Terry Teachout in the comments asks what the data set is that I was searching in this post. Or to quote his comment directly:
what is the sampling universe? Year-round professional companies only, or are academic productions and classically oriented summer festivals included? What size are the theaters? Who is doing the musicals--mainstream regional theaters or companies that produce only musicals?
To answer shortly: It's actually the exact same pool that Terry's numbers are drawn from: TCG Member Theater seasons.
Theatre Profiles is an online compendium of information about TCG member theatres and their productions, going back to 1995. Each completed profile contains a wealth of information accessible in ways never before possible when in book form. Simple searches by production, playwright, or theatre or advanced searches by various combinations of theatre and production information reveals the diversity of TCG theatres and their work. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a complete record of our member theatres' activity from 1995 to the present.
To clarify, in order to be a TCG member theater, the following must be true (according to their website):
Minimum operating expenses of $50,000 in most recently completed fiscal year
Professional paid leadership, including at least one full-time paid professional director or manager (filled either by one individual or shared)
Evidence of rigorous pursuit of theatrical form, as shown by artists' payroll activity of at least 15 weeks per year or by a minimum of 50 performances per year
A commitment to the rehearsal process which is demonstrated by at least 30 hours of rehearsal time for primary production activities
Minimum of one years' prior existence as a professional producing organization with continuity of operation
Community vitality, as evidenced by local, state or national funding sources, local media coverage and/or community awards or other recognition of the value of the theatre's work
Diversification of funding sources, with no more than 50% of expenses covered by any single contributed income source Payment to actors equivalent to the Equity minimum for the area (theatres need not operate on a union contract) or at least 20% of the theatre's annual budget dedicated to total artist compensation (including but not limited to actors)
So none of these are academic productions. I suppose some of them might be festivals, but those festivals are also counted in the top ten lists that Terry used.
Now, is the database perfect? No. If an entry misspells a playwright's name, I didn't get it. I tried to look through some obvious misspellings to get better results, but I couldn't find everything. Similarly, I am not totally sure that theaters that were TCG members in previous years, say, 2002 but aren't now are counted.
Still, warts and all, there is a very different picture that emerges looking at it through this particular lens, one I'll have more to say about later. Hopefully tomorrow.
It's going to take a long time to get the numbers from tabulating comprehensive spreadsheets. Like I said, there's a group of us trying to coordinate an effort to get it done. I just thought in the meantime, giving some rough snapshots would be helpful to the conversation. In the spirit of openness, though, I didn't want their to be any doubts about the source of the information and what some potential limitations are. I care about theatre in America and want the stubborn facts that we are looking at to be as correct, and the picture we view to be as complex and filled in as possible.
If you would like to do some searching of the database yourself, click here. Any other potential issues with the information generated, please drop a line in the comments... on a side note: I've really enjoyed this conversation so far. I like that Terry is trying to figure out what this all means too, I've enjoyed how excited people are in the comments, I've loved Scott looking at the data to see what emerges from it, and I've especially liked that people are being civil, even when they disagree. Thanks, guys and gals.