Julie Crosby Shares Her Journey to Gods
A Guest Post from Julie Crosby, Producing Artistic Director of Women’s Project
We’ve been playing with a very hot hand this season at Women’s Project, with Kirsten Greenidge’s Obie-winning MILK LIKE SUGAR and Catherine Trieschmann’s HOW THE WORLD BEGAN. Next up on our stage is WE PLAY FOR THE GODS, a world premiere play that has been entirely conceived and created by 14 artists of the WP Lab, a free two-year residency program for early to mid-career women playwrights, directors, and producers. It will run at off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theater from June 1-23.
The journey to the GODS started about two years ago, when I was told—many, many times and with varying degrees of good humor—that I was crazy. People in my circle (and in my corner) could not wrap their heads around the idea of handing over a main stage production to a group of artists that I did not know (because they had not yet been selected for the 2010-2012 WP Lab) to create a play that had no specific ideas attached in terms of content or form.
While initially terrifying, WE PLAY FOR THE GODS has proven joyously liberating.
Before I get to the liberating part, let me address the terrifying aspect. There are a lot of sound reasons why producers—especially those of the institutional variety—refuse to intentionally jeopardize the bottom line. But let’s face it: every production is a major financial risk. There is no such thing as a “sure hit,” and if there were, we’d all be producing them all the time. We’re obliged to please so many masters—boards, donors, investors, critics, artists and audiences, to name the obvious—and this sometimes leads us to make safer choices than we otherwise might. There’s no time to be self-sabotaging, and precious little incentive to be brave. All of this presumably prohibits inviting a group of unknown artists to have their way with hard-won dollars.
But that’s what we did at Women’s Project. Megan Carter, WP’s Associate Artistic Director and an exceptional collaborator, and I got hold of some dismal statistic or another showing (yet again) that women theater artists were seriously lacking in professional opportunities on our American stages. We started banging our heads and, depending on your perspective, either knocked a screw loose or knocked some sense into ourselves. In either case, we decided we could single-handedly impact the employment statistics for women theater artists—a statistic that persistently hovers at 20% nationwide—by giving a legitimate off-Broadway production credit to every Lab artist in the 2010-2012 Lab.
And that was pretty much all we had to decide. The Herculean task of creating and producing the actual show was given over to our Lab artists.
With this meaty opportunity in their hands—and by meaty, I mean a fully capitalized, professionally paid, and aggressively marketed production—the Lab artists got to work. And they stayed at work. They’re still working. And the harder they have worked, the more liberated I have become. Hey, I even had time to write this blog.
All this to say: I’m gobsmackingly grateful for this production. I’ve been reinvigorated by these artists—by their dedication, moxie and talent. This enormous collaborative production has ironically given me much-needed time to dream up crazy ideas for future seasons. And time to be thankful for those who gave me opportunities early on, despite my lack of bona fides, which allowed me to develop a viable career in the theater. Oh yes, these are liberating outcomes, born simply of a determination to give talented women theater artists a chance to beat the statistics, show their mettle, and play for the gods. Perhaps not so crazy after all.
Julie Crosby has been Producing Artistic Director of Women’s Project since 2007. As Artistic Director, Julie has produced 14 plays, including Catherine Trieschmann’s Crooked and How the World Began, Liz Duffy Adams’ Or, Rachel Axler’s Smudge, Sheila Callaghan’s Lascivious Something, and Kirsten Greenidge’s Milk Like Sugar. Previously, Julie worked for over two decades on and off Broadway, and on international productions, including On Golden Pond starring James Earl Jones, Eve Ensler’s The Good Body, Laurie Anderson’s Songs & Stories From Moby Dick, Black And Blue starring Ruth Brown, and the famed musical Carrie, among many others. Julie also produced New Faces Of ’04 at Carnegie Hall for Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops.