*After the making of this video, we gained the knowledge that there have been 3 (not one) sound designers of ethnic diversity since 2009.
It is with great excitement that the members of TSDCA congratulate the 10 nominated shows for the 2018 Tony Awards in Sound Design. Our membership is appreciative of the reinstatement of these awards, and we thank The American Theatre Wing for making this rectification. We also thank the theatre industry at large for their support of sound designers over the past few years in acknowledgement of our contribution to Broadway Theatre.
Sadly, it is impossible not to notice that 11 nominees are men – with very little ethnic diversity among them. It is not as if there was much of an option: of the 34 shows that opened on Broadway this season, white male sound designers or design teams led 32 of them. Only one show was sound designed by an Asian-American man, and one show by a woman. At a time when diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of society, why are design positions on Broadway still dominated by white men?
Since the 1960’s, when sound design first began its use on Broadway, only five women have ever been hired to Sound Design a show – the first one in 2003. To this day, no woman has ever been the sole sound designer of a Broadway musical. Only three people of ethnic diversity has ever been hired, their first show not until 2009. Though we understand that change takes time, Sound Design lags behind most other departments when it comes to equity of diversity staffing.
For many years, women and people of color have been working on Broadway as associate designers, front of house audio engineers and backstage technicians, to great success. Of this year’s Tony Nominated sound designs, all five musicals and two of the plays had at least one women+ credited on their Opening Night teams. Several of these women are persons of color. Though the percentage of employment are relatively low, they are growing every year, and we thank the Sound Designers of Broadway for their diversity in staffing.
How do we get the same support from Directors, Artistic Directors, Producers, and General Managers to create equity in the Sound Designer position as well? We often hear that Producers and GMs do not know any ethnic or women+ designers to hire. TSDCA and other organizations have been amassing lists of contact information for staffing diversity – and we invite any hiring organization to expand their designer pool by contacting us for more information.
Over the past four Broadway seasons, women have sound designed only 3% of the shows. A recent research project concluded that regionally the number jumps to 11% during the same timeframe – which is still exceedingly low. While there are no hard statistics for ethnic diversity among designers, the available information leads to an alarming truth, given the number of ethnic and women+ sound designers working all over the United States. We know that there are options, in NYC and around the country, with experience levels equal to and above many of our white male counterparts. The proof is in the fact that Olivier Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and countless other Regional Theatre Awards in Sound Design have nominated and awarded both POC and women+ Sound Designers for their work. But, too often, women+ cannot sustain a career path in design due to the lack of designs afforded to them. They would surely exist in greater numbers if more employment opportunities were made available.
We challenge those in hiring positions, in New York City and across the nation, to seek out new options and improve these diversity numbers. Time’s up for our staffing to truly mirror modern thought and modern audiences.