The Count: Some Progress, but White Male Playwrights Still Manspread on U.S. Stages

The Dramatists Guild and Lilly Awards’ second study shows a small uptick in work by women and writers of color in the past 7 years.

NEW YORK CITY: More female writers and writers of color are being produced now than before, but white and male playwrights still make up more than 80 percent of writers produced on American stages, according to the second installment of the Count, a survey conducted by the Dramatist Guild and the Lilly Awards. The Count collected production data from 147 theatres around the country over six seasons (2011 to 2017), with 3,970 productions total.

The first installment of the Count, published in 2015, found that plays authored by women made up 20.3 percent of productions around the country, while plays by writers of color comprised only 10.2 percent from 2011 to 2014. The new study, culled from data in the 2016-17 season, shows a small increase in productions of plays by writers of color and female writers, with writers of of color now represented by 15.1 percent of productions and female writers 28.8 percent. (This roughly tracks with American Theatre‘s own numbers, which found that in the coming 2018-19 season, female writers made up 30 percent, up from 26 percent for the 2017-18 season.)

By contrast, women make up 51 percent of the American population, with 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the performing arts given to women.

The more recent Count also looked at new plays vs. revivals produced in 2016-17 season. In that season, 77 percent of new plays were created by white writers and 65 percent of new plays were written by men. It also founded that geographically, theatres in the Rocky Mountain region of American were the closest to gender parity (at 44 percent female authors), while theatres in the Pacific (including the West Coast and the states Alaska and Hawai’i) produced the most writers of color (at 33 percent).

The full study can be read here.

The Dramatists Guild represents American playwrights, and the Lilly Awards advocates for female theatre artists.