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TSDCA Addresses Diversity For Sound Design

On the eve of the 2018 Tony Awards, the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA) ponders the question of the ongoing lack of diversity in sound design and especially among the 11 nominated sound designers for plays and musicals.

The Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA) has released a statement on Women+ in Sound Design for Broadway and theatres across the country, just as the Broadway theatre industry is about to celebrate the best in the business at the Sunday, June 10, 2018 Tony Awards... with the awards for Best Sound Design of a play and a musical reinstated, and The American Theatre Wing presenting these awards for the first time since the 2013-2104 season.

From the TSDCA:

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 one person of ethnic diversity has ever been hired, his first show not until 2010. 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 percentages of employment are relatively low, they are growing every year, and we thank the sound designers of Broadway for their diversity in staffing.

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