By Audrey Rowland
During World War II, American servicemen often left behind the mysterious message “Kilroy Was Here,” along with a cartoon figure. Military graffiti is not the most obvious namesake for a 21st-century arts organization. However, it’s a surprisingly apt choice for The Kilroys, an arts advocacy group whose founding members were inspired by the “playfully subversive way” these soldiers asserted their presence and personalities. Like Kilroy, women, transgender, and nonbinary playwrights have always been there; also like Kilroy, most people didn’t seem to know who they were.
The Kilroys aim to fix that. The organization was established in 2013 by a group of Los Angeles-based female writers and producers frustrated at the underrepresentation of non-male voices on American stages, an art form where male audience members are the minority. The women behind The Kilroys, who include acclaimed playwrights Bekah Brunstetter (supervising producer, NBC’s This is Us; Cake, Manhattan Theatre Club, etc.). Zakiyyah Alexander (resident playwright, New Dramatists; Ten Things To Do Before I Die, Second Stage Uptown, etc.), and Tanya Saracho (whose work you are about to see) wanted to do something about it.
Enter “The List.” Each year, Kilroy members reach out to playwrights, dramaturgs, and artistic directors throughout the country for the titles of great new works by women, transgender, and nonbinary writers that have had at most one production. Among the nominators is Trinity Rep’s own associate artistic director, Tyler Dobrowsky. Nominations are ranked and plays with the most recommendations, generally the top five to nine percent, make it onto The List. (The exact number varies each year depending on the quantity of work submitted).
Two of the seven shows in Trinity Rep’s 2019-20 Season have been featured on The List: Tanya Saracho’s Fade and Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, both in 2015. Lauren Yee, the playwright behind last year’s The Song of Summer, has also been included by The Kilroys. At Trinity Rep, we’re proud to feature traditionally marginalized playwrights. We want everyone’s voices heard, and The Kilroys help us to make that happen.