by Mo Brady
My friends in the theatre community and I love BroadwayBox.com’s “Dancing Through My Resume” series. Who could blame us? Started in 2016, it’s one of the most inventive, educational and well-produced video series on the subject of Broadway. In the constant din of theatre news available to us through social media, the series is a shining light. Every time I see a new one published, I make sure to watch.
If you haven’t seen one of these videos, you should. They feature ensemble actors with multiple main stem credits under their belt performing snippets of choreography from each of their Broadway shows. The most recent to be published features Jess LeProtto performing choreography from every Broadway show he’s performed in from Bye, Bye Birdie to Carousel.
It’s a unique view into the breadth and depth of talent ensemble actors possess. Rarely do we get to see ensemblists like Shina Ann Morris and Charlie Sutton as the main focus of a video. In this series, theatre lovers get to see their talents and their artistry, not to mention their sweat and exuberance.
But there’s an issue.
The problem is a lack of representation. Of the ten videos created for this series so far, 70% of them have featured men, but only 30% have featured women. In addition, two have featured people of color, while the performers in the other eight are White.
I mean, who knows? There could be an easy explanation for this ratio. It could be as simple as the creators saying “these people are friends from college” or “these are the first ten people we found email addresses for.” Maybe the creators reached out to a bunch of actors and these are the ones that responded.
Yet, the problem that occurs when we don’t purposefully choose to pursue and present diverse stories is that we aren’t accurately representing the Broadway experience.
It’s not the case that there aren’t female ensemblists out there to feature. In The Ensemblist’s recent State of the Ensemblist Report for 2017-2018, we showed that 44% of Broadway ensemblists are women. If a series like this is to represent this the talented artists working on Broadway, shouldn’t at least four (and a half) of the artists included be women?
In addition to gender, it’s not as though there aren’t Broadway ensemblists of color with similar numbers of Broadway credits. Where is J. Elaine Marcos’ video? Or James Brown III’s? Or Nina Lafarga’s?
Across the Broadway media, the demographics of featured performers simply do not reflect the demographics of our artistic community, so in no way is this an issue that solely affects Broadway Box. But as champions of artists, we have a responsibility to seek out and share stories that will reflect people of all ethnicities and genders. In doing so, we will have a hand in making the future of Broadway more diverse and inclusive.