We’ve been thinking about seasons a lot lately at American Theatre, and not the astronomical kind. No, what have been on our minds are the menus of options theatres offer patrons each year, most following a school-year, fall-to-spring calendar (though a handful root their programming around the summer, offering “seasons” that are essentially calendar years). These all-you-can-see buffets—often announced, even in our web-centric age, via printed brochures—are an essential measure of what kinds of plays and artists theatres values, or imagine that their patrons will show up for.
In this, our annual season preview issue, in which we publish the season offerings of 376 member theatres, as well as our popular Top 10 list, we can see, in black and white, exactly who values which artists and what kinds of plays. As usual, if you’re tallying playwrights’ names, you’ll find a disproportionate number of men—white men—represented, even though next season’s most-produced play, Disgraced, is by a Pakistani-American man, Ayad Akhtar. If you’re measuring it by directors’ credits, the trends aren’t much better (even if many of Disgraced’s productions have been/will be directed by a woman, Kimberly Senior). Each year these statistics draw their share of criticism and commentary, as well they should. But this year, in addition to being the bearers of this mixed news, we decided to parse our own data for more illuminating details, and to report on some of the underlying forces behind this persistent disparity—as well as some encouraging countervailing trends.
Like a season, an issue of this magazine is also a menu of options reflecting our editors’ and contributors’ range of interests and affinities. If I may say so myself, this is an especially rich smorgasbord. I’m pleased to continue the legacy of my predecessor, Jim O’Quinn, in printing Part 2 of Todd London’s 20-years-later check-in with 15 Harvard actors he first wrote about for AT in 1997. It’s a sobering, fascinating, moving look at the passage of time and roads not taken—not only by these individual artists but by our field writ large.
I’m also proud to renew another legacy I share with the magazine: My feature on Bill Rauch’s inspirational tenure at Oregon Shakespeare Festival is at least the third I’ve written about him for American Theatre, the first being my reckoning with Cornerstone Theater Co.’s faith cycle in October 2001, the second being a Q&A covering his move from that company to OSF in October 2006. Like many people, I’m sure I first read about Rauch in this magazine, in Robert Coe’s great cover story about Cornerstone’s interracial Romeo and Juliet in Port Gibson, Mo. (AT, May ’89). Through all of these pieces, Rauch’s fierce, career-long commitment to diversity of every kind—racial, certainly, but also aesthetic, generational, regional, etc.—has shone as a beacon for the American theatre field. I know it’s a guiding light for me.
Rauch’s inclusive vision reminds me of a quote in these pages from playwright Lisa Kron (from whom, incidentally, OSF has commissioned an American Revolutions play), in which the Fun Home librettist/lyricist makes the point that diversity isn’t simply an ethical imperative; differences of perspective, in fact, are at the very heart of drama. Diversity, seen this way, is literally theatre’s lifeblood. We hope you can feel it coursing through these pages.