As she points out in a column in Huffington Post, writing women into plays isn't just the right thing to do, it also makes for good business, since females buy 70 percent of theater tickets and dominate theater audiences. (She also points out that shows written by women pull in more box office dollars than those written by men, which is corroborated by research from a Princeton economics student.)
Elizabeth Diane Wells played Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Brandon Partrick played Peter Shaw in Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” which was staged by Theatrical Outfit in 2015. CONTRIBUTED BY BREEANNE CLOWDUS
In a profile last year, The New Yorker wrote, “A typical Gunderson protagonist resembles her author: smart, funny, collaborative, optimistic — a woman striving to expand the ranks of a male-dominated profession.”
Those protagonists are often rescued from the inattentive history books. In "Ada and the Memory Engine," she sings the unsung Victorian-era Ada Byron Lovelace, who wrote programs for the first mechanical computer created by her friend and soul mate, Charles Babbage.
Amateur astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, who recognized that Cepheid variable stars were the key to determining the actual dimensions of the galaxy and the universe, is the star of "Silent Sky." Leavitt remained a simple data-entry laborer at the Harvard College Observatory while Harlow Shapley and Edwin Hubble used her discovery in their groundbreaking research.
Kathleen McManus (from left), Ashley Anderson and Mark Cosby performed in a recent Essential Theatre production of “Ada and the Memory Engine” by Lauren Gunderson. Anderson played Ada Byron Lovelace. CONTRIBUTED BY ELISABETH COOPER
As these brainy characters suggest, Gunderson was headed toward the sciences, but switched from physics to English, graduating with a degree in creative writing from Emory University.
She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Stanford biologist Nathan Wolfe, and their two children.
Getting theaters to stage more plays about women is sometimes a matter of simply asking, “So... how many of your plays are about women?” she wrote, in an email exchange.
“Once they count, it often surprises them, and they start to correct themselves. Being diverse is not just a chance to do the ‘right’ thing but it will make your seasons more compelling, your stories more valuable, and the performances more impactful.”
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Facts about Women's History Month