DIVERSITY ON BROADWAY
(A change has come)
Photo taken by: Denys Nevozhai
If you have been following the surge of Broadway news that has made its way into the national spotlight, then you certainly know that Broadway has been under intense scrutiny. Recent headlines have exposed the industry for their lack of diversity both on and off the stage. Are you surprised? Neither am I. This past year has been historical. Though BLM has been around for years, the past year has seen a significant shift in the movement and what it means for society on a broader scale. Protesters have demanded for a more diverse and equitable society and they refuse to take no for an answer.
It comes as no surprise then that along with the film and TV industries, the theater industry has also been dissected and exposed for what it truly is -- overwhelmingly white. The statistics don’t lie - in an article written in the New York Times, the 2017-2018 season only saw 20 percent of shows on and off broadway that were created by people of color, while two thirds of these roles were filled by white actors. Ninety -four percent of directors were white.
A recent example I can think of can be seen in Radha Blank’s The Forty Year Old Version. Loosely based on her own life as a black playwright, Rhada’s play is picked up by a white producer who likes the story, but not enough to leave it as is. Throughout the play's production the black characters are minimized as merely caricatures of the black South. Though just one example, this story resonates with many BIPOC artists and creators who too often bend their artistic vision to fit the expectations of white producers.
Change is on the horizon. The Broadway League has hired its first Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Her name is Gennean Scott and her contributions to the theater industry will shift the discourse surrounding diversity on Broadway for years to come. Scott has over twenty years of experience in the field and as a woman of color is passionately dedicated to the mission of creating more diverse and inclusive environments. Scott represents the beacon of hope for many BIPOC artists and creators who need a voice rooting for and supporting them from inside the gates of the exclusive white club called Broadway. Her role will undoubtedly change the course of Broadway history and this is certainly only the beginning.