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Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative Looks at So Cal LORT Stages for Gender and Racial Parity

In addition to tracking numbers from LORT theaters, LAFPI tallies female-identifying playwrights/creators each year during the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative Looks at So Cal LORT Stages for Gender and Racial Parity

Numbers count. Since 2011 and the release of "The Study" (which revealed that only 20% of the plays on all LA-area stages were written by women), LA Female Playwrights Initiative has been tallying numbers of women playwrights and directors for nine Southern California League of Resident Theatres: The Geffen Playhouse, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatre, South Coast Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Pasadena Playhouse and Laguna Playhouse.

A recent count showed that while we've not yet achieved gender parity, there is progress.

During the most recently completed regular season of these companies (2018/2019), LAFPI found that about 43.5% of plays produced were by female playwrights, and 40% of the directors hired were women.

LAFPI also counted the number of playwrights and directors of color for the same theaters during these seasons, and found that only 27% produced playwrights of color; and 24% hired directors of color.

"While LAFPI's focus is promoting, supporting and connecting women+ artists in order to ensure fair representation on stages, we have been working intersectionally for a while now in terms of shedding light on inequality," said LAFPI Co-Founder Jennie Webb.

In addition to tracking numbers from LORT theaters, LAFPI tallies female-identifying playwrights/creators each year during the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Starting in 2019, they began counting artists of color. LAFPI found that 49% of the scripted shows in the 2019 festival were written by women+, and only 21% were written by artists of color.

"This year, when we were playing catch-up collecting data from past LORT seasons, playwright and performer Jennifer Bobiwash, who is one of our 'Persons of Interest' bloggers, said she'd be willing to track race as well as gender," Webb continued. "And now we have some really interesting numbers and patterns incorporating race from three seasons, starting in 2016, as well as gender breakdowns from before that."

While numbers fluctuate from year to year, the data LAFPI compiled revealed:

  • Numbers of women playwrights and directors have increased significantly overall since 2012/13 (the first year directors were tallied): 43.5% from 22% for playwrights and 40% from 25% directors. (The numbers were the lowest in 2013/14, where women comprised only 16% of playwright or director positions.)
  • On average, the percentage of playwrights of color seems to be higher among women than men. The percentage of directors of color, slightly higher among women.
  • During the seasons researched, three theaters reflected gender parity with 50% or more playwrights and directors represented during specific seasons: La Jolla Playhouse (2015/16 and 2018/19), Geffen Playhouse (2017/18) and Kirk Douglas Theatre (2018/19). Additionally, six theaters produced other seasons with 50% or more women playwrights: Geffen Playhouse, Laguna Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse and Ahmanson.
  • During their 2018/19 seasons, three theaters hired no directors of color; in 2016/17, five theaters hired no directors of color.
  • During their 2017/18 seasons, two theaters produced no female playwrights.
  • During their 2016/17 seasons, two theaters had no directors or playwrights of color represented.


Since most of the regular 2019/2020 seasons were cut short or altered due to Covid, these productions will not be counted at this time.

"LAFPI is all about taking positive action," said Webb. "When it comes to collecting information, we're an all-volunteer organization - artists who care and scour the internet as opposed to professional researchers or statisticians. We put together these numbers as a very simple, concrete way to look at what's happening on stages. Once we see the data, we can see where change needs to happen. And LAFPI will continue to give shout outs when it does happen."

To view all LORT Numbers and information as a So Cal Professional Theater Progress Report, visit lafpi.com/news.

For more information on the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, go to lafpi.com - a hub for theater artists as well as theatergoers - or email info@lafpi.com.


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