Christina Maile, Playwright/Landscape Architect/Printmaker

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

Founding of Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, Part 1

Westbeth gave me an extraordinary life in the most ordinary of ways–affordable rent and a supportive community.

My first husband, a painter, and I, a playwright, got into Westbeth in 1970. One of my plays had just finished a successful tour, a one act about the soldiers inside the Trojan horse the night before the city gates opened.

There was a lot of nudity at Westbeth in those days. Natural, joyous and creatively energetic–everyone was so excited to be in a new place and eager to explore everything that not a few people took off their clothes before answering the door.

All this activity made me even more shy than usual. Sometimes I felt I was inside my own Trojan horse. Nevertheless, when Westbeth management some months later suggested that groups of each discipline meet to get to know one another, I steeled myself to go to that first meeting of the Westbeth playwrights. It was held in Dolores Walker’s apartment. About five or six guys showed up along with eight or nine women. Everyone was chatting and thrilled with one another. I stayed in the background hoping no one would take their clothes off and ask for a group hug. But Dolores was a natural organizer. She immediately got down to business, getting people’s info, asking for ideas of how we could all work together … possibly doing some sort of productions? Perhaps using various themes? Some of the women playwrights began talking about women’s lib.

At the next meeting a week or so later, most of the women, including me, showed up, but fewer men did. We began talking about issues that women faced in the workplace and at home.

At the following meeting, no guys showed up, only women: Gwen Gunn, Patricia Horan, Sally Ordway, Helen Duberstein, Ruth Hershberger, Hélène Dworzan, and myself. Dolores looked around the room and said, “You know, for a first production, we could do an evening of short feminist plays. What do you think?” I don’t remember how we came up with the name Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, but we did want people to know exactly who we were and what we stood for. Over the next weeks, we began writing short plays and skits, and gave them to one another to read.

Our first production happened some months later in May 1971 at the Theater for the New City when it was located at the Jane Street Hotel. We were so unknown that three of the slots the theatre gave us were for Wednesdays, 10 p.m. For all of its six nights, the show sold out. It was called Rape-In.

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