BLACK THEATRE COALITION FORMED TO ERADICATE RACIAL INEQUITIES IN EMPLOYMENT IN THE AMERICAN THEATER
Rick Miramontez / Marie Bshara
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, PLEASE
BLACK THEATRE COALITION
TO ERADICATE RACIAL INEQUITIES IN EMPLOYMENT
IN THE AMERICAN THEATER
NEW ORGANIZATION EMPLOYS THREE-PART ACTION PLAN
IN ORDER TO INCREASE WORK OPPORTUNITIES FOR BLACK THEATRE PROS
BY 500% OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS
New York, NY (July 23, 2020) – Co-founders T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reginald “Reggie” Van Lee, along with Executive Director Afton Battle and Board Member Aaliytha Stevens, announced today the formation of the Black Theatre Coalition (BTC), a new organization aiming to build a sustainable, ethical roadmap to increase employment opportunities for Black theatre professionals and eradicate the long-standing racial inequities in the American theatre. Its stated goal is to increase work opportunities for Black theatre professionals by at least 500% by 2030.
Over the 154 years since the very first Broadway musical (The Black Crook) premiered in 1866, the “Great White Way” has seen 3,002 musicals and 8,326 plays. Across all of these productions, there have been only Ten Black directors of a musical (0.3%), Eleven Black directors of a Play (0.13%) and Seventeen Black choreographers of a Musical (0.56%). All of this directly correlates to the fact that there have only ever been Two Black lead producers of a musical (representing 0.06% of all Broadway musicals). Furthermore, the numbers for Writers, Composers, Scenic, Lighting, Costume, Sound, Video, Music Contractors, Musical Directors, Arrangers, Orchestrators, Hair/Wigs/Makeup, Casting, General Management, Stage Management, Company Management, PR and Marketing/Advertising range from 0 to 5 in each category.
In a joint statement, Mr. Reid, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Van Lee said, “Once we identified just how vast the disparity is between the perceived inclusivity on stage and the utter dearth of black professionals off stage, we began outlining ways in which we could address and ultimately eradicate this invisible imparity. This outline provided a clear path forward for our organization and our entire industry. It’s high time to end this ‘illusion of inclusion’ by reshaping the theatrical ecosystem for those who have been marginalized by systematically racist and biased power structures that have endured since the dawn of the American theater.”
Black Theatre Coalition is launching its inaugural program with three key steps to mobilize, implement and transform the American Theatre.
1) Mobilize. BTC has secured partnerships with top companies and professionals across every major sector of the Broadway ecosystem, including producers, designers, directors, general managers, casting directors, press agents, advertising & marketing executives, booking agents, attorneys, and theater companies. These partnerships are critical to creating, building and implementing BTC’s sustainable program model. These non-Black accomplices have agreed to work with BTC to (1) identify Black candidates for employment in their offices, (2) implement paid intern and mentorship programs for Black Creatives, (3) create paid fellowships and/or create leadership positions in their offices and hire paid Black assistants on future Broadway projects. As an example, there are no Black General Managers working on Broadway. However, when Broadway raises its curtains again, there will be four Black general managers employed in three management companies, a 400% increase of Black professionals, due to the partnerships that BTC has implemented.
BTC is also establishing connection initiatives with colleges and universities to create a sustainable pipeline of Black graduates entering the workforce, as well as currently working black professionals who may have access to intern and apprenticeship opportunities for these graduates. We are working with sister organizations, Black Theatre United, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Broadway Serves and others to share resources as needed.
2) Implement. To support recruitment efforts and to provide a comprehensive repository, BTC is building a National database that intends to include every Black, behind-the-scenes theater professional in the United States. This database will serve as Broadway’s resource for locating, contacting and employing Black creatives and executives.
As an initial partnership, BTC and the producers of the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s COMPANY have joined forces to implement ten paid positions as apprentices, from producorial to each creative design area, as the show goes back into rehearsals and through opening night. We hope to adopt this model with every Broadway show.
3) Transform. Each year, BTC will present an annual Performance Series with three shows including one original musical, one revival of a musical and one new play. This platform will feature works produced, created, designed and managed by Black artists and executives. This will ensure mentorship for Black theatre professionals at each stage of their careers while delivering powerful and engaging work. New York City will be our stage. As part of this transformation, BTC is honored to be partnered with acclaimed Jazz Impresario Wynton Marsalis from Jazz at Lincoln Center.
