Theater News

2019-20 Season: Broadway Was Woefully Behind When It Came to Diversity on Creative Teams

Look at some statistics from the season that got shut down.

A scene from A Soldier's Play on Broadway
A scene from A Soldier's Play on Broadway
(© Joan Marcus)

Not counting concerts and special events, 37 plays and musicals were scheduled to open on Broadway during the 2019-20 season. Of course, many of those productions — 16, all told — either didn't open or were shut down in rehearsals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But in light of this weekend's protests, we decided to take a deep dive into the statistics of the season as it would have been, to see how well represented artists of color were on principal Broadway creative and/or design teams. It should come as no surprise that these disappointing results were found on the Great White Way. (This list does not explore associate directors, choreographers, and designers, which generally feature more artists of color than the title-page creative teams.)

The productions surveyed were
Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Moulin Rouge!, Sea Wall/A Life, Betrayal, The Height of the Storm, The Great Society, Slave Play, Linda Vista, The Rose Tattoo, The Lightning Thief, The Sound Inside, American Utopia, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, The Inheritance, A Christmas Carol, Jagged Little Pill, My Name Is Lucy Barton, A Soldier's Play, Grand Horizons, West Side Story, Girl From the North Country, Six, The Minutes, Hangmen, Company, The Lehman Trilogy, Diana, Take Me Out, Mrs. Doubtfire, Caroline, or Change, Plaza Suite, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, American Buffalo, Flying Over Sunset, Sing Street, Birthday Candles, and How I Learned to Drive.

* Out of 37 shows, only four were written by artists of color. Only one was written by a female-identifying artist.
Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical by Katori Hall
— The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez
A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller

* Of those four, only two were directed by artists of color, both male-identifying.
Slave Play by Robert O'Hara
A Soldier's Play by Kenny Leon

* These two productions are the only shows to feature a principal creative and/or design team that was predominantly of color.
Slave Play featured a set by Clint Ramos, costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting by Jiyoun Chang, and hair and wig design by Cookie Jordan
A Soldier's Play had costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting by Allen Lee Huges, and musical arrangements by Jacinth Greywoode

* Out of 37 shows, 33 principal creative and/or design teams featured two artists of color or fewer.

* If you end the season at Girl From the North Country, the last show to open before the shutdown, 17 out of 21 shows featured two artists of color or fewer on their principal creative and/or design teams.

* Out of the 12 productions transferred from the UK, only two had artists of color on the principal creative and/or design team.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical features a script by Katori Hall
Caroline, Or Change features choreography by Ann Yee and orchestrations by Joseph Joubert

* Five artists of color designed multiple productions.
— Dede Ayite designed costumes for four productions
— Linda Cho designed costumes for three productions
— Clint Ramos designed sets for two productions and costumes for one production
— Toni-Leslie James designed costumes for two productions
— Riccardo Hernández designed sets for two productions

* Out of 37 shows, eight of them cast no artists of color.
Sea Wall/A Life
The Height of the Storm
— The Sound Inside
My Name Is Lucy Barton
The Lehman Trilogy
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Flying Over Sunset

Let's hope this enforced closure of theaters will prompt producers, directors, artistic leaders, and casting teams to rethink their hiring methods in an effort to create greater diversity on Broadway when we return.