CULTURE & ARTS

Women Continue Being Underrepresented In Theater Despite Being Half The Population

A new study shows Off Broadway positions are "overwhelmingly" male-dominated.

Newly published research by the League of Professional Theater Women reflects the gender parity in Off Broadway shows. In research collected for an initiative called "Women Count," Martha Wade Steketee and Judith Binus studied employment in thirteen positions over five years and found that almost all  -- with the exclusion of stage managers and costume designers -- are dominated by men. 

Moreover, of the 22 theaters they considered, only six of them featured 50 percent or more plays by women, including one that is actually called "The Women's Project." Just nine featured 50 percent or more plays directed by women.

Steketee and Binus also charted high and low percentages for each theater-related job between 2010 and 2015, noting that, over the course of the study, only between 22 and 36 percent of set designers and between eight and 16 percent of lighting designers were women (or, as they write in the study, "lighting designers are overwhelmingly men").

So, how can we change things?

"If they aren't already aware that there is an issue, every employer must be made aware that there is an issue," Binus wrote to The Huffington Post in an email.

"Private, confidential conversations need to take place," she said. "One strategy is to put theaters who have complementary strengths and weaknesses in conversation.  Our study is a tool for those theaters to analyze and find those theaters that will best serve that purpose."

Each year, The Kilroys, a "gang of female playwrights and producers" focused on gender parity, compiles a list of recommended plays by women as a tool for those producers who claim plays by women are hard to find.

"We created The List because time and time again we heard that artistic directors would love to produce female playwrights, but were having trouble locating good plays," member Zakiyyah Alexander told HuffPost back in June. "Ultimately, we know it's possible to program an exciting season of theater that reflects the landscape we live in, which is more than just a landscape of men."

It's important that theaters be aware of the statistics and, more importantly, be conscious of their role in the rampant inequality on and off stage.

The entirety of Steketee and Binus's findings are available for your sobering consideration at theaterwomen.org. For more on this all-too-obvious issue, consider HuffPost's past coverage of female playwrights. As they say, all the world's a stage, and apparently the only players that matter are men.

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