Did you know that in the 1950s soap operas were actually owned and operated by detergent companies? As the companies worked to increase their profit margins, they saved money by hiring women to write and produce their shows. Certainly, the fact that women weren’t paid well isn’t surprising, but what we didn’t know is that this period created a little-known professional oasis for women at a time when “keeping house was the rule.”
To tell the stories of these pioneering soap women, actress Jen Ponton (Dietland, 30 Rock) and Emmy-winner Louise Shaffer (Ryan’s Hope, Search For Tomorrow) have teamed up to write Queens of Daytime, a newly-released short film that serves as a showcase for a proposed television series.
Queens of Daytime takes place in 1958, in the new world of television. While men like Milton Berle and Sid Caesar dominated primetime programming, live soap operas filled the airwaves during the daytime. This story is meaningful for soap veteran Shaffer, who worked in the industry as these women-led shows began to highlight complicated issues like reproductive rights, divorce, civil rights, and the AIDS epidemic. Soaps were the first medium to address these taboo topics, and female producers like Agnes Nixon (All My Children, One Life To Live) routinely broke ground decades before primetime would catch up.
Brief synopsis: Queens of Daytime stars Ponton as ‘Addy,’ the newly-minted producer of an overwrought soap opera called “Tomorrow is Forever.” When she discovers the provocative work of a radical civil rights activist playwright, she has her heart set on hiring Laurel Kessler (Ali Marsh, In Plain Sight) as her new head writer. In doing so, the structure of the show is turned on its head, confronting difficult racial dynamics and addressing the dangers inherent in the burgeoning civil rights movement.
In a press release, Shaffer and Ponton say that the true message of their show is “’the mirage of white feminism’, a term that decries feminist theories focused solely on the struggles of white women, without addressing the myriad of oppressions that face women of color and/or women lacking other social privilege. The show is a unique celebration of how much has changed since 1958 – and a rallying cry of how far we have yet to go.”
Queens of Daytime also stars Eddie Korbich (Broadway), Andrea Cirie (House of Cards), Chantal Jean-Pierre (Law & Order: SVU), and Peter Rini (Orange is the New Black). The short was directed by Lily Hayes Kaufman, produced by Ponton, Jackie Schwartz and Marzy Hart, and created in association with Troma Entertainment and Besties Make Movies.
source: Queens of Daytime media release