The Broadway League, a trade association closest to a governing body that presides over America’s largest theaters, has decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the diversity of the industry in response to the unrest over the nation’s racist injustice.
The league, which includes owners and producers of Broadway theaters and moderators of tours around the country, will hire a company that examines all aspects of the industry – on stage, behind the scenes, and in the many offices that produce drive Charlotte St. Martin, the president and manager of the league.
She said the league could not mandate the participation of other companies and organizations, but its leadership would strongly encourage all affected organizations, including unions and non-profit organizations operating on Broadway, to work with the researchers.
“I think we did a good job on stage and we did a good job at the Tony Awards, but we didn’t do a good job in many of our backstage areas, and when people were frustrated they did it the right to be, ”said St. Martin. “We have to change and we will change.”
The review is one of several measures taken by the League’s board in response to the turmoil about racism that has since confused the country George Floyd was killed in police custody last month in Minneapolis. Many theatrical artists have used social media to describe cases in which they feel that their race has abused them, and some have started new organizations to push for change.
St. Martin said the league had also decided to change its statutes to make it easier for color industry leaders to join their board. In addition, the league will hire a manager to oversee efforts to promote justice, diversity and inclusion. evaluate its 19 existing diversity initiatives; make unconscious bias and anti-racism training mandatory for employees and managers; and offer the training to its members.
The league currently has a board of approximately 50, two of which are black. Both welcomed the changes.
“I am very proud that action is being taken and it is not just about talking,” he said Colleen Jennings rye sack, longtime managing director of Arizona State University Gammage, a large performing arts center whose program includes touring Broadway shows.
“It was taking a long time,” she added. “As wonderful as the field is, I am often the only one in the room.”
Stephen ByrdA Broadway producer who is also on the board of the league described similar experiences. “When I enter a general manager’s office, I don’t see anyone like me. When I go to an audition, I don’t see anyone at the table who looks like me,” he said. “We need new voices.”
The league is a relatively small trade association – it had 37 employees before the pandemic and now has 20 – but it is influential because it is the organ through which theater owners and producers negotiate employment contracts, interact with government officials, and along with the American Theater Wing , oversee the Tony Awards.
Existing diversity programs focus on two areas: developing workers to promote and support colored people who are interested in careers in the industry, and developing audiences to convince colored people to become more frequent theatergoers.
But St. Martin said the current debate about injustice convinced the league leadership that it had to do more.
“There is no question that what we have all just experienced has educated us all,” she said. “We have taken responsibility to ensure that our members change the industry.”
Drew Shade, the founder and creative director of Broadway black, a digital platform that highlights black theater artists active in the industry, welcomed the move, but with caution.
“It sounds like a really great start – a first step,” he said. “But the Broadway League has all the power and it will be interesting to hear how they plan to distribute control and power across the industry. Maybe there is a conversation about what else you can do. “