#TheSummit – Seven Initiatives

I love the theatre and I want it to be better.
There are many things that is not doing so well at currently.
One of those is Inclusion.

Tamara Winters, at 2AMt, has a great post up about what the Next Steps need to be following #TheSummit.  (Edit: as does Swim Pony, here.)

Originally, this post was one of the very “10 Things One Dude Thinks All Theaters Must Do To Blah Blah Blah” lists she mentions are not really helpful at this point. So I’ve rewritten this in response to her, in the hopes of contributing more meaningfully.  I totally agree that the next step is to gather information, tools, and stories about what works, and to actually start doing things in addition to continuing the discussion.

I’d like to add to the conversation by proposing some initiatives that might be helpful moving forward.  I’d like to know, from any of you reading this:
-Which of these seem useful to you?  Which seem like they’d be actively unhelpful?
-What would these initiatives need, in order to be fully realized?  How would they have to be undertaken, to make them the most useful?
-Which, if any, should I attempt to tackle myself?  (Note that I have minimal web design skills.)
-Are there any you’d like to take on, or work with me on?
-Are there any other initiatives you’d recommend?


The proposed initiatives:

1) Season Representation Statistics Clearinghouse
A website (or blog post) collecting all the statistics for gender, race parity in ALL the theatre cities, like Gwydion & company have done for DC and Lois did for Vancouver.  Preferably sortable?

2) Classical Play Diversity List
An exhaustive reference list of classical plays by women or non-white writers, or translations/adaptations of classical plays by non-white-men.  This would be a specific supplement to the @LadyPlaywrights list and the forthcoming New Play Exchange, with the intent of making it easier for classics-mission theatres to find diverse plays.

3) Board Member Interview Series
A series of interviews with board members of theatres, about their feelings about all of this Summit conversation.  Because I feel like we never know what they think, and “the board” is somewhat treated like a boogeyman who silently scares off attempts to introduce greater parity.

4) The Summit Follow-Up Interviews
This would be an attempt to sit down with Ryan Rilette, Molly Smith, Paul Tetreault, Eric Schaeffer, and Paata Tsikurishvili and talk to them in more depth about the question of parity in season programming – give them a chance to give longer, detailed, considered responses to the questions that have been raised, if they’re willing.  What they hope the future could look like, what their process is, what their obstacles are.  Could also seek to talk to Peter Marks, Elissa Goetschius, maybe even Michael Kahn – everyone around #TheSummit thing.  More information and conversation, that whole idea.

5) Dream Seasons
A list of possible dream seasons that offer the parity the theatre is lacking.  Maybe in a very general way (“how about a season with all local women playwrights, or a season with all non-white directors?”) or a semi-specific way (“these six plays could work at a contemporary, edgy theatre”) or a super-specific way (“these six ways could work at Theatre X”).

6) A Map of Diverse Theatres
A list (or graphic representation) of theatres that have missions dedicated to plays by some underrepresented group – black theatres, women’s theatres, LGBT theatres, Latino theatres, any other such theatres.  The purpose would be to highlight all the theatres that are almost on a different circuit than the white-male dominated ‘mainstream’ of professional theatres.

7) A Map of the Pipeline
Not satire.  An actual listing (or graphic representation – flowchart?) of the path that plays can take, from whichever MFA programs give their playwrights the necessary connections, to whichever theatres develop them, which agents represent them, and which theatres in NYC or London premiere them, on their way to being produced by Arena and other major regional theatres… and possibly ending up on the most-produced list.  If we know exactly what the paths are, the recognized and accepted sources of the plays that pass all the gates, that could help because we could pressure those institutions in the pipeline for more diversity directly, and because we could identify alternate routes.

Is it confusing if I’m using an inspirational image with multiple #Summits?  (image: Public Domain Pictures)

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think of these ideas.


  1. YES, yes, a thousand times yes. I want all of these and more. We NEED that clearinghouse. We NEED that classical play diversity list (what a killer idea). WE NEED a map of the places doing it right, as well as Dream Seasons to spark everyone’s imagination. Your points about trusting and including your board (instead of assuming they’re the enemy) are SPOT ON.
    And a visualization of the “pipelines” that exist would be amazing.
    If you have the skills to start any one of these, GO TO. I imagine the databases, map, and Dream Season catalog could all be hosted on one platform. I also imagine it is IMMINENTLY crowdfundable–#thesummit made it clear that there’s a lot of people who want and need t his info. Would that same community enthusiastically put their money (even a small amount) where their mouths are to make it happen? Let’s hope so.
    Thank you for this, Brett–a great, great springboard of real, actionable ideas.
    Everybody out there: let’s make this happen!

  2. Valerie Weak · · Reply

    RE: Statistical Clearinghouse – here’s a place to start:

  3. I have a bunch of projects on my plate already, and would LOVE help, but I can supply a lot of the technical skills necessary for the “map of the pipeline” project. I don’t have a clear sense of the data space itself, though, so researching stuff to fill in the pipeline map is something I would definitely want help with.

  4. […] – For some other awesome follow ups to #thesummit look to this from babelwright and this from Tamara […]

  5. Great suggestions. Love them.

    Specifically towards point #1 – I started working on gender stats for Philly last year (with fancy graphs no less) and categorized the results based on three rough income categories. Sadly, largest theaters in town tended to fare the worst. Would be more than happy to export the raw data to anyone wanting to cross pollinate.

    LARGE: http://swimponypa.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/true-story/
    MEDIUM: http://swimponypa.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/middle-of-the-road/
    SMALL: http://swimponypa.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/smaller/

  6. I posted this on Twitter earlier, as well: a dramaturgy MFA/MA candidate could turn #2 into a MONSTER thesis project.
    If there are any grad students out there with a love of theater history and web-design/coding skills, people consider taking this project on; it would be a spectacular resource to have and would benefit the field so much!

  7. Anonymous · · Reply

    Interesting. I think.

  8. Anonymous · · Reply

    So you want to do theatrical work, eh? Well, good luck with that.

  9. Anonymous · · Reply

    Since you love theater, does that mean you love all theaters?

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