A coalition of theater owners, producers, union leaders, creators, and casting directors within Broadway released a new diversity, equity, and inclusion plan designed to increase “diversity” within the theater community by hiring more black employees.
The “New Deal for Broadway” details both short-term and long-term goals aimed at adding diversity to cast and crews on Broadway. Many of the short-term goals are intended to be implemented before Broadway’s scheduled fall reopening.
According to The Associated Press, the plan emerged after a summit organized by Black Theatre United.
The coalition of signees made a slew of commitments, including a promise to “never assemble an all-white creative team on a production again.” Other changes include providing artists with visual disabilities Braille audition materials, posting the new diversity policy in theater lobbies and audition rooms, and putting an end to the discrimination of people based on their hair texture.
“We commit to hiring creative talent from historically excluded and underrepresented groups in our industry on every new creative team, regardless of the subject matter of the show,” the document reads. “Just as we are all committed to create safe environments free from discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying, we are committed to create environments that are equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible and in which everyone has a sense of belonging.”
Directors and authors specifically promised to ensure that creative teams have a “critical mass of Black artists.” According to the policy, “Critical mass is defined as enough that no one feels like a spokesperson for their group and enough that the diversity within the group is visible to others.”
Dynasties behind most of Broadway’s theatre houses, including Shubert, Nederlander, and Jujamcyn, promised to rename at least one of their theaters after a black artist.
According to Broadway’s “New Deal,” signees must implement mandatory training programs for everyone in a production, including house staff, ushers, and box office employees. The training must be overseen by a full-time Chief Diversity Officer or an employee with an equivalent title. Other duties of the Chief Diversity Officer include “diversifying the theatre organization’s staff.”
Productions must also hire a “racial sensitivity coach” for shows that “raise racial sensitivities.”
“For shows that raise racial sensitivities, we will appoint a racial sensitivity coach whose role is akin to an intimacy coach. Just as an intimacy coach helps cast and crew navigate physical intimacy issues, the racial sensitivity coach will help cast and crew navigate the racial dynamics of the production,” the document reads.
The policy polices the word choice for casting calls as well. When describing voice requirements, casting calls must describe the style of the show instead of the style of the voice. Examples of an inappropriate casting call would read, “Need singers with a big soulful voice.” An appropriate casting call would read, “The score features a lot of gospel numbers.”
Endorsements of the new policy range from producers’ groups such as The Broadway League and labor organizations such as the Actor’s Equity Association, and Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Local 798.
The document states that the commitments outlined are “not legally enforceable and do not give rise to any cause of action.”