The following is an interim analysis of the plays in the upcoming 2012-13 theater season in DC. They have been analyzed along three key lines: gender, race, and geography. The intent of the analysis is to provide an accurate demographic breakdown of the plays being produced… and, hopefully, to provide accurate data around which to orient ongoing conversations about the ways in which the theaters in the DC area are serving their constituents and communities. This will, I hope, become an annual analysis that will track the progress (or the lack thereof) of several key indices.
Please note the word “interim” in the above paragraph. As of the drafting of this initial analysis, only 20 of the region’s 80+ theaters have announced their seasons: a statistically significant (I believe) sample, but by no means a fully accurate one. Of particular importance: given that larger theaters tend to be more likely to announce their seasons earlier in the year — as well as the fact that some smaller companies do not announce any seasons at all — this analysis is a bit skewed toward bigger institutions, though it does include a very diverse cross-section. In any event, this analysis will be updated periodically to reflect new data as it becomes available — and eventually to provide, in retrospect, an accurate rear-view breakdown of the season.
Finally, before the numbers, a note about process. The data was compiled on a spreadsheet shared via Google docs. The primary contributors to the data were Gwydion Suilebhan and Gregg Henry, though the spreadsheet was also reviewed by several other members of the DC-Area Playwrights Group. Any errors that might be discovered, however, are my own responsibility.
- The first significant finding of the data: of the plays currently announced for the upcoming season, 70% were written by men, 22% were written by women, and 9% were devised by ensembles.
- In addition, there are five theaters producing no plays written by women: the Bay Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Rep Stage, Round House, and the Shakespeare Theatre.
- Theaters with notably more balanced seasons include Arena Stage, Theater J, and Woolly Mammoth — though all three slightly favor plays written by men.
- The only theater with a genuinely balanced season consisting of more than three plays: Forum Theatre.
- Several smaller companies with one-, two-, or three-play seasons are also achieving gender balance as well.
- Of the plays that have been announced to date for the upcoming season, 17% were written by playwrights of color.
- Theaters producing no plays by playwrights of color include: the Bay Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Theatre, and Signature Theatre.
- The only theaters with notably more balanced seasons: Forum Theatre and Woolly Mammoth, both of which are at 50%.
- Of note: several theaters that are likely to exceed that percentage — Gala Hispanic, for example — have not yet announced their seasons.
- According to the 2010 Census, the population of Washington, DC is 38.5% white, 61.5% people of color. (I was unable to find a regional demographic breakdown.)
- Of the plays that have been announced to date for the upcoming season, 15% were written by DC-area residents or devised by DC-based ensembles.
- Theaters (with four-play or larger seasons) exceeding that percentage include Forum Theatre, Round House, Synetic, Theater J, and Woolly Mammoth.
- A few smaller companies with one-, two-, and three-play seasons have exceeded that percentage as well.
- Theaters producing no plays written by DC-area playwrights include Arena Stage, Bay Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Ford’s Theatre, Rep Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, Signature Theatre, and Studio Theater.
There are many different stories that can and (I hope) will be told about this analysis. I will be telling my own in the coming weeks (inspired by Polly Carl’s brilliant HowlRound essay), but only after others have had time to weigh in and a bit more data’s been gathered. In advance of that future blog post, though, I wanted to single out Theater J and Woolly Mammoth for a bit of praise, given that they’ve scored relatively highly in two of the above three analyses, and to level a heaping dose of kudos on Forum Theatre and its artistic director Michael Dove for having set the bar admirably high for 2012-13 and beyond. The community as a whole has a long way to go; if one season can be taken as any indication, however, Forum Theatre has already arrived.