Back in February, the audience members who crammed into the 50-seat theater at Gay City on Pike Street to watch That'swhatshesaid didn't have any idea what they were in for. The performer Erin Pike didn't know what she was in for. The director HATLO and the playwright Courtney Meaker didn't know what they were in for.
That'swhatshesaid—a dramatic collage of all the (relatively little) dialogue given to women characters in the top 10 most-produced plays in the United States from 2014 to 2015—was a show about women being silenced in The Theater. And two hours before the second night of the performance, The Theater tried to silence them.
Citing possible copyright infringement, Samuel French, the largest dramatic publishing house in the country, sent a cease-and-desist order demanding that the show stop immediately or face legal action. The creators of That'swhatshesaid did not back down. They developed a work-around—redacting lines from one of the plays to make themselves less vulnerable to legal action (they believed)—and made the show's critique of the theater industry even stronger.
The controversy surrounding the production sparked a national conversation about copyright law and the representation of women in theater, but the genius of the show lay in Pike's nuanced, physically demanding performance and in how well Meaker and HATLO used the theater to critique itself. "You have to love something to tear it apart with such intensity," Meaker says.
This is the first time a production has been nominated for a Stranger Genius Award. Its creators will be celebrated at the free Stranger Genius Awards party on September 24 at the Moore Theatre. And you're invited! To see all of this year's nominees, go to thestranger.com/genius2016.