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Baltimore by Brent Englar

Baltimore by Brent Englar

Inspired by the Guild’s national count as well as local counts such as Gwydion Suilebhan’s analysis of DC, for the past three years I have analyzed the demographics of the Baltimore theatre scene. My plan is to update the study each fall by publishing data for the season just concluded, so that Baltimoreans can more systematically answer the question of who is being produced, and who is directing the productions, at our theatres. A reminder: I am counting only productions that meet these criteria:

• The production received at least five performances.

• The production opened in Baltimore city between September of one year and August of the next.

I am also counting the occasional productions by Baltimore-based theatres that, for idiosyncratic reasons, run in a neighboring county: for example, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s annual summer production in Ellicott City. These shows are part of the mainstage season for theatres that are otherwise based entirely in Baltimore, so they seem appropriate to include in the data. (Also, this approach is easier!)

For the 2016–2017 season, I compiled lists of dramatists and directors—categorized by gender, race/ethnicity, and region—for 122 productions by 33 theatres and theatre companies. (I was unable to confirm data for several companies on their websites or via email.) This is five more productions than last season, though two fewer companies. Of these 122 productions, six were generated by ensembles. Of the 116 productions that credited specific authors:

  Approximately 71% were written by men, down from 75% the previous season. Approximately 28% were written by women and 1% were written by dramatists whose gender is non-binary. These numbers are equivalent to those in 2014–2015, the first season for which I collected data.

  Approximately 83% had white authors, up from 81% the previous season and 82% in 2014–2015. Approximately 11% had African-American authors and 1% had Latinx or Hispanic authors, the lowest count for each category in the three seasons I have studied. Approximately 5% had authors of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, the highest count in the three seasons I have studied.

  Approximately 13% were written by people who reside in Baltimore city or county, a major drop from 24% the previous season and 25% in 2014–2015.

  Approximately 23% were either world premieres or second or third productions, another major drop—from 35% the previous season and 33% in 2014–2015. By contrast, more than half of all productions (54%) were of shows by living dramatists that had received at least three prior productions, a significant jump from previous seasons. In other words, Baltimore theatres produced more plays and musicals by established writers who live elsewhere.

Once again the data for directors, in terms of gender and race/ethnicity, resembled the data for dramatists (mostly white men), though the number of female and non-binary directors did rise to 35% (from 30% the previous season). The majority of last season’s directors resided in Baltimore city or county.

A complete breakdown of these data is available at www.brentenglar.com/demographics.

It remains too soon in my study to draw conclusions about trends, though I will note that the numbers in most categories have remained essentially flat over three seasons. (The notable—and, at least from my perspective, unfortunate—exception is the falling number of productions, including world premieres, by local writers.) I would be interested to hear from any members who are on the board of a theatre company—not necessarily based in Baltimore—and who can speak to the extent to which considerations of parity inform season planning. If your theatre has been consistently successful at programming a diverse season that is more representative of its community, what do you think has enabled this success? If its seasons continue to be dominated by white male dramatists and directors, what do you think are the causes?