Photos by Mike Hillman
Written By Megan Leahy, Creator of Woman of the Year
When I first started taking classes at Dad’s Garage, almost 14 years ago, there were few female improvisers on stage and none in the ensemble. Comedy has traditionally been a boy’s club but over the years, more diversity—including more women—can be seen on and off stage. I heard “Check it out! There are more women than men on stage tonight,” for the first time about 5 of 6 years ago. It was exciting, this sign of change for our family—especially with our Artistic Director Kevin Gillese leading the charge to increase diversity on our stage. This conscious effort meant that we heard the “more women than men” remark over and over again, to the point that it was no longer novel to hear. Or necessary. There are more men than women in our company. But sometimes, at Dad’s improv shows, there are more women than men on stage.
The idea of Woman of the Year came about because I’m constantly inspired by these talented, funny, smart women at Dad’s. (To be fair, I’m also constantly inspired by the talented, funny, smart men at Dad’s as well, but that’s for a different blog post.) While the number of women may be increasing in terms of improv shows, Dad’s Garage playwrights heavily lean towards male. I wanted the women to have a voice that they may not have had an opportunity to share in a scripted play, and for all of us to have the chance to see what we can do.
So why format the show around the year? We all experience seasons, holidays, and other yearly events differently. I wanted to see how other women feel about spring, Halloween, swimsuit season, and more. Unsurprisingly, the women of Dad’s Garage delivered hilarious sketches. In fact, they delivered so much that our script started out at about two and a half hours—which is a great problem to have. We ended up editing down our show and taking out some wonderful pieces and characters in order to make the show a reasonable length.
One of my favorite things about this show is the roles that women get to play. Several years ago, I was asked by a younger female improviser, “How do I stop people from making me the mom or the girlfriend?” “You don’t,” I responded. I have played moms, girlfriends, wives, grandmothers, nieces and sisters over the years. I’ve played astronauts, presidents, murderers, rulers and cops, too. Why are these mutually exclusive? You can play a mom that’s an astronaut, a wife that’s a murderer—we can play whatever we want on this stage. In Woman of the Year, you’ll see women playing the heroes and the villains. We’re not on the sidelines, simply existing just to lend support. We’re front and center and we are having a blast.
Finally, why is this show called Woman of the Year and not Year of the Woman? Though our cast has three women and two men, it’s not going to be the Year of the Woman until there are as many shows with more women on stage than men as there are with more men than women. We’ve all got work to do, but as long as we—women and men of Dad’s Garage—do it together, there’s no ceiling we can’t smash.