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Aapac Releases Expanded 2016-17 Diversity Report For New York City Theaters—Diversity Drops For Hiring Of Actors; Points To Inequities In The Hiring Of Writers And Directors Of Color.

(NEW YORK, March 4, 2019) The Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) released its annual report,”Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages” today for the 2016-17 theatre season, covering shows produced on Broadway and at the 18 largest non-profit theatre companies in New York City. The report, which, for the past 10 seasons, has focused on employment statistics for performers, has now been expanded to include ethnic and gender breakdowns for playwrights (composers and lyricists were considered part of this category) and directors. Numbers for disabled artists are also tallied. It is the only publicly available report of its kind.
In announcing the expansion, the AAPAC Steering Committee released this statement:
“There was a clear need to have all these numbers in one place to provide a more accurate measure of inclusivity within our industry. We recognize that the make-up of creative teams may have an impact on the employment of actors of color. We can now begin to look at different questions, such as, ‘Does producing more playwrights of color lead to an increase in the hiring of actors of color?’ or ‘Does non-traditional casting increase as more directors of color are hired?’ The expanded report provides a startling look at the imbalance of power that continues to be normalized within our industry.”
The report found that the 2016-17 season was not as diverse as the previous season when it came to the hiring of minority actors, dropping 2 points to come in at 33% of all available roles. The decline is mainly attributed to a steep 7-point drop in Broadway numbers where representation slid down to 29% from 36%. The 2015-16 season had set a new diversity record with shows such as Hamilton and On Your Feet, which especially benefited Latinx performers. They were the minority group to suffer the steepest decline this year, dropping over 5 points to 2.9% of all roles. In contrast, Asian American representation increased  2 points to 6.7% of all available roles, a jump primarily attributed to Miss Saigon, which hired 58% of all Asian actors cast on Broadway this season. Of all groups, Caucasian performers saw the biggest increase to 71% of all available roles on Broadway, up from 64% the season prior; they continue to be the only group that over-represents compared to their respective population size in New York City. That disparity became even more pronounced in casting for straight plays. The report showed that minorities were far more likely to be cast in musical theatre roles than straight plays on Broadway. African Americans were cast in 14.5% of non-musical roles and all other minorities were relatively invisible: only 5 Latinx, 3 Asian American, 6 Middle Eastern/North African (MENA), and 2 performers with disabilities were hired out of a possible 249 roles.
The decline in the industry came despite a significant surge in minority hiring from the non-profit sector from 31% of all roles to 37%. This is the first time that all of the theater companies making the Top 5 Most Diverse List hired more than 50% minority actors. Those companies are: Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theatre Company and Signature Theatre. After being the only minority group to fall below their 10 year average in the previous season, Asian American performers saw the greatest increase, jumping 4 points to fill 7% of all roles thanks to productions such as Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Vietgone at Manhattan Theatre Club, and Aubergine at Playwrights Horizons. Also noteworthy, MENA performers more than doubled their representation from 1.2 % to 2.6% due to projects such as The Profane at Playwrights Horizons, The Band’s Visit at the Atlantic Theater Company, and Oslo at Lincoln Center Theater. Performers with disabilities, which had 0% representation the year before, this year made a small but significant showing at 0.9%, thanks to shows such as The Cost of Living at Manhattan Theatre Club and The Glass Menagerie at Lincoln Center Theater.
The report found that the areas of greatest disparity within the industry occurred in the hiring of writers and directors.  A whopping 95% of all plays and musicals produced on Broadway in the 2016-17 season were written by Caucasian writers, 4.1% by African American writers, and 1.5% by MENA playwrights.  Playwrights of color had more opportunities in the non-profit sector where Caucasians represented at 82%, African Americans at 10.3%, Latinx at 3.4%, Asian Americans at 2.1%, and MENAs at 2.1%. In looking at gender, the report found that 89% of playwrights produced on Broadway were male and 11% female, while 69.7% of playwrights in the non-profit sector were male and 30.3% female.
The pattern played out similarly for directors, where 95% of all Broadway plays and musicals were directed by Caucasians. Minority directors represented at 5% and were comprised entirely of African American directors. The non-profits gave 84% of all directing jobs to Caucasians, 6.8 % to African Americans, 2.9 % to Latinx, 3.9 % to Asian Americans,  and 1.9 % to MENA directors. Female directors fared better than female playwrights: 82.5% of all Broadway directors were male, 17.5% female, while among the non-profits, 64.1% of non-profit directors were male, 35% were female, and 1% were non-binary.
More details and charts can be found in the report, available free for download
The mission of Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) is to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and representation on New York City’s stages. AAPAC publishes the only publicly available statistics on ethnic and gender representation across the NYC theater industry and has been a leader in forums on diversity with artistic institutions and the Broadway community. The expanded 2016-17 report would not have been possible without the generous support and partnership of the American Theatre Wing. www.aapacnyc.org

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