Black Theatre Coalition Formed to Eradicate Racial Inequalities

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T. Oliver Reid

The organization is building a national database of Black theater professionals to serve as Broadway's resource for recruiting diverse artists and creatives for their productions.

In an effort to eradicate racial inequalities and increase employment opportunities for professionals in the theater community, the Black Theatre Coalition was unveiled Thursday.

The organization — co-founded by actor and singer T. Oliver Reid, director and choreographer Warren Adams and arts advocate Reginald "Reggie" Van Lee, with executive director Afton Battle and board member Aaliytha Stevens — aims to increase work opportunities by at least 500 percent by 2030, while tackling the longstanding racial issues. 

"To remove the 'Illusion of Inclusion' in the American Theatre, by building a sustainable ethical roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for Black theatre professionals," the mission statement reads. "Our vision is to reshape the working ecosystem for those who have been marginalized by systemically racist and biased ideology."

In making the announcement, BTC noted that, in the 154 years since the first Broadway musical, The Black Crook, there have only been 10 Black directors of a musical, 11 Black directors of a play, and 17 Black choreographers of a musical. As for writers, technicians, composers, stage managers and more, the statistics are far lower.

"Once we identified just how vast the disparity is between the perceived inclusivity onstage and the utter dearth of Black professionals offstage, we began outlining ways in which we could address and ultimately eradicate this invisible imparity," said the co-founders in a joint statement.

"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."

With its launch, BTC will work to mobilize American theater by introducing new partnerships with producers, designers, directors, casting directors, press agents and more, to build a sustainable program model to increase employment in all areas of theatrical production. 

They will support these recruitment efforts by building a national database of Black theater professionals all across the United States, which will serve as Broadway's resource for employing Black creatives on their productions. The organization will also present an annual performance series including an original musical, a revival of a musical and a new play, all of which will showcase the work of Black artists and executives. 

View more information about the Coalition here.