The first Women Playwrights International conference - held in Buffalo, New York in 1988 – emerged from the work of an ad hoc group of writers, academics and other supporters, mostly from Buffalo and New York City. Although some were experienced organizers, several were not. Nevertheless, the idea of bringing together female playwrights from all over the world so they could meet, share their work and discuss their challenges, successes and discoveries motivated all of these people. The success of this first conference led a group of Canadian women to organize a second conference, this time in Toronto, again as an ad hoc group.
The absence of a “parent” organization to plan and facilitate these conferences created a challenge for organizers. The International Center for Women Playwrights (ICWP) was founded in Buffalo in 1989 as a central point of communication for writers and as a way to transmit information about upcoming conferences. The ICWP also organized readings and other activities in Buffalo.
Despite many advances, the need to set up an organization capable of creating an international mandate remained unaddressed. At their second conference in Toronto in 1991, WPI established an international advisory committee (made up of representatives from all the countries participating in the conference) to choose the venues for the third and fourth WPI conferences: Adelaide, Australia in 1994 and Galway, Ireland in 1997.
ICWP developed into a digital center for playwrights by 1997 through the closure of the Buffalo office and the creation of the ICWP-listserv project. This virtual center served as an important support network for playwrights aimed at facilitating professional and personal exchanges. However, this change meant that the ICWP no longer had the primary purpose of supporting international conferences. This created a greater need for communications and support from conference organizers.
The Fourth IWPC Conference in Galway in 1997 issued a call to support the development of an international organization of female theater writers dedicated to ensuring continuity in the programming of international writers' conferences. A committee of IWPC participants from Australia, Greece, India, Nigeria, Sweden and the United States formed as a means to make this possible. The committee then developed a structure and general regulations for a newly incorporated organization under the name of Women Playwrights International, approved at the fifth IWPC conference in Athens in 2000. The Athens conference also held the first election of an international WPI management committee. After 2000, the name of the conference changed from IWP to WPI. This name change intended to reflect the newly incorporated international organization. Every conference since this date operated as a Women Playwrights International conference.
And now, off to Montreal for the twelfth Women Playwrights International conference! Previous attendees as well as new participants look forward to this exciting event: to meet or make new friends and to learn more about the daily life and work of playwrights from all over the world. We look forward to meeting fellow participants, organizers and leaders of tomorrow.