After last year’s analysis of the 2012-13 DC theater season, which focused on playwright demographics, I determined to expand the scope of this year’s study and, in whatever ways I could, to make the data more extensive and robust. With that goal in mind, I brought new partners into the mix for this year. Patricia Connelly and David Mitchell Robinson, both playwrights themselves, have a level of comfort with and understanding of data that helped ensure the statistical and intellectual soundness of the endeavor. We’ve collaborated in our research, and we’ve also put our heads together to figure out how to track the upcoming season, what data points to gather, how to make our calculations, and what conclusions we can safely draw.
This year’s analysis of the 2013-14 DC theater season explores more than playwright demographics; we’ve also taken a look at directors. In addition, we’ve investigated the plays themselves as well, though only to a modest extent. For reference, our analysis covers plays that are opening between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014. Wherever possible, the data we’ve presented below have been compared with numbers from last year’s analysis. In some cases, direct comparisons are possible, but in others—because the nature of the analysis has changed—we are only able to make rough approximations. The data, to be perfectly clear, cover 221 productions at 62 theaters.
If there are any questions about any of our statistical methods, we are happy to entertain them.
Of the plays produced in DC in the 2013-14 season, 74% were written by men, 26% by women. By comparison, in the 2012-13 season, 79% of the plays were written by men, 21% by women.
The racial breakdown of the playwrights whose plays were included in DC in the 2013-14 season is as follows: 85% are white, 5% are African American, 6% are Latino, 3% are Asian American, .5% are Arab American, and .5% are multi-ethnic.
By (rough) comparison, in the 2012-13 season, 86% of the playwrights were white and 14% were artists of color; last year we did not segment racial data more specifically than that.
Finally, of the playwrights whose plays are being produced in DC in the 2013-14 season, 14% are residents of the DC metropolitan area. Last year, the number was 16%.
Of the plays being produced in DC in the 2013-14 season, 66% are being directed by men, 34% by women.
The racial breakdown of the directors in the 2013-14 season is as follows: 87% are white; 6% are African American; 5% are Latino; 1% are Asian American; and 1% are multi-ethnic.
Finally, of the directors in the 2013-14 season, 75% are residents of the DC metropolitan area.
No information about directors was gathered in last year’s analysis, so no comparisons can be made.
Play and Production Data
Of the plays being produced in DC in the 2013-14 season: 21% will be having their world premieres; 9% will be having their second or third productions; and of the remaining plays, all of which have had more than three productions, 47% were written by living playwrights and 23% by dead playwrights.
Another way to consider those three data points: 30% of the plays being produced next season are “new,” if we define “new” plays as those receiving their first, second, or third productions. (This is, very roughly speaking, the widely-accepted definition used by the National New Play Network.) A full 77% of the plays being produced next season were written by living playwrights.
In addition, of the plays being produced in DC in the 2013-14 season: 91% will be produced solely by individual DC theaters; 2% will be co-produced by one or more DC theaters; and 7% will be presented as “non-resident” productions by DC theaters.
Finally, of the plays being produced in DC in the 2013-14 season: 72% were written by individual authors; 23% were co-written by up to three authors—typically, though not exclusively, by book writers, composers, and lyricists working collaboratively; and 5% were devised by ensembles.
No data were gathered in any of these areas last season.
David, Pat, and I are pleased to announce that we intend to overhaul the means by which we save data and perform calculations. To date, we have relied on a somewhat clumsy (and rather complex) spreadsheet, shared among three project leads. Beginning next season, we are going to be beta-testing a database that will allow for much more accurate results and a streamlined data-gathering process.
In addition, our hope is that after we’ve spent 12 months working with our database and eliminating any software errors, we’ll be able to share it with colleagues in other cities (some of whom we’ve already begun connecting with) to transform our work from a local, homegrown data-gathering into a nationwide initiative. We are, furthermore, aware that several similar efforts are underway at various levels in the American theater, and our broad hope is also to be able to contribute to those data projects as well.