REPRESENT-ASIAN | York Theatre, CSC, Primary Stages, Roundabout, MCC least diverse NYC theatres, according to AAPAC study

NEW YORK CITY |  Thanks to its seasons devoted to August Wilson and David Henry Hwang, Signature Theatre of New York City was found to be the most diverse New York company, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) reported in its annual report, entitled “Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages,” which was released today.

Unfortunately, most New York companies are not in the business of staging retrospectives. They are frequently stagers of revivals or of new work. For complicated reasons, they fail in hiring diverse actors in their casts.

The second most diverse company in terms of actors they employ, Atlantic Theatre, actually shot up the ranks, an improvement from last year’s AAPAC report which stated that this important company, founded by David Mamet and his actor-friends, had been one of the least diverse. This is certainly a welcome bit of news, because the Atlantic is one of New York’s most significant companies. Kudos to the Atlantic!

The rest of the AAPAC list is as follows:

MOST DIVERSE
1. SIGNATURE THEATRE (46.4%)
2. ATLANTIC THEATRE COMPANY (29.5%)
3. VINEYARD THEATRE (28.6%)
4. PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS (27.8%)
5. NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP (25%).

LEAST DIVERSE
1. YORK THEATRE COMPANY (0%)
2. CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY (2.9%)
3. PRIMARY STAGES (5.6%)
4. ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY (6.1%)
5. MCC THEATRE (7.7%)

The report also tracks the number of minority actors cast in roles that are not racially-specific (also known as non-traditional casting). AAPAC sees this number as an indicator of “the openness of the industry.”

“Only 10% of all roles received by actors of color were not defined by the color of their skin,” AAPAC’s press release stated.

Theater companies with the highest percentage of roles cast non-traditionally this past season are:

MOST INCLUSIVE CASTING
1. PUBLIC THEATRE (19.2%)
2. THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (13.3%)
3. MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB (13%)
4. SECOND STAGE COMPANY (12.5%)
5. VINEYARD THEATRE (7.1%)

A personal comment:
AAPAC’s press release, reproduced in its entirety below, is more than just an indictment of the so-called “nobleness” of the nonprofit resident theater in New York City or the failure of Broadway.  This AAPAC press release represents the absolute nadir of the state of investigative or enterprise arts journalism in the U.S., in my opinion.

In an ideal world journalists — and not artists — should be in the business of researching and reporting these sort of facts. As representatives of the fourth estate, journalists are supposed to be the most non-prejudicial among the lot. Investigative journalists, I feel, should be the only objective reporters of these sort of statistics.

Unfortunately, arts journalism in the U.S. has been completely devastated in the age of the Internet.  (Not that it was so enlightened in th age of print dinosaurs.) Moreover, the tenets of good journalism are not always the provenance of even non-profit arts publications who are beholden to their member theaters.

The fact that a coalition of artists has had found it necessary to take the New York theater industry to task speaks of the woeful state of arts journalism in our country.

"RepresentAsian" poster of AAAPAC: Asian American Performing Arts Coalition

“RepresentAsian” poster of AAAPAC: Asian American Performing Arts Coalition

Most arts journalists today are either out-of-a-job or under-funded or completely ignored by philanthropic foundations that could have afforded them the investigative funds to produce this sort of report. Don’t expect places like Pro Public to take on the arts any time soon. Mainstream publications such as the New York Times, the New Yorker or New York Magazine that have historically covered the New York theater have instead other priorities in mind (most reviewing the final product). In fact, arts journalists have generally been abandoned by their own journalistic brethren, especially professional journalistic organization or critic associations that are better positioned to argue for funding to create these kinds of reports. Let’s not even get to what the NEA can’t do.

Arts journalists and critics who are still employed are either too lazy or too scared to lose their jobs or too under-funded or too arrogant to see that it is actually in their purview to gather these sort of necessary statistics. As a result, Asian American actors have had to put themselves in an untenable position, as the AAPAC members have, to take matters in their own hands and therefore to put their own working lives and already precarious careers under the line in order to compile these statistics just to argue the gross inequities of the New York theater industry.

The issue here is not outright evil or rampant discrimination by New York producers and nonprofit groups. The real issue here is a failure of imagination so tragic that it is not obvious to everyone concerned.  Nonprofit service organizations might be better positioned to conduct these sort of researches.  Instead their executive directors have outright failed in their advocacy in behalf of diversity in the U.S. Frequently there is a severe failure of nerve among these organizations’ (mostly white) executive directors who fear that they might lose funding or member theaters’ financial support if they air the sort of inequities that AAPAC has raised in its recent report.

Moreover, the editors of the house organs of these very same organizations clearly exhibit a staggering failure of nerve and imagination. If these publications aren’t exercising their journalistic responsibility to investigate the state of diversity in the New York theater, who will? Instead their collective silence has historically been deafening. Their silence has resulted in deeper inequities in the theater industry — the true message of AAPAC’s press release reprinted below.

