On June 10, 2021, a new theater research consortium released a resource and collaboration hub to address equity and accountability in theatrical productions. The Counting Together website brings these resources together to provide data to address (if not answer) a wider range of questions. How has theater shared resources and opportunities? Whose stories are being told and who gets to tell them? Whose stories are selected and who is assembling the worlds on stage where they live? The findings of the projects gather in Counting Together look to identify and forge pathways to greater equity and inclusion that will push the field toward a more equitable future.
The Women Count data report series written by Martha Wade Steketee (with Judith Binus research assistance) took up a related challenge almost 10 years ago, with a gender-based analysis. Whose plays are being done, who is directing them, and how many women are being hired for theatrical off-stage roles in New York’s theaters beyond Broadway? The Women Count report series has become part of the national conversation on gender parity in theater, joining a growing cadre of projects from the Kilroys to The Count and many more.
The Counting Together initiative, under the leadership of Todd London of the Dramatists Guild and Luis Castro of the American Theatre Wing began assembling partners in 2019, with the Women Count project as one of the first. The Counting Together Initiative’s evolving mission, inspired by ongoing evidence of systemic exclusion in the theater reported in multiple data projects, is to convene regularly the member groups to report findings collectively and to identify pathways to greater equity and inclusion through narratives in their multiple data reports.
When we gather again to build our theater work rooms and design rooms and rehearsal rooms, we will be guided by the research and perspectives from many, and the lived experiences of many more. We will commit to understanding that in the theater we have a responsibility to count, to recognize, who gets to be part of the worlds we create on stage and off.
Theater makers share an artform and often little else. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, backgrounds, and training experiences crowd the field, yet there can be a narrow field of vision, a dramatic lack of range of types of individuals in the theater-making profession. On university stages, regional theater scenes, Off Broadway and Broadway, in all venues, we need to ask: whose works are produced, who directs, who designs, and who stage manages.
To count is to acknowledge. To count is to see. To count is to value. And when we acknowledge and see and value, when we look at all the roles from writing to directing to designing to stage managing and others, when we report on who is allowed to play these roles, we hold ourselves accountable. It is our belief that when we keep track of who gets to play, who gets to be at the table, we build a more equitable future, together.
These newly collaborating data projects can now seek pathways forward together. We count who we are to see where we can go. By recording the details about who we allow in theater rehearsal rooms, who we hire to design the sets for the stories we tell, who directs all the bodies, who hones the script — we help ensure a more equitable future.
© Martha Wade Steketee (June 13, 2021)