Awakening), Jim Parrack (True Blood, Of Mice and Men), and Krysta Rodriguez(Spring Awakening, Trial & Error, Quantico).
The four-week limited engagement will kick off October 28, with an opening night set for November 8. The play will run through November 26 at WP Theater (2162 Broadway).
Further casting will be announced at a later date.
Written by Rebeck in 1992, What We’re Up Against premiered in San Francisco nearly 20 years later and has since gone on to have acclaimed regional productions. The play is set in a small architecture firm, where new recruit Eliza is struggling to get a foothold; it is billed as a “darkly funny and all-too-relevant comedy of gender politics.”
“We’re delighted to have this ferocious and sharp play at WP this fall,” says Lisa McNulty, producing artistic director at WP Theater. “Theresa’s words are just as potent and relevant now as they were when the play is set, and we couldn’t be prouder to work with her and WP Lab alumni Adrienne, giving new life to this story.”
“Now more than ever it is vitally important for stories of women to be told, and it is particularly exciting to share What We’re Up Against, which is filled with Theresa’s extraordinary warmth, passion and humor,” added Jenna Segal of Segal NYC Productions. “I’m so pleased to be teaming up with WP Theater on this incredibly important piece of theater and to continue this crucial dialogue.”
The production will feature scenic design by Drama Desk Award nominee Narelle Sissons (All My Sons, How I Learned to Drive), costume design by Lortel Award nominee Tilly Grimes (Small Mouth Sounds), lighting design by Grant Yeager (Now. Here. This), and sound design by Lortel Award winner M.L. Dogg (Oh, Hello on Broadway; Here Lies Love). Casting is by Kelly Gillespie, C.S.A.
Tickets for What We’re Up Against are now on sale via WPTheater.org/tickets, or by calling (212) 765-1706.
The Most Influential People in Dance Today: Monica Bill Barnes
“When it feels like everything’s already been done, Monica Bill Barnes still pushes boundaries. Her hit collaboration with “This American Life” host Ira Glass mixed dance with radio-style storytelling, and her Happy Hour series embraced the idea of an office-party-meets-karaoke-meets-dance experience. And although plenty of choreographers are setting site-specific work in museums these days, Barnes takes it a few steps further—and leads her audience through an aerobic workout in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
Congratulations to two members of the WP creative family for their big Tony wins last night! Rebecca Taichman (Best Direction of a Play, Indecent) and Mimi Lien (Best Scenic Design of a Musical, The Great Comet of 1812). These rock stars previously collaborated on WP’s 2011 Milk Like Sugar, a co-production with Playwrights Horizons, by Kirsten Greenidge, and we couldn’t be any prouder.
While we celebrate, let’s take a moment to note that, of the 73 people credited as writers on shows currently on Broadway, only 7 of those artists are women. Shout out to those seven women on making art for change on the Great White Way, but there is still a long way to go.
Let’s celebrate these powerful ladies, and don’t forget to join us in our upcoming season to make some noise for women in theater!
The world premiere of the night-time play with songs, SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON casting and creative teams have been announced on Playbill! You don’t want to miss the real, honest, funny and sad play about seeing old faces with new eyes, and the liminal space between loss and letting go.
“The cast includes Eboni Booth (Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.), Lilli Cooper (The Spongebob Musical), Peter Friedman (Synecdoche, New York; The Savages), Greg Keller (Our Mother’s Brief Affair), Anne L. Nathan (It Shoulda Been You), Michael Pemberton (Veep), and JD Taylor….” Click here for more information!
For your listening pleasure, Team WP Theater put together a sing along, snap your fingers, swaying playlist of classic holiday songs. Click above, listen, and enjoy the holiday season and new year with these tunes by your side.
To celebrate just a few of the theaters achieving playwright parity on American stages this season, the Kilroys surprised 13 theaters around the country on Thursday, November 19, 2015 with cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans* writers. Stealthy playwright allies delivered the cakes, which feature the names of playwrights the theater or festival is producing this season. Pizza and beer were delivered to industry leaders at yours truly, WP THEATER, for “feeding artistic ambitions for nearly four decades!” #CakeDrop
Check out pictures from yesterday’s fun-filled TheaterMania BLOCK PARTY on 3rd Avenue. WP Theater, Lincoln Center, Signature Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout Theatre Company, and many more joined the festivities!