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White Actors and Directors Still Dominate Broadway Stages, Report Finds

White actors, writers and directors still dominate Broadway stages, according to an annual report released on Wednesday by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition in partnership with the American Theater Wing.

About 20 percent of shows in the 2017-18 season on Broadway and Off Broadway stages were created by people of color, the report found. Nearly two-thirds of roles were filled by white actors on Broadway, and about 94 percent of directors were white.

The study examined the city’s 18 largest nonprofit theaters, as well as all 41 Broadway stages. It is a snapshot of a single season, and varies each time it is done. In the seasons since 2017-18, several shows with casts that feature a high percentage of performers of color — including the musicals “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Tina,” “Hadestown” and “West Side Story,” as well as “Slave Play” and “A Soldier’s Play” — have been staged on Broadway.

The study found that Off Broadway theaters invested as much as six times as much in white actors as they did in actors of color. It noted that a similar gap likely exists on Broadway stages, but it could not say for certain because Broadway theaters do not publish their negotiated salaries.

Approximately 23 percent of roles over all at New York City theaters went to Black actors, 7 percent to Asian-American actors, 6 percent to Latino actors, 2 percent to Middle Eastern or North African actors and fewer than 1 percent to Indigenous actors, according to the report. Latino actors were also more than three times as likely to be cast in a chorus role than as a principal in a Broadway musical.

Last year’s report, which analyzed the 2016-17 season, found that about 87 percent of shows on and Off Broadway had white authors, a proportion that is now roughly 80 percent.

The report comes at a time when institutions are reckoning with how theater must change after the killings of Black men and women by police officers and years of white overrepresentation. Coalitions of theater artists like “We See You, White American Theater” have released demands for theaters to require that at least half of cast and creative teams be made up of people of color and for Tony Awards administrators to appoint a group of nominators in which at least half are people of color.

“As we strive to create a more equitable American theater, it is critical to understand where we are now, in order to chart a path to where we need to go,” Heather Hitchens, the president and chief executive of the American Theater Wing, said in a statement. “It is my hope that my colleagues will use it to guide more intentional and exponential inclusivity and equity.”

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