The Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) has released its latest demographics report for actors working on and Off-Broadway. The report tallies artists hired for the 2016-17 season. For the first time ever, AAPAC has also collected demographic data for playwrights and directors. They’ve found that 86.8 percent of all shows produced were by white playwrights and 87.1 percent of all directors hired were white. In addition, 33 percent of all available roles went to “minority actors” (defined as actors of color or those with a disability).
AAPAC has demographic reports from the 2006-07 season onward and during that first season, minority actors were only hired for 15 percent of all available roles in New York City.
“I’m grateful to AAPAC for their continued partnership in collecting, analyzing, and presenting the data in this essential annual report — the only of its kind,” says our CEO & President Heather Hitchens. “Understanding this information is an essential first step in achieving our shared goal of a fairer and more inclusive theater ecology.”
“With the help of the Wing’s Diversity Committee, led by our chair David Henry Hwang,this report has been expanded to include playwrights, composers, lyricists, and directors, thus providing a much more expansive view of the state of our community vis-à-vis fair representation.
This issue is central to the Wing’s mission, and we look forward to our continued work with the theater community in order to make lasting progress across our industry, on stage and off.”
To Pun Bandhu, an actor and a member of the AAPAC steering committee, the new numbers, while not ideal, mark “a huge improvement from when we first started,” he says. “What’s been really great to see is how individual theatre companies have transformed their numbers and have really taken diversity to heart, not only because it’s now part of a national conversation, but there really do seem to be expectations—audiences now are looking for more diverse fare.”
Demographically, African American performers received 18.6 percent of roles, Asian Americans received 7.3 percent, Latinx received 5.1 percent, Middle Eastern/North African received 1.7 percent, Native Americans received 0.1 percent and performers with disabilities received 0.5 percent. Those actors also fared better Off-Broadway, receiving 37 percent of all roles Off-Broadway versus 29 percent of roles on Broadway.
And while the writers and directors hired also skewed white, the gender disparity was stark as well: 75.4 percent of all plays written were by men, and 68.2 percent of all directors were men (this lines up with similar numbers released by the League of Professional Theatre Women). AAPAC also counted composers and lyricists, which they included within the playwright tally.