The Endangered Species Theatre Project’s mission is to bring enjoyment and understanding through live theatre. We do this by: a) giving voice to forgotten plays and playwrights, b) increasing representation of women and other underrepresented artists on the stage, and c) making vital connections between the past and the present.
Our goal is to engage our artists and our community in the universal human experience.
We promise to
Hire at least 50% women identified artists/artisans;
Educate ourselves and become educated and actively involved in color-aware casting as well as casting in the non-binary when possible and opening all casting to the gender/roll a person identifies most with... to increase opportunities for ALL...
and to be a resource for outside arts organizations who want advice and/or to present shows that align with our mission.
Women and other underrepresented artists in the theatre - by the numbers
by Christine Mosere - Artist, Endangered Species (theatre) Project
Why do we need to increase representation of women (especially those over 40) and other underrepresented artists? Put simply... because we cannot build empathy and understanding for ALL through theatre while men (white men) are still 65% of all speaking roles. It is time to see representation on our stages... at least here in Frederick, MD.
I have always heard that film might be cruel to women and other underrepresented artists, but the stage doesn't care how old you are or what you look like! Well... that isn't exactly true when you look at the numbers.
It might be surprising to some to learn what the numbers say. However, I have been in this business in NYC, in Seattle, and now in Frederick, so the data doesn't surprise me.
Actors Equity Association released their first Diversity Study (that spanned 2 years of data) in June of 2017 and it is telling. And although the study speaks of professional productions, semi-pro and non-professional theatres are most often presenting stories originally shown on or Off-Broadway. So... the negative numbers trickles down. Yes, it is a time trickle down theory works.
The study shows:
Women only receive 35% of principal roles (this number decreases even further as women age)
POC make up only 35% of principal roles
And women are still begin paid 10% less on their contracts then their male peers!
Theatre companies NEED to be proactive with inclusive casting. It has to be part of their mission or goals. It can't just be on paper - a smoke screen so to speak -- that says "actors of all ethnicity are encouraged to audition" while continuing to believe that all characters, unless specified, are defaulted to white.
From the AEA Diversity study:
A majority of acting roles in the U.S. are for non-musical plays. The racial breakdown for principal actors in these plays: Caucasians at 66 percent, African Americans at 9 percent, Latinx at 2 percent, and Asians at 2 percent. For principal roles in musicals, Caucasians held 71 percent, African Americans had 8 percent, Latinx had 2 percent, and Asians had 2 percent. There are even fewer people of color in stage management positions, with Caucasians at 74 percent, African American at 2 percent, Latinx at 3 percent, and Asians at 1 percent.
A similar discrepancy was found in LORT contracts. Out of 8,296 LORT play contracts, for principal roles: men made up 61 percent of contracts, while women made up 39 percent.
NOTE: LORT contracts are for regional theater's across the county.
The numbers get very depressing for women over 40 -- even on the stage! In fact, men's careers last significantly longer. And writers, when they do include women 50+ often describe them as "crone" or "witch-like" or "past their prime" and don't use those descriptions for men.
And musical plays, outside of the chorus, are almost as bad!
I decided to be proactive. And I'm just beginning. I do not think that as a white woman, I have the answer. But I do know that I need to get POC in leadership positions (well... once I can pay!) and on committees and I intend to do that! And I also am dedicated to forgotten plays because, interestingly enough, plays with equal representation of women (wonderfully written - well rounded female characters of ALL ages) usually hail from another era.
None of this is to ignore the fact that there are amazing female-identified writers, writing beautiful women of all ages... and we will absolutely have a "yesterday and today" series as we grow.
AEA Diversity Study HERE