More Minority Actors On The Great White Way, Says New Study

February 14, 2013  |  

Chris Rock performing in “The Motherf***er with the Hat” in 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

Good news for New York thespians. According to a new report, minority actors are finding more and more jobs on Broadway. The percentage of minority actors working on the Great White Way and at the top 16 not-for-profit theater companies in New York City rose to 23 percent during the 2011-2012 season, reports The Grio. Still, even with the boost in numbers, white actors on Broadway continue to be over-represented.

Here’s the breakdown: African-American actors were cast in 16 percent of all roles, Hispanics in three percent and Asian-American actors in three percent, found The Asian American Performers Action Coalition in its annual report on ethnic representation on New York stages. Yet Caucasians filled 77 percent of all roles.

“Black actors increased their representation by 2 percent compared to last season, while Hispanics stayed the same as last season, and Asian-Americans saw their numbers tick up by 1 percent,” writes The Grio.

Although the growth has been slow, there has long been an African-Amerian presence on the Great White Way. In 1903 the first Broadway musical written by African Americans, and the first to star African Americans, In Dahomey, hit theaters. Vinnette Justine Carroll (Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope) in 1972 became the first African-American woman Broadway director. And Phylicia Rashad became the first African American to win Broadway theater’s Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 2004 for her performance in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

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  • theatre nerd

    Interesting. I would caution that the percentages probably have something to do with what shows are on Broadway. There are shows that have a storyline that requires people of color like Aida, Lion King, King & I, West Side Story, and Miss Saigon. But there are also shows that just happen to tend to invovle a lot of people of color. Rent, for example, has four traditionally black leads, and the rest of the major characters (besides arguably one Jewish lead) could easily be played by people of any race. When I saw it all the female leads were black. Wicked has a traditionally black character, and the lead has been played by a BW (she’s green with a prosthetic nose, so race is irrelevant). But then again, since the 1990s Les Mis has really led the charge of colorblind casting even in period pieces, so maybe there is a trend, who knows?