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February 11, 2013


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That Fuzzy Bastard

Gets interesting when you drill down a little, courtesy of this:
US population: White: 78%, Black: 16%, Asian: 5%, Native American: 1.2%, Hispanic: 16%
According to the article:"African American actors were cast in 16 percent of all roles, Latino actors in 3 percent and Asian American actors in 3 percent"
So African-Americans are represented on NY stages at exactly the number they are in the U.S. population (though not in NYC's), Asians are slightly under-represented, and Latinos are *massively* under-represented. Which makes the problem a bit more specific.

Gwydion Suilebhan

I think you mean "actors of color," not "playwrights of color," in the first sentence, no?

Nevertheless: yes.

99 Seats

(I tried posting this from my phone, but I think it didn't go through.)

Fuzzy Bastard, the aside about the demographics of NYC is actually key to this discussion. Theatre is a local phenomenon and the discussion here is the diversity of NYC stages, not national stages. According to the 2010 census, the African-American population of NYC is at 26%, the Latino population is at 27% and the Asian population is at 9%*. The white population? 44%. The theatres listed here are non-profit, Off-Broadway theatre that are supposedly serving their community. In terms of reflecting the diversity of New York City, by and large, they are clearly failing. The problem is already plenty specific enough. There are not enough people of color on NYC stages.

99 Seats

*I almost forgot: Bloomberg is also contesting the results of the survey, particularly in areas of Queens that are known as being incredibly diverse, so the final numbers may actually be even higher.


interesting article, thank you. And while I agree with you I will add an HOWEVER
"I sympathize. I get that, for example, it's very hard for white writers to write characters of color and that there's a lot of justifiable fear about doing it wrong"

I think that is a small even MINOR part of the problem. More at issue is NON specific roles-that is the larger issue. If the character is listed as Male 35 and no race or ethnicity is mentioned it can and should be anyone capable of performing the role.
George, Martha, Nick and Honey could be...ANYONE.

Nathan in London

Interesting last sentence...

"Minority actors were more likely to be hired by commercial productions than not-for-profit theater companies."

David Marcus

You are spot on in saying that we need to make a self conscious effort to change, but let me tell you, I've been doing theater for 15 years and this has been an issue at the forefront the entire time. People want this change, and are willing to engage in self examination, but that won't fix the problem. The solution will hurt a lot more. It is the basic infrastructure of theater, not its subject matter that keeps the form from reaching its goals of inclusivity. The model of the big non profit theater is THE major hurdle that stands in the way. The other day I wrote up a blog post about this, focused on Clayton Lord's findings about audience diversity (or lack thereof) in the Bay area. Our major arts orgs are designed and sustained by a model that will never diversify, we need a more level playing field, not soul searching from the wealthy white people who decide what theater will and should be. Its interesting, Sherri Kronfeld responded to my post by citing Signature as an important exception, not sure I agree, but your stats certainly support her argument. You can check out the post here. http://www.spotlightright.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-non-profit-theater-will-never.html

Scott Walters

I think 99 put it well. However, I'd add this: add up the following numbers and then tell me how reliable you think this source is: "US population: White: 78%, Black: 16%, Asian: 5%, Native American: 1.2%, Hispanic: 16%"



Ha! Good point. my guess is that is caused by not differentiating between hispanic and non-hispanic whites or allowing folks to check more than one box.

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