The initiative, which was written by Tim Dang, artistic director of East West Players, has been met with concerns about quotas as well as questions of its legality, according to the Times.
Concerns that establishing quotas may violate state and federal employment laws surround the plan. East West claims the number is a "suggested" guideline and, if theatres do not meet it, they will not face legal consequences or financial penalties. But arts funders are urged by the initiative to donate money to theatres that have met the 51 percent mark.
State institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, race or gender by California Proposition 209. Manny Klausner, an attorney who represents the Individual Rights Foundation, told the Times that questions arose about whether theatres who are affiliated with public universities could establish the requirement.
A 2011 study by the nonprofit L.A. Stage Alliance reported that 75 percent of theatregoers in the L.A. region are Caucasian, and 80 percent are of the baby boomer generation or older.
"The more voices you have at the table, the more robust the conversation is," Dang told the Times. "We have to start somewhere." Theatres "should not feel comfortable saying they're 'diverse' if they're not moving forward," Daniel Mayeda, a board member of East West and the company's legal counsel, told the Times.
The Times reports that East West plans to build support for the plan locally before approaching a national initiative.