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Meryl Streep joins protest against shortage of female playwrights in Abbey Theatre season

Dublin's Abbey Theatre has been criticised for the low number of female playwrights and directors in its new season. Photo: Fiona Morgan Dublin's Abbey Theatre has been criticised for the low number of female playwrights and directors in its new season. Photo: Fiona Morgan
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A petition criticising the low number of female playwrights and directors in a new season from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre has attracted almost 5,000 signatures.

It has also garnered the support of Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep.

The protest follows the launch of the Abbey’s Waking the Nation programme, which marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in the city in 1916. Just one of the 10 announced plays has been written by a woman, with only three female directors scheduled to participate.

Organisers of the #WakingTheFeminists petition have called for changes to “the systems that allow for such chronic under-representation of the work of women artists at the Abbey Theatre, and in Irish theatre generally”.

Campaigners also pointed out that only 14 of the 111 plays produced or presented by the theatre that received seven or more performances since 2006 have been written by women.

In an open letter to protesters, Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail said: “The fact that I haven’t programmed a new play by a female playwright is not something I can defend,” adding, “I regret the gender imbalance.”

A public meeting on Thursday in support of #WakingTheFeminists drew large numbers, with speeches from the Abbey’s main auditorium having to be relayed via loudspeakers to protesters unable to gain entry on the street outside the theatre.

Social networks have seen support from around the world for the protest, with Streep and actor Christine Baranski shown holding a note saying “I support Irish women in Irish theatre”.

Other messages of support have been received from actors Saoirse Ronan and Debra Messing, and directors Phyllida Lloyd and Susan Feldman.

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