BTC encourages Black Theatre Professionals to add their information for the upcoming database by visiting their website.
For partnership inquiries email – Partnership@blacktheatrecoalition.org
For more information about the Black Theatre Coalition, visit their website www.BlackTheatreCoalition.org
Black Theatre Coalition Executive Team:
Reggie Van Lee
B I O G R A P H I E S
REGGIE VAN LEE (Board Chair, Co-Founder) is Chief Transformation Officer of The Carlyle Group, focused on helping the firm develop new and innovative ways to enhance business processes. He is based in New York, NY. Mr. Van Lee has and continues to serve on a number of non-profit boards, including the Washington Performing Arts, National CARES Mentoring Movement, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Studio Museum in Harlem, Executive Leadership Council, and Evidence Dance Company. He was named one of the top 25 consultants in the world by Consulting Magazine, selected as a Washington Minority Business Leader by the Washington Business Journal and named Black Engineer of the Year by Black Engineer magazine.
OLIVER REID (Co-Founder, Artistic Director) has spent the past 20 years working on Broadway shows, (Hadestown; Once On This Island; Sunset Boulevard; After Midnight; Sister Act; Mary Poppins; The Wedding Singer; Chicago; La Cage Aux Folles; Never Gonna Dance; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Follies; Kiss Me, Kate), which have amassed more than 20 Tony Awards from the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards. He is also an accomplished cabaret artist and multiple award winner for his solo show, “Drop Me Off In Harlem” which he directed, wrote and starred in. He has produced and directed concerts for Feinstein’s 54 Below and continues to work in film and television. He is on faculty at NYU-Tisch’s Grad Acting Program and Columbia University School of the Arts’ Grad Acting program. He sits on the Board of Visitors for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He’s currently in the critically acclaimed, Hadestown on Broadway.
WARREN ADAMS (Co-Founder, Artistic Director) is a South African born Artist living in New York City. He was recently commissioned to write the book for the PETER TOSH musical. He is the Writer/Director of the upcoming new musical Trial and the Choreographer of the Bebe Winans Broadway bound musical Born for This. In 2019, he was appointed to the Tony Nominating Committee. Other notable awards include the Tony Award for Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Co-Producer). He won the NAACP and the Fred Astaire Awards for his choreographic work on Motown. He was selected as the first Mandela Sainsbury Scholar (South Africa to London) and the first Rudolf Nureyev Award winner in Europe. Past Projects include: Motown the Musical (Broadway, US Tours, West End). He co-founded the production company WalkRunFly with Brandon Victor Dixon and they co-produced Hedwig… and Of Mice and Men on Broadway. They are currently adapting Terry McMillan’s New York Times Bestseller “Waiting to Exhale” for the stage. Adams has served as an Adjunct Professor at both Princeton University and NYU in the drama departments. He co-founded VisaPaq with Sharona D’Ornellas, a portfolio company that has successfully obtained over 300 working visas for international immigrant artists wanting to work in the USA.
AFTON BATTLE (Executive Director). With 10 years of non-profit administration experience, Afton brings extensive knowledge of fundraising and development management, program; organization; business; staff and Board development and strategic planning and implementation as a Senior Leader. As a part of the philanthropic landscape in both New York and Chicago, her mission is to cultivate strong philanthropic relationships and leverage partnerships that allow non-profit arts organizations to successfully engage with their intended audience, enrich their communities and support the thriving artistic culture of New York City.
AALIYTHA STEVENS (Board Member) Chief Operating Officer at SpotCo, the world’s leading full-service advertising, marketing and branding agency. She joined the company in 2002 as a member of the account services team and got her start managing brand and media strategy for Manhattan Theatre Club, Cirque du Soleil, and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to name a few. Today, she is the highest-ranking person of color in the theatrical advertising industry. She is passionate about philanthropic giving, fair workplace practices, and equity and diversity in the industry: improving its statistics from the root up. In addition to spearheading Equity, Diversity & Inclusion initiatives for SpotCo and its clients, Aaliytha proudly co-chairs the Multicultural Taskforce at The Broadway League, and sits on their Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
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