Silverman Is a Broadway Champion for Diversity
By Erin Keane ScottMedia Inquiries
Leigh Silverman didn't set out to make history when she assembled an all-female creative team for the 2018 Broadway production of "The Lifespan of a Fact," she just wanted the best.
"I really felt very strongly that I wanted to hire, first and foremost the best people for the job to design the show," said Silverman, one of the few female directors working on Broadway. "But also because the play is written by a team of three white men based on a book by two white men — all of a certain age — I felt it was important to balance some of that energy."
Silverman's work to put women and people of color in positions of power is noteworthy. During its run, "The Lifespan of a Fact" had 23 women and minorities calling the shots.
"You need to put yourself in the rooms you want to be in, you need luck, and when the luck comes, you need to be ready to bring the goods."
Silverman has a reputation of being a playwright's director. She's ushered around 40 Off-Broadway plays to stage, many of them new works and many by female writers. The foundation for that niche began at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama Pre-College Program, then continued when she enrolled at CMU to study playwriting and directing with Jed Allen Harris.
"I think all of my skills can date back to my time at Carnegie Mellon," Silverman said. "Because I was a directing and playwriting double major, I spent a lot of time learning how to work with writers and talk to writers. In all of my years creating work, I've really utilized my skills of how to shape material. I know what makes a story."
Silverman, who graduated in 1996, has returned to CMU regularly to give talks to current students. Her frank discussions about working as a director in New York are practical and inspiring. Her advice to students is that success in the industry relies on a cast full of factors, including persistence, talent and luck.
"You need to put yourself in the rooms you want to be in, you need luck, and when the luck comes, you need to be ready to bring the goods. Then you need to use that momentum to get you to the next project," she said.