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DC Theater Demographics: The 2015-16 Season

This year’s analysis of the 2015-16 DC theater season covers playwright and director demographics and the production status of the plays that have been programmed. Completed in collaboration with fellow DC playwright, dramaturg, and actor Olivia Haller, the analysis covers plays that are opening between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. Our data set includes 189 productions at 47 theaters in total. If there are any questions about any of our statistical methods, we are happy to entertain them.

Playwright Demographics

Gender

Of the plays produced in DC in the 2015-16 season, 61% were written by men, 39% by women. There seems to be a clear trend toward increasing gender parity across the previous four years. We attribute the larger 10% growth between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons to the presence of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival in DC during the current year. For the sake of comparison, here are those numbers alongside similar data from the previous three seasons:

  • 2015-16: 61% men, 39% women
  • 2014-15: 71% men, 29% women
  • 2013-14: 74% men, 26% women
  • 2012-13: 79% men, 21% women

 

Race

The racial breakdown of the playwrights whose plays are included in DC in the 2015-16 season is as follows: 81% are white, 7% are African American, 6% are Latino, 2% are Asian American, 3% are Arab American, and 2% are multi-ethnic. While there are no clear patters over the previous three years within individual demographic sub-segments, there does seem to be a very modest overall trend toward diversity/inclusion:

  • 2015-16: 19% playwrights of color
  • 2014-15: 18% playwrights of color
  • 2013-14: 15% playwrights of color
  • 2012-13: 14% playwrights of color

 

Geography

Finally, of the playwrights whose plays are being produced in DC in the 2015-16 season, 17% are residents of the DC metropolitan area. In 2014-15, the number was 16%; in 2013-14, the number was 13%; and in 2012-13, the number was 16%. Generally speaking, the percentage seems to be consistent.

 

Director Demographics

Gender

Of the plays being produced in DC in the 2015-16 season, 66% are being directed by men, 33% by women, and 1% by artists with non-binary gender identifications. After a modest gain in parity between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, parity has remained largely steady during the year in which DC is holding the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. For the sake of comparison, here are those numbers alongside similar data from the previous two seasons:

  • 2015-16: 66% men, 33% women, 1% non-binary gender identifications
  • 2014-15: 66% men, 34% women
  • 2013-14: 67% men, 33% women

 

Race

The racial breakdown of the directors in the 2015-16 season is as follows: 85% are white; 6% are African American; 6% are Latino; 1% are Asian American; 1% are Arab American, and 1% are multi-ethnic. While there are no clear patters over the previous three years within individual demographic sub-segments, there does seem to be a very modest improvement diversity/inclusion:

  • 2015-16: 15% directors of color
  • 2014-15: 13% directors of color
  • 2013-14: 13% playwrights of color

 

Geography

Finally, of the directors included in the 2015-16 season, 67% are residents of the DC metropolitan area. In the 2014-15 season, the number was 72%, and in the 2013-14 season, the number was 75%. The data indicates a significant increase in the use of out-of-town directions during the previous three-year period.

 

Production Data

Of the plays being produced in DC in the 2015-16 season: 33% will be having their world premieres; 10% will be having their second or third productions; and of the remaining plays, 43% were written by living playwrights and 14% by dead playwrights. Another way to consider the same data points: in the 2015-16 season, 43% of the plays appearing on DC stages 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.) In the 2014-15 season, that number was 27%, and in 2013-14, that number was 21%. While the significant increase between the 2014-15 season and the  2015-16 season is probably the result, in part, of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, which includes only world premiere productions, the data from the past three seasons does suggest a clear trend toward the production of new plays.

Furthermore, a full 86% of the plays being produced in the 2015-16 season were written by living playwrights. In the 2014-15 season, that number was 78%, and in the 2013-14 season, that number was 77%. The data seems to suggest, therefore, that the influx of world premieres in the 2015-16 season, due to the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, seems to be coming at the cost of productions of often-produced plays by living playwrights rather than classic plays written by dead playwrights.