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Sweeping DEI pledge takes center stage for Broadway

‘The Broadway that opens in September 2021 will not be the same Broadway that closed in March 2020.’

Sweeping DEI pledge takes center stage for Broadway
[Source photo: Kyle Head/Unsplash]

“The Broadway that opens in September 2021 will not be the same Broadway that closed in March 2020.”

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So begins Black Theater United’s A New Deal for Broadway, which aims to diversify all aspects of an industry that’s been sorely lacking in equity for underrepresented workers, ranging from creative teams to performers to stagehands, makeup artists, and others.

The 18-page document, developed in consultation with the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at NYU School of Law, outlines dozens of commitments. Among them:

  • Diversity training (separate from any training on discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying) for all sectors involved in productions, including unions.
  • The Shubert Organization, the Nederlander Organization, and Jujamcyn Theatres will each have at least one of their theaters named after a Black artist.
  • Hiring creative talent from historically excluded and underrepresented groups on every new creative team, regardless of the subject matter of the show.
  • For shows that raise racial sensitivities, a racial sensitivity coach will be appointed.
  • Interns will do real hands-on work on productions and will be compensated at no less than the minimum wage and will not displace union jobs.
  • Make improvements necessary to diversify union staff and board membership.
  • Directors and authors will insist on a diversity rider in all new contracts with producers. No all-white creative teams ever again.
  • Diversify casting offices with the goal of achieving a critical mass of Black casting professionals.
  • Diversify all roles of composer, lyricist, and librettist from the developmental phase through the life of a production.
  • Review casting notices before they are posted with the aim of removing, to the best of our abilities, any biased or stereotypical language.

The signatories include Black Theater United founders, such as Billy Porter and Vanessa Williams, as well as organizations ranging from the Actors’ Equity Association, Broadway.com, and Disney Theatrical Group to other production and theater companies. More than 50 individuals signed the pledge, including a host of A-list producers, choreographers, executives, and union leaders.

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“While the focus of this document is on Black individuals,” the authors write, “we hope and expect that the commitments outlined in this document will lead to greater EDIAB for all people in theatre, and we support efforts to achieve equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (EDIAB) reforms in other areas.

You can read the full list of commitments and see the signatories here.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a staff editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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