NEW YORK CITY: The Asian American Performers Action Collection (AAPAC) has released its annual report, “The Visibility Report: Racial Representation on New York City Stages.” The report details the employment statistics by race for actors, playwrights, composers, librettists, and directors for the 2017-18 season for the 18 largest nonprofit theatre companies in New York City and on Broadway.
“The 2017-18 season saw the first Asian American woman playwright produced on Broadway, Young Jean Lee, and a story set entirely in the Middle East, The Band’s Visit, which went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical,” AAPAC released in a statement. “Such examples often serve as the poster child of diversity for a particular season, encouraging a false sense of progress. But when we look at the season as a whole, larger patterns of inequities are revealed, deeply entrenched within the system: White actors continued to overrepresent by almost double their respective population size; writers and directors were almost exclusively white—nearly 80 percent of writers and 85.5 percent of directors. White supremacy has been so normalized that inequities aren’t even perceived as such.”
Key findings of this year’s report show that white actors continue to be the only race to be overrepresented by almost double their respective population size in New York City. White actors occupied 66.4 percent of roles on Broadway and 60.1 percent on nonprofit stages for the 2017-28 season. White writers were produced almost four times more than writers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) writers, with 80 percent of Broadway productions and 79.1 percent of nonprofit shows. Overall, Black writers represented at 9.6 percent, Asian American writers at 6.2 percent, Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) writers at 2.8 percent, and Latinx writers at 2.3 percent. The study also found that the hiring of BIPOC writers did not correlate with having more BIPOC actors onstage. Asian American writers made gains in the 2017-18 season, with 8 percent of Broadway productions, where the previous season employed none.
The study shows that 84.6 percent of productions at nonprofit theatres employed white directors. On Broadway, 100 percent of musicals and all of the shows written by BIPOC writers and/or about the BIPOC experienced were helmed by white directors.
This year’s study expanded to include an economic impact section, which looked at the average weekly salaries earned by actors at venues of different sizes. The report shows that many theatres programmed the most diverse stories to the smallest stages. For every $1 spent on BIPOC actors, theatre companies spent $1.70 on white actors.
The most diverse theatres identified in the study are Ars Nova Theatre, Signature Theatre, MCC Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Public Theater. The least diverse are Irish Repertory Theatre, WP Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, the New Group, and Primary Stages.
The full report can be found here.
Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. Please join us in this mission by making a donation to our publisher, Theatre Communications Group. When you support American Theatre magazine and TCG, you support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism. Click here to make your fully tax-deductible donation today!