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Top 11 Most-Produced Playwrights of 2012-13 Season

by AUGUST SCHULENBURG
in AMERICAN THEATRE MAGAZINE,DIVERSITY

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Every year, the October issue of American Theatre features a list of the nation’s upcoming seasons, including which plays are slated to receive the most productions. That information will be released in October, but yesterday on the IM Wire and now here on the Circle we’re able to share another important piece of data – the top 11 most-produced playwrights of the 2012-13 season:

David Lindsay-Abaire, with 19 productions
Matthew Lopez, 15
David Mamet, 15
Donald Margulies, 15
Bruce Norris, 15
August Wilson, 14
Katori Hall, 13
Brian Yorkey/Tom Kitt, 13
David Ives, 11
John Logan, 11
Ken Ludwig, 11

Some immediate good news: the list is dominated by living playwrights. With the exception of August Wilson and, of course, Shakespeare (who is so dominant we don’t count his 123 productions), the rest of the top 11 are among the quick. However, one look at that picture above reveals something disheartening: only one woman (Katori Hall), and two living playwrights of color (Hall and Matthew Lopez), are represented. Without taking anything away from the other extraordinary playwrights on this list, we must acknowledge this list doesn’t look like the America – or the American theatre – that many of us know or wish to see.

An important caveat: this list does not represent the full scope of American theatre seasons, but is based on season schedules self-reported by TCG Member Theatres by press time for the October issue.

Still, no caveats can take away from the painful questions raised by such a list. To gain some perspective, let’s take a look at last year’s list from the 2011-12 season:

John Logan, with 27 productions
Yasmina Reza, 25
Sarah Ruhl, 20
Donald Margulies, 15
Tennessee Williams, 12
Annie Baker, 11
Tracy Letts, 11
Eugene O’Neill, 11
Geoffrey Nauffts, 11
Tom Stoppard, 1
1

It’s a little better for women, with three out of the ten slots, but not a single playwright of color appears on the list (August Wilson almost makes it with ten productions).

For the 2010-11 season, we counted adaptations (hence, Patrick Barlow and his 39 Steps dominating the list), and the familiar theme continues:

Patrick Barlow, 26 productions
Tracy Letts, 20
Sarah Ruhl, 19
Annie Baker, 17
Lynn Nottage, 17
August Wilson, 17
Edward Albee, 15
Steven Dietz, 15
Tennessee Williams, 15
George Bernard Shaw, 1
3

Three women, two playwrights of color – which could be considered the most diverse of the four years we’ve been tracking playwrights in this way.

The year before, Rob Weinert-Kendt got this whole ball rolling by sharing the 2009-10 list (using, I believe, a slightly more inclusive methodology) on his blog, The Wicked Stage:

David Mamet, 19 productions
Steven Dietz, 17
Sarah Ruhl, 17
August Wilson, 17
Neil Simon, 14
Terrence McNally, 13
Arthur Miller, 13
Tennessee Williams, 13
Jeffrey Hatcher, 12
Noel Coward, 11

You know how this tune goes – one woman, one playwright of color.

As often happens, when these lists emerge, conversation ensues, much of it valuable and insightful. And then, the next year rolls around, the next list rolls out, and it all begins again. How can we break out of this cycle and achieve a truly inclusive, equitable and diverse theatre field?

That question is a major part of our upcoming 2012 Fall Forum of Governance: Leading the Charge. What working models exist to diversify our artistry, staff, board and audience? How can we practice inclusion across the many intersections of difference, including age, gender, race, class, culture and ability? Please join us in New York City from November 9-11 as we explore how to power our theatres through the charge of diversity.

If you are unable to make it, please consider joining the conversation on our year-round conference platform, Conference 2.0. Part social network for theatre people, part theatre wiki, 2.0 is a great way to mobilize all the great work being done on these issues locally into a national movement. Join Groups like Gender Equality and Allies Eliminating Racism In Theatre to help us model the movement and lead the charge.

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