Just 20% of New York theater created by people of color, study finds

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Guardian

 Adrian Horton | 30 September 2020

A new report has found stark disparities in racial representation and pay gaps on the New York stage – the vast majority of writers and directors remain white, while some theater non-profits spent up to six times as much on white actors as actors of color.

The annual study, The Visibility Report: Racial Representation on NYC Stages, from the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, analyzed the 18 largest non-profit theaters as well as Broadway companies in New York City during the 2017-18 season. Though the year witnessed some highly visible counter-examples to a traditionally white, exclusive field – including the first Broadway show written by an Asian American playwright, Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, and a story set in the Middle East, The Band’s Visit, that won the Tony for best musical – the study warned against celebrating examples that “often serve as the poster child of diversity for a particular season, encouraging a false sense of progress”.

The 2017-18 season as a whole reflected previous years in its systemic inequities and over-representation of white actors, writers and directors. Last year’s report, on 2016-17, found that 86.8% of all Broadway and off-Broadway shows were from white playwrights and 87.1% of all directors hired were white; in 2017-2018, the numbers dipped slightly – nearly 80% of Broadway and off-Broadway shows’ writers were white, and 85.5% of directors.

Over 60% of all roles on New York City stages went to white actors, a rate double the population of white people in New York City (32.1% of residents). According to the study, 23.2% of roles went to black actors, 6.9% to Asian American actors (down from 7.3% the prior year, with a fifth of roles from one show, KPop), 6.1% to Latino actors, 2% to Middle Eastern or North African actors, and 0.2% to Indigenous actors.