This year’s analysis of the 2016-17 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.
The results below are preliminary. Additional productions will be announced and new data gathered, and we will deliver updated/complete results in the spring of 2017. At present, our data set includes 159 productions at 36 theaters.* If there are any questions about any of our statistical methods, we are happy to entertain them.
Playwright Demographics: Gender
Of the plays slated to be produced in DC during the 2016-17 season, 64.73% were written by men, 34.63% by women, and .64% by authors who do not use binary gender identifications. This represents a backslide from the previous season, which included the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival in DC. For the sake of comparison, here are the numbers from the previous four seasons:
- 2016-17: 64.73% men, 34.63% women, .64% non-binary genders
- 2015-16: 61% men, 39% women
- 2014-15: 71% men, 29% women
- 2013-14: 74% men, 26% women
- 2012-13: 79% men, 21% women
Playwright Demographics: Diversity
The breakdown of the playwrights whose plays are slated to be produced in DC during the 2016-17 season is as follows: 84.28% are white, 9.37% are African American, 4.45% are Latinx, 1.27% are Asian American, and 0.64% are Arab American. Again, this represents a significant backslide in diversity from the previous two seasons:
- 2016-17: 16% playwrights of color
- 2015-16: 19% playwrights of color
- 2014-15: 18% playwrights of color
- 2013-14: 15% playwrights of color
- 2012-13: 14% playwrights of color
Playwright Demographics: Geography
Finally, of the playwrights whose plays are being produced in DC in the 2016-17 season, 6.66% are residents of the DC metropolitan area. In 2015-16, the number was 17%; in 2014-15, the number was 16%; in 2013-14, the number was 13%; and in 2012-13, the number was 16%. Local culture has seen a major reduction in the current season.
Director Demographics: Gender
Of the plays being produced in DC during the 2016-17 season, 60.66% are being directed by men and 39.34% by women. This represents a noticeable increase in gender parity over the previous three seasons:
- 2016-17: 60.66% men, 39.34% women
- 2015-16: 66% men, 33% women, 1% non-binary genders
- 2014-15: 66% men, 34% women
- 2013-14: 67% men, 33% women
Director Demographics: Diversity
The breakdown of the directors in the 2016-17 season is as follows: 83.05% are white; 11.44% are African American; 3.81% are Latinx; and 1.69% are Asian American. These numbers represent a modest increase in diversity among directors:
- 2016-17: 17% directors of color
- 2015-16: 15% directors of color
- 2014-15: 13% directors of color
- 2013-14: 13% directors of color
Director Demographics: Geography
Finally, of the directors included in the 2016-17 season, 69.23% are residents of the DC metropolitan area. In the 2015-16 season, that number was 67%; in the 2014-15 season, the number was 72%; and in the 2013-14 season, the number was 75%. These numbers suggest only modest fluctuation across the previous four years.
Of the plays being produced in DC in the 2016-17 season: 17.09% will be having their world premieres; 8.23% will be having their second or third productions; and of the remaining plays, 58.23% were written by living playwrights and 16.45% by dead playwrights.
Another way to consider the same data points: in the 2016-17 season, 25.32% 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 2015-16 season, that number was 43%; in the 2014-15 season, that number was 27%; and in 2013-14, that number was 21%. The significant increase between the 2014-15 season and the 2015-16 season was probably the result, in part, of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, which included only world premiere productions. This season’s numbers reflect a return to more typical percentages during a non-Festival season.
At the same time, a full 83.55% of the plays being produced in the 2016-17 season were written by living playwrights. In the 2015-16 season, that number was 86%; in the 2014-15 season, that number was 78%; and in the 2013-14 season, that number was 77%. The data indicate that while the current season may contain fewer world premieres, they have not been replaced in the DC theater season by plays authored by dead playwrights.
* The theaters in our analysis currently include: 1st Stage, Adventure, Ambassador, Arena, Constellation, Creative Cauldron, Doorway Arts, Faction of Fools, Field Trip, Flying V, Folger, Ford’s, Forum, Gala Hispanic, Hub, Imagination Stage, Keegan, Kennedy Center, Longacre Lea, Metro Stage, Molotov, Mosaic, Next Stop, Nu Sass, Olney, Pallas, Pinky Swear, Quotidian, Rep Stage, Rorschach, Round House, Scena, Shakespeare, Signature, Solas Nua, Spooky Action, Studio, Taffety Punk, Theater Alliance, Theater J, Toby’s, Unexpected Stage, Venus, Washington Stage Guild, Welders, Woolly Mammoth, WSC Avant Bard.