The Times, which had traditionally included a full list of a production's creative team (set, costume, lighting and sound designers, as well as key production personnel) in its printed and online copy, changed course in recent weeks, crediting only a show's cast, writers and director in its reviews and listings.
United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, the labor union and professional association of designers, artists and craftspeople, spoke out against the decision the week of Oct. 19, urging its members to contact the Times regarding the decision.
On Oct. 22, a group of 80 playwrights that included Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning heavyweights sent a letter to the Times, requesting that their often-unseen collaborators have their credits restored.
Playbill.com obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent to Scott Heller, the theatre editor and deputy editor for Arts & Leisure at the Times, last week.
Baker, a Pulitzer winner for The Flick, confirmed to Playbill.com that she penned the letter with the help of her fellow playwrights. She told Playbill.com that a scenic designer alerted her to the Times omission in recent weeks. "Every playwright I talked to was very concerned and many of them reached out to me with stories about how integral their crews and design teams have been to the writing of their plays," Baker said.
Baker added that the Times had responded, saying the letter would be passed along to culture editor Danielle Mattoon.
Playbill.com reached out to Heller and Mattoon for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
The letter, published in its entirety, follows:
Dear Scott Heller and The New York Times,
We are reaching out because we'd like to talk to you about the recent elimination of the full credit box in your theater listings and reviews.
We playwrights are always mentioned in the listings and reviews. This is not about us. We think the stage managers and sound and lighting and set and costume designers we work with are just as important as we are when it comes to making theater.
These people are so often overlooked, even though our medium is, literally, coordinating moving bodies, in clothing, with accompanying sound, through light and architectural space. The credits at the end of the reviews and listings are often the only way designers and stage managers are recognized at all. And these people are real artists. They're not helpers. They're our collaborators. They're the show itself.
It's also important for your readers to be able to find out days, months, years later, who created the shows they saw and read about. There are so many theater artists who aren't writers and directors and actors whose careers should be followed and documented, regardless of the writers and directors and actors they're working with, simply because they make extraordinary work.
We need talented artists in New York City to continue to want to pursue these fields. And if they're unnamed and uncredited in the Times it's bad for all of us. Their names are as important to the future of American theater as the names below.
Please restore the original credit box to your reviews and listings, online and in print.
Jackie Sibblies Drury
Melissa James Gibson
Stephen Adly Guirgis
David Henry Hwang
Young Jean Lee