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 DC-based theater artist Olivia Haller, the analysis covers plays that opened between September 1, 2016 and August 31, 2017. The results below represent the final calculation for the 2016-17 season. The data set includes 188 productions at 48 theaters, all of which are listed below.
Playwright Demographics: Gender
Of the plays slated to be produced in DC during the 2016-17 season, 67.52% were written by men, 31.95% by women, and .53% 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: 67.52% men, 31.95% women, .53% non-binary gender identities
- 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: 85.04% are white, 8.87% are African American, 3.71% are Latinx, 1.59% are Asian American, and 0.66% are Arab American. Again, this represents a significant backslide in diversity from the previous two seasons:
- 2016-17: 14.96% 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, 8.70% 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, 61.56% are being directed by men and 38.44% by women. This represents a noticeable increase in gender parity over the previous three seasons:
- 2016-17: 61.56% men, 38.44% 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: 87.85% are white; 8.56% are African American; 2.49% are Latinx; and 1.10% are Asian American. These numbers represent a modest increase in diversity among directors:
- 2016-17: 12.15% 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, 71.82% 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: 18.62% will be having their world premieres; 9.58% will be having their second or third productions; and of the remaining plays, 54.26% were written by living playwrights and 17.54% by dead playwrights.
Another way to consider the same data points: in the 2016-17 season, 28.20% 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 82.46% 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, Ally, Arena, Constellation, Convergence, Creative Cauldron, Faction of Fools, Flying V, Folger, Ford’s, Forum, Gala Hispanic, Hub, Imagination Stage, Keegan, Kennedy Center, Longacre Lea, Metro Stage, Monumental, Mosaic, Next Stop, Nu Sass, Olney, Pallas, Pinky Swear, Quotidian, Rep Stage, Restoration Stage, Rorschach, Round House, Scena, Shakespeare, Signature, Solas Nua, Spooky Action, Studio, Taffety Punk, Theater Alliance, Theater J, Theatre Prometheus, Toby’s, Unexpected Stage, Venus, Washington Stage Guild, Welders, Woolly Mammoth, and WSC Avant Bard.