NEW YORK CITY: Co-founders T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reginald “Reggie” Van Lee, along with executive director Afton Battle and board member Aaliytha Stevens, have announced the forming of the Black Theatre Coalition (BTC) and the launching of the coalition’s inaugural program. BTC, an organization looking to build sustainable and ethical ways to increase employment opportunities for Black theatremakers and eliminate the racial inequities in the theatre industry, has stated its goal is to increase work opportunities for Black theatremakers by at least 500 percent by 2030.
“Once we identified just how vast the disparity is between the perceived inclusivity onstage and the utter dearth of Black professionals offstage, we began outlining ways in which we could address and ultimately eradicate this invisible imparity,” said Reid, Adams, and Van Lee in a joint statement. “This outline provided a clear path forward for our organization and our entire industry.”
Stating that Black professionals make up less than one percent of the theatrical workforce, BTC has laid out three steps to mobilize, implement, and transform the American theatre:
- BTC has secured partnerships with top companies across the Broadway ecosystem, including producers, designers, directors, general managers, casting directors, press agents, advertising and marketing executives, booking agents, attorneys, and theatre companies. According to BTC, the companies have agreed to work with BTC to identify Black candidates for employment in their offices, implement paid intern and mentorship programs for Black theatremakers, and create paid fellowships and/or creative leadership positions in their offices and hire Black assistants on future Broadway projects. BTC is also working to establish initiatives with colleges and universities to create a sustainable pipeline for Black graduates entering the field. BTC is also working and sharing resources with Black Theatre United, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Broadway Serves, and others.
- BTC is building a national database intended to included every Black behind-the-scenes theatre professional in the country that can serve as Broadway’s resource to locate, contact, and employ Black theatremakers and executives. An initial partnership has BTC working with the producers of the Broadway revival of Company to implement 10 paid apprenticeships, from producerial to each creative design area, for when the production returns to rehearsals through opening night. BTC hopes to adopt this model for all Broadway shows.
- Every year, BTC will present a performance series that will include one original musical, one revival of a musical, and one new play. The three productions will feature work produced, created, designed, and managed by Black artists and executives, which BTC says will ensure mentorship for Black theatre professionals at each stage of their careers. As part of this step, BTC is partnering with Wynton Marsalis from Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Current partners (or “accomplices,” as their website calls them) include Thomas Schumacher from Disney Theatrical Group, Rick Miramontez, Rachel Chavkin, Leigh Silverman, MCC Theater, Arena Stage, Mara Isaacs, and many more, listed on BTC’s website.
Reid, Adams, and Van Lee concluded their statement by saying, “It’s high time to end this ‘illusion of inclusion’ by reshaping the theatrical ecosystem for those who have been marginalized by systematically racist and biased power structures that have endured since the dawn of the American theatre.”
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