The Asian American Performers Action Coalition has released the results of its annual Ethnic Representation on New York City stages study for the 2016–2017 season, encompassing productions on and Off-Broadway. For the first time in ten years, the report—which in the past has focused on statistics concerning performers—has expanded to include playwrights, composers, lyricists, and directors.
The statistics showed that Caucasian playwrights wrote 86.8 percent of all shows produced in the 2016-17 season and that Caucasian directors were hired to work on 87.1 percent of those productions. On Broadway alone, 95 percent of all plays and musicals were both written and directed by Caucasian artists.
African-American playwrights were represented at 4.1 percent and MENA playwrights at 1.4 percent. According to the survey, the Broadway season featured no plays or musicals by Latinx, Asian-American, or American Indian/Native/First Nation playwrights, nor playwrights with disabilities.
In terms of gender parity, 75.4 percent of all playwrights included in the survey were male and 24.6 percent were female. Eighty-nine percent of playwrights produced on Broadway were male and 11 percent female. Female directors fared only slightly better than female playwrights, representing 31.1 percent. Only 0.8 percent of directors included in the survey were non-binary.
After reaching a record high in 2015–2016 (the season marked by the success of Hamilton), the percentage of available roles going to actors of color dropped from 35 percent to 33 percent across the board. On Broadway, the drop in representation was from 36 percent to 29 percent.
Comparatively, non-profit theatres filled 37 percent of all roles with actors of color in the 2016–17 season, an increase from 31 percent the season prior. Playwrights Horizons topped the list of companies who hired the highest number of actors of color based on the percentage of available roles during the 2016–17 season. Manhattan Theatre Club and New York Theatre Workshop tied in second place, with Atlantic Theater Company and Signature Theatre in third and fourth place.
African-American performers saw the steepest decline in representation at 18.6 percent, down from 23 percent across Broadway and Off-Broadway, while Latinx representation saw the steepest decline on Broadway alone, dropping to 2.9 percent from 8 percent. Asian-American performers saw the biggest increase to 7.3 percent across the board, up from 4 percent the season prior. Overall, Latinx performers represented at 5.1 percent, Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) at 1.7 percent, American Indian/ Native/First Nation (AI/N/FN) at 0.1 percent, and performers with disabilities at 0.5 percent.
“I’m grateful to AAPAC for their continued partnership in collecting, analyzing, and presenting the data in this essential annual report," said the American Theatre Wing's CEO and President Heather Hitchens. "Understanding this information is an essential first step in achieving our shared goal of a fairer and more inclusive theater ecology.
"This issue is central to the Wing’s mission, and we look forward to our continued work with the theatre community in order to make lasting progress across our industry, on stage and off."
For the full results of the study, visit AAPACNYC.org.