This semester has been quite a journey for me, in terms of expanding my thinking about diversity and inclusion in theatre. Working towards greater diversity in the performers we see on stage–and in Boston in particular–has long been a drive for me. My wife and I frequently talk about this very topic. As an artist of color, she has to contend with this issue. But has also had a great deal of success as a Boston based artist. In 2013 my wife worked with several Boston theatre companies. But every time we hear about foolishness happening with casting, and the frightening lack of diversity in casting in the US as a whole, we once again dive into why and what we can do to change it.
This semester has served to remind me that the lack of diversity and inclusion in the theatrical conversation is not limited to performers, unfortunately all theatrical roles and responsibilities suffer from under-representation for women and people of color. If nothing else, The Summit in DC brought attention to the woeful dearth of female playwrights currently being produced by major American theatre companies. And an article in the 3/23 Sunday Boston Globe brought home how far Boston has to go to reach parity for the representation of women and artists of color in our theatre community.
Local playwright Patrick Gabridge did an unscientific count of the works produced in the Boston area in the 2013-2014 season. He concluded that only 39% of plays on Boston stages are by women, and 40% of the plays are directed by women. When it comes to numbers for artists of color, the numbers are even worse. According to Gabridge, 11% of plays are by artists of color, and only 10% are directed by artists of color. This is not where we should be–especially since the 2010 Census notes that women make up 52.1% of Boston’s population. On top of that, according to the 2010 Census African-Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, and Asians make up about 50% of Boston’s population (24.4%, 17.5%, and roughly 9%, respectively).
There are steps that can help narrow this representation gap, but it requires buy in from the artistic leadership of Boston Area theatre companies. I know that at Arts After Hours in Lynn, I will make sure to include plays by women and artists of color as a part of my planning for each season–not for a specific slot, but for the season as a whole. Likewise, when conducting searches for directors, designers, etc. I will make sure that my search is inclusive. I am trying to take Erin Quill’s advice to stop talking and start doing.
But sometimes before we can start doing, we need to talk so that we can know what it is that needs to be done. And this is why I am incredibly excited about the conversation that StageSource is attempting to foster for the Boston Theatre Community: Defining Gender Parity Town Hall.
In this Defining Gender Parity Town Hall, we want to have a conversation about what gender parity looks like for our theater community. Where are we now, and what are our future goals? What does “success” look like, and how do we get there?
The Town Hall will take place on Saturday, April 26 at 11:00AM at Boston Playwright’s Theatre. I strongly encourage anyone who would like to see theatre truly represent the social and ethnic make up of the Boston area to attend this gathering. We can help shape the conversation, future goals, and the definition of success.