Broadway Goes Black

September 15, 2011  |  

(USA Today) — In recent years, African-American playwrights, directors and performers have been responsible for some of Broadway’s most conspicuous hits. This fall brings two new black authors, and black actors will play key roles in a number of high-profile productions expected in the near future.  Yet anyone who would propose that racial diversity is no longer a concern should consider some data from the Broadway League. According to in-theater surveys, the Broadway audience remained about three-quarters white from the spring of 1998 through the spring of 2010.  African-American audiences peaked at just 6.7%, in the 2006-07 season, with Hispanics and Asians respectively topping out at 8.6% (in 2008-09) and 6.3% (2009-10). (Figures for 2010-11 are not yet available.)  “It is called the Great White Way,” says Samuel L. Jackson, now in previews for Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop. Jackson worries, in fact, that most African Americans “won’t be able to afford to see” Hall’s play, in which he portrays Martin Luther King Jr. “The people who will see it are either affluent or black people who have saved some money for a special event, or maybe someone got them tickets.”

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