New York theater leaders agree on a New Deal for Broadway

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NEW YORK (AP) – A broad Broadway coalition of theater owners, producers, labor leaders, creators and casting directors have crafted a series of reforms and commitments for the theater industry to ensure the equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

The New Deal for Broadway emerged following an industry leaders summit hosted by Black Theater United earlier this year. It describes short-term reforms – to be implemented before Broadway reopens this fall – and long-term over the next several years.

“Just as we are all committed to creating safe environments free from discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying, we are committed to creating environments that are fair, diverse, inclusive, accessible and in which everyone has a sense of belonging,” indicates the document. The focus is on members of the black theater.

Changes range from the abstract – ‘pushing for more diversity’ – to the specific, such as the fact that visually impaired artists are offered hearing material in Braille and that the Shubert, Nederlander and Jujamcyn channels have at least one of their theaters named after a black artist. (Jujamcyn already has the August Wilson Theater).

“We had meetings for six months with everyone in the industry and we pretty much formed this together. We knew what we wanted and what we wanted to change, ”LaChanze, Tony Award winner and founding member of Black Theater United, told The Associated Press Monday before the document was released.

“It’s the ground. It’s not the ceiling. This is just the start for us. We hope that with this document it will have a ripple effect throughout our industry for all other members of the community.

Directors and writers have agreed to insist on diversity endorsements – to include members of under-represented communities – in all new contracts they work on and “will never again bring an all-white creative team together on a production.” . The producers agreed to expand the talent pool to more diverse candidates.

One thing the groups all agree on is that they will each adopt an “EDIAB policy” – which represents equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging – and post it on sites. Web, theater halls and audition rooms, explaining it to everyone before rehearsals begin and mandate his training. But what this exact policy will be remains to be determined by each group.

“Each organization is going to create their own policy which we will monitor to make sure it is in line with the New Deal,” said LaChanze. “We are not the ones who write what the policy will be. We have established guidelines on what to include, but each company must provide the correct language. ”

The New Deal for Broadway has been endorsed by many of Broadway’s biggest organizations and individuals, from the producer group The Broadway League to the Actor’s Equity Association and Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Local 798.

The biggest theater owners – the Nederlander Organization, Jujamcyn Theaters, Shubert Organization and Disney Theatrical Productions – are on board, along with casting agencies like The Telsey Office and Tara Rubin Casting, as well as playwrights like Lynn Nottage and Doug Wright. , and composers like Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Jeanine Tesori.

The unions have agreed to appoint a full-time diversity director. Casting agents have agreed to remove “stereotypical language”. And the producers “will commit to hiring creative talent from groups historically excluded and under-represented in our industry on every new creative team, regardless of the subject of the show.”

The application will be conducted by a committee made up of Black Theater United and members of each governing group who are signatories. Blatant violations could result in parts of the document being deleted, LaChanze said.

Plain black theater was formed in response to the wave of national unrest over racial injustice that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. It has hosted town halls on activism, increased census participation, and developed mentorship programs for aspiring young black theater artists. In addition to LaChanze, its founding members include Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, Norm Lewis and Vanessa Williams.

Broadway data points to vast inequalities. According to the annual study “The Visibility Report: Racial Representation on NYC Stages”, nearly 80% of writers on Broadway and non-Broadway were white, as were 85.5% of directors in the 2017-18 season, the most recent period analyzed.

On stages, over 61% of all roles in New York City went to white actors, a rate double the white population in New York City. Creator data is even more skewed: In the 2018-19 theatrical season, 91% of Broadway’s creative slots were occupied by white creators.

LaChanze said Floyd’s murder and protests last summer prompted the industry to change. “Everyone wanted us to go back to the theater, not like we left off,” she said.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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