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Lin-Manuel Miranda launches theater guide aimed at increasing diversity behind the scenes


Lin-Manuel Miranda is creating a national theater directory designed to increase the number of women, non-binary people and people of color working behind the scenes.

The Representation, Inclusion, & Support for Employment (RISE) will start on June 8 Theater Directory is intended as a resource for theater producers, directors and other managers across the country and to promote the hiring of more underrepresented producers, crew members and theater employees.

The idea was inspired by Ava DuVernay’s Array Crew database, which was created in 2021 to diversify TV and film production crews. Miranda and his family provided seed money for the project and have followed its development closely.

Miranda wanted to do something similar for the theater industry. Written programs such as In The heights And hamilton, Miranda has been able to bring more diverse talent to the stage, but he wanted to make an impact on the other side of the curtain.

“I can write as many characters and roles for us as I can, but that has to be matched by the people who are backstage and front of house and the rest of the theater ecosystem,” Miranda said.

When he started building RISE, Miranda looked at existing projects in the industry and found Maestra, a directory for female and non-binary theater musicians created by fellow composer Georgia Stitt. The two combined the framework and teamed up to launch the new directory.

The database, which currently has more than 500 entries, aims to counter the trend of theater producers, directors and other hiring managers who claim to want to hire new, diverse crew members but don’t know where to find them.

“Our industry moves pretty fast, so there’s a kind of feedback wheel that happens when you’re trying to hire staff or when you’re trying to do something at a high, ambitious level,” says Adam Hyndman, a Broadway actor and project lead. director of RISE Theater. “You go to the most direct person you trust and that creates these silos.”

The hiring tool also aims to replace decades-old practices, such as unpaid internships, that provide benefits to those privileged enough — through family wealth or other resources — to afford to live without pay while learning the ropes.

“I think what’s true in the theater industry is true in every other industry, which is the people who can afford to be part of a theater experience, unpaid, do, and that’s often a springboard in our industry,” Miranda said. .

This is the latest in a series of theater industry diversity and equality initiatives that emerged after the death of George Floyd.

Among the many groups formed, The Black Theater Coalition, which now partners with the directory, was created to create employment opportunities for black theater candidates, while Broadway & Beyond created a recruiting database of stage managers of color. Black Theater United, with founding members including Audra McDonald and Billy Porter, asked all sectors of the industry to pledge to implement a series of reforms, such as asking theater owners to name at least one theater after a black performer.

According to Miranda and Hyndman, many industry leaders today are expressing a desire to see more diversity and inclusion in theater, but more action is needed.

“I think a lot of people have learned to say the right things, which is why I think RISE comes at the right time. Because it’s very easy to say we’re committed to things, and it’s quite another to actually hire as diverse as you say you want to hire,” Miranda said.

The RISE Theater Directory asks producers, directors and more to sign a pledge saying they will use the database when they begin their hiring process. Miranda had already reached out to theater owners and hiring managers when he started the project, and has now texted friends in the industry asking them to create a profile and spread the word. (He’s already created his own profile in it.)

Other directory partners include the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, Arts Administrators of Color, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs’ A Broader Way Foundation, Theater Producers of Color, and the Dramatists Guild of America. Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, director Thomas Kail, theater owner Jordan Roth, and the Broadway League are among its supporting founders.

The creators of the directory hope it will bring more visibility to underrepresented members of the theater community and potentially encourage new collaborations as more community members join.

“Theater really is one of the more welcoming communities, and I’m hopeful that this directory will be seen as just a positive change and will make the place even bigger,” Miranda said.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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