HomeAAPI ActorsAAPAC report reveals racial inequities in NYC theaters

AAPAC report reveals racial inequities in NYC theaters

Photo of Broadway theater by Shuba

A report released by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition found that Asian Americans were the only group to see a decrease in representation in New York City theaters with during the 2017-2018 season, reports Playbill.

The report, which is available on AAPAC’s website, examined employment statistics by race of actors, writers, composers, directors, and other staff in Broadway and 18 of the city’s largest nonprofit theater companies, according to American Theatre.

AAPAC states that although the data shows some improvement in Black, Indigenous and People of Color representation, BIPOC artists are still vastly underrepresented in theaters.

AAPAC observed that only 38.5 percent of theater roles were filled by BIPOC actors, despite BIPOC making up 67.8 percent of the city’s population.

Of the total number of performers, 23.2 percent were Black, 6.9 percent were Asian American, 6.1 percent Latinx, 2 percent MENA, and .2 percent Indigenous. The percentage of Asian Americans performers dropped from 7.3 percent in the 2016-2017 season.

AAPAC also noted troubling inequities among BIPOC writers and directors.

“The 2017-18 season saw the first Asian American woman playwright produced on Broadway, Young Jean Lee, and a story set entirely in the Middle East, The Band’s Visit, which went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical,” AAPAC said in a statement. “Such examples often serve as the poster child of diversity for a particular season, encouraging a false sense of progress. But when we look at the season as a whole, larger patterns of inequities are revealed, deeply entrenched within the system.”

The report found that 80 percent of writers and 85.5 percent of directors were White, over double their population percentage in the city.

On Broadway, 100 percent of shows written by BIPOC writers or about BIPOC experiences were headed by White directors.

Additionally, the four shows written by Asian Americans on Broadway all had a majority-White cast.

“It raises the question: Is there pressure on BIPOC writers to center White lives in order to be produced—especially on Broadway?” reads the report.

The report also found that more racially diverse productions are often performed on the theater companies’ smaller stages, implying a potential disparity in the salaries of BIPOC artists.

Of the 18 non-profit theater companies included in the report, only five had a majority of BIPOC performers. Ars Nova was found to be the most diverse — its production of KPOP alone accounted for 20 percent of the employment of Asian American performers during the season.

“We believe that a robust theatre economy should reward, not devalue difference,” AAPAC states in the report. “It’s a question that bears keeping in mind as we move forward: which stories are more valued and why?”

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