Counting Actors: The first 100 shows writers+gender+time stats

If you’ll recall from the previous post w/stats from the first 100 plays, there are a total of 84 male writers and 30 female writers of the first 100 shows (or 74% male writers, 26% female writers).  Also, this figure is higher than 100 because some shows had multiple writers (either multiple plays on the bill, or collaborations, or in the case of musicals, I lumped music, lyrics and book writers into the category of ‘writer’)

The gender imbalance for writers was the highest imbalance I saw.  And after a conversation with some folks who do literary manager and artistic director type jobs, I was inspired to take a closer look at how the gender imbalance changes over time.  So, I’ve taken the first 100 shows and focused on when the play was written.

I’m going to call shows written before 1960 classic, and shows written since 1960 I’m going to call contemporary.  Within the shows written since 1960, I’m going to call shows written since 2000 new.

Of the 100 shows, 18 fall into the classic category, and 82 fall into the contemporary category.  Within the contemporary group, 66 shows were new.  And, because we’re looking at total numbers out of 100, the percentages are the same 18%, 82% and 66% respectively.

The classic shows had 19 writers total (one of the classics is Berkeley Playhouse’s Pirates of Penzance, so the double count is for Mr. G and Mr. S).  There were 18 male writers, and 1 female (Shelagh Delaney’s Taste of Honey, written in 1958).  Percentage wise, this is 95% male, 5% female.

For the 82 contemporary shows, I counted 95 writers, and some projects, like Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged at Marin Shakespeare Festival, had up to 3 credited writers, while other shows, such as No Nude Men’s Ladies in Waiting, featured multiple shorter pieces, each with their own writer, and there are a few musicals thrown in there as well.  Of the 95 writers, 66 were men and 29 were women or 69% and 31% respectively.

Within the 82 contemporary shows, I counted 66 new shows all written since 2000.  I pulled this group out of the whole because I hadn’t kept track of world premieres or regional premieres, and looking up what had been written since 2000 was a little faster than trying to go back and figure out what was a world premiere or regional premiere.

The new shows had 78 total writers: 50 men and 28 women.  This is 64% men and 36% women.

I’m still working on teasing out this data in regards to types of union contract, so stay tuned for more info.

Please share this post with your friends and colleagues, and tell them about the project.  Info how to report show stats going forward is here.

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2 responses to “Counting Actors: The first 100 shows writers+gender+time stats

  1. Thanks for your posting, Valerie- Why do you think the gender disparity for writers was the highest imbalance you saw? Is there a possibility of email exchange? I'm on facebook. All best, and thanks for what you're doing-Lyn Coffin

  2. Lyn – I'm an actor. I haven't tried to pursue work as a playwright so I'm not exactly sure what obstacles there are for playwrights pursuing work. I feel like it does have something to do with time – theaters still produce classic plays, and there are very very few women in the world of classic writers. Anyone else have ideas as to why this imbalance is so high?

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