New Coalition Targets 500% Boost In Employment Of Black Theater Professionals By 2030

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A new organization called Black Theatre Coalition has launched its inaugural program to increase work opportunities for Black theater professionals by at least 500% within the next 10 years.

And the group has hit the ground running, announcing a partnership with the producers of Broadway’s upcoming revival of Steven Sondheim’s Company to initiate 10 paid apprenticeships for young Black men and woman. The Company internships will represent every department of the production, and span the first rehearsal through opening night.

In addition, BTC says three Broadway management companies have pledged to employ four Black general managers when the pandemic shutdown lifts.

BTC also announced plans to present a series of three shows per year in New York City – one original musical, one revival of a musical and one new play – featuring works produced, created, designed and managed by Black artists and executives. The group has partnered in the project with musician Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Cofounded by actor T. Oliver Reid (Hadestown), choreographer Warren Adams (Motown the Musical) and philanthropist Reginald “Reggie” Van Lee to increase Black employment and eradicate racial inequities in American theater, BLC today released a grim accounting of Broadway’s historical regarding Black inclusion.

According to the group’s research, since the first Broadway musical 154 years ago, the industry has produced 3,002 musicals and 8,326 plays, with only 10 Black directors of musicals, 11 Black directors of plays, 17 Black choreographers, and 2 Black lead producers of musicals. Other segments – writers, composers, scenic, lighting, costume, sound, video, music contractors, musical directors, arrangers, orchestrators, hair/wigs/makeup, casting, general management, stage management, company management, public relations and marketing/advertising – range in number from 0 to 5 Black professionals per category.

In a joint statement, Reid, Adams and Van Lee said, “Once we identified just how vast the disparity is between the perceived inclusivity on stage and the utter dearth of Black professionals off stage, we began outlining ways in which we could address and ultimately eradicate this invisible imparity. This outline provided a clear path forward for our organization and our entire industry. It’s high time to end this ‘illusion of inclusion’ by reshaping the theatrical ecosystem for those who have been marginalized by systematically racist and biased power structures that have endured since the dawn of the American theater.”

The group, including Executive Director Afton Battle and Board Member Aaliytha Stevens, has outlined three steps in its inaugural program. As defined by BTC, the steps are:

  • Mobilize. BTC has secured partnerships with top companies and professionals across every major sector of the Broadway ecosystem, including producers, designers, directors, general managers, casting directors, press agents, advertising & marketing executives, booking agents, attorneys, and theater companies. These partnerships are critical to creating, building and implementing BTC’s sustainable program model. These non-Black accomplices have agreed to work with BTC to (1) identify Black candidates for employment in their offices, (2) implement paid intern and mentorship programs for Black Creatives, (3) create paid fellowships and/or create leadership positions in their offices and hire paid Black assistants on future Broadway projects. As an example, there are no Black General Managers working on Broadway. However, when Broadway raises its curtains again, there will be four Black general managers employed in three management companies, a 400% increase of Black professionals, due to the partnerships that BTC has implemented. BTC is also establishing connection initiatives with colleges and universities to create a sustainable pipeline of Black graduates entering the workforce, as well as currently working black professionals who may have access to intern and apprenticeship opportunities for these graduates. We are working with sister organizations, Black Theatre United, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Broadway Serves and others to share resources as needed;
  • Implement. To support recruitment efforts and to provide a comprehensive repository, BTC is building a national database that intends to include every Black, behind-the-scenes theater professional in the United States. This database will serve as Broadway’s resource for locating, contacting and employing Black creatives and executives. As an initial partnership, BTC and the producers of the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s Company have joined forces to implement ten paid positions as apprentices, from producorial to each creative design area, as the show goes back into rehearsals and through opening night. We hope to adopt this model with every Broadway show;
  • Transform. Each year, BTC will present an annual Performance Series with three shows including one original musical, one revival of a musical and one new play. This platform will feature works produced, created, designed and managed by Black artists and executives. This will ensure mentorship for Black theatre professionals at each stage of their careers while delivering powerful and engaging work. New York City will be our stage. As part of this transformation, BTC is honored to be partnered with acclaimed Jazz Impresario Wynton Marsalis from Jazz at Lincoln Center.


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