And if they are not silent on the subject, their response is, well, to organize a conference — in short, to take no real action.

In lame editorials, they will publicly say something like, Diversity is our core value and a core priority in our strategic plan. But what exactly are they doing? Well, this effort is about self-reflection and study, they will say. It is also about the practical matter of doing something, they will write.

Doing something? Like what? Well, they will hold a conference, in which diversity will be one area of focus!

In other words, they will do nothing except to organize a yak-fest where theater people can publicly grand-stand and talk, and talk, and talk some more, about how diversity in the theater is, well, important.

All the endless and lame chatter is the “strategic plan.”

Because these service organizations actually don’t have one. (Probably because they are not led by people of color. They do have publicity people who make them look like they have people of color in their employ.)

Sadly, in our present U.S. culture, truth and journalism are not valued very highly. Since the economic recession of 2008, arts journalists and critics are the first professionals whose jobs are slashed from the newsroom. And so we deserve the dismal arts journalism that we do get.

I commend members of AAPAC for putting themselves on the line. By annually tracking the state of diversity in the New York theater and by annually releasing their findings in such a public way, AAPAC deserves a medal for their bravery, their rigorous research and their sheer chutzpah.

More power to AAPAC. And may true diversity reign in the American theater. – randy gener, in the theater of One World

HERE IS THE FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM AAPAC RELEASED TODAY:

The Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) released its annual report, “Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages,” detailing the ethnic distribution of actors hired this past theater season on Broadway and at the top sixteen not-for-profit theater companies in New York City. It is the only publicly available report of its kind.

In the 2011-2012 season, African American actors were cast in 16% of all roles, Hispanic American/Latino actors in 3%, and Asian American actors in 3% (others, including Arab American/Middle Eastern and Native American actors, comprised 1%). Caucasian actors filled 77% of all roles and continued to be the only ethnicity to over-represent compared to their respective population size in New York City and the Tri-State area.

For the second year in a row, the not-for-profit sector lagged far behind the commercial (Broadway) sector when it came to hiring minorities. Minority actors filled 25% of all roles on Broadway for the past two years, the highest percentage in the six years studied in the report. African American representation hit a six year high this past season at 19%. Though far behind, Asian Americans increased a percentage point over the previous year to 3% which was also a six year high for Broadway.

In contrast, the non-profits, which had once consistently hired more actors of color than the commercial sector (setting a high water mark of 27% during the 08/09 season), has fallen below the industry average of 20% for the second year in a row, landing at 19% this past year. Asian American actors have been at their lowest point, 2%, for three years in a row within the non-profit sector. This is a substantial drop from where they were six and five years ago (4% and 7% respectively).

The following are this year’s rankings for the most and least diverse amongst the sixteen companies based on percentages of actors of color employed:

MOST DIVERSE
1. SIGNATURE THEATRE (46.4%)
2. ATLANTIC THEATRE COMPANY (29.5%)
3. VINEYARD THEATRE (28.6%)
4. PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS (27.8%)
5. NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP (25%).

LEAST DIVERSE
1. YORK THEATRE COMPANY (0%)
2. CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY (2.9%)
3. PRIMARY STAGES (5.6%)
4. ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY (6.1%)
5. MCC THEATRE (7.7%)

The report also tracks the number of minority actors cast in roles that are not racially-specific (Non-Traditional Casting) as an indicator of the openness of the industry. Only 10% of all roles received by actors of color were not defined by the color of their skin. The theatre companies with the highest percentage of roles cast non-traditionally this past season are:

MOST INCLUSIVE CASTING
1. PUBLIC THEATRE (19.2%)
2. THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (13.3%)
3. MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB (13%)
4. SECOND STAGE COMPANY (12.5%)
5. VINEYARD THEATRE (7.1%)

The full report is available for download on the AAPAC website: www.AAPACnyc.org

ABOUT AAPAC: The Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC) was formed in 2011 by a group of American actors of Asian descent to expand the perception of Asian American performers in order to increase their access to and visibility on New York City’s stages. In addition to publishing the only publicly available statistics on ethnic diversity in mainstream New York theatre, AAPAC engages in consciousness raising around issues of difference and access to equal casting opportunities by hosting symposia and roundtables as well as through outreach and dialogue to specific theatre companies. AAPAC has led and advised on several international campaigns this past year surrounding Asian impersonation and exclusionary casting practices, most recently against the Roundabout Theatre Company and its Broadway production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” AAPAC is actively working with its allies within the industry to create change, including being a participant in the Broadway Diversity Summit, a dialogue organized by the Broadway League bringing together the unions and organizations working within the Broadway space.

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One thought on “REPRESENT-ASIAN | York Theatre, CSC, Primary Stages, Roundabout, MCC least diverse NYC theatres, according to AAPAC study

  1. Pingback: NOPASSPORT PRESS | New Dramatists artistic director publishes writings from inside American theater | in the theater of One World

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