At Sunday night’s Tony Awards, director Rachel Chavkin, the only woman to direct a musical on Broadway this season, blasted the industry during her acceptance speech for not giving more opportunities to women and people of color to helm the theater world’s biggest productions.
“There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color who are ready to go. And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment, too,” Chavkin, the director of “Hadestown,” told the audience after winning for Best Direction of a Musical. “This is not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be.”
Chavkin — only the fourth woman ever to win a Tony for directing a musical, and the 10th woman to win any Tony Award for directing — later elaborated on her comments, calling out the discrepancy between Broadway’s overall values and its lack of diversity and inclusion.
“Our field is filled with progressive people, and yet our field is not exemplary in terms of living its politics,” Chavkin told reporters after her speech. “First and foremost, who is telling the stories, and what stories are we telling? I think inclusion is at the forefront. Before we worry about fixing problems elsewhere, I think there has to be a lot of attention paid to our own backyard, and Broadway is the most visible part of the backyard.”
Chavkin argued that it shouldn’t be hard to find diverse artists, as there are plenty of qualified people working outside of Broadway who haven’t gotten the opportunity to be heard on a larger stage.
“We’re seeing this incredible renaissance of voices: writers and directors and designers and choreographers working downtown, and off-Broadway, and regionally around the country,” she said.
Chavkin’s musical “Hadestown” — a modern spin on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, adapted by Anaïs Mitchell — took home eight awards Sunday night, including Best Musical.
The lack of diversity in Broadway productions extends to playwriting as well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, only three female playwrights had plays on Broadway this year, and only one black playwright ― “Choir Boy” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Oscar for “Moonlight.”
In addition, Mitchell is the first woman in a decade to be the sole author on a Broadway musical, and only the fourth ever.
Earlier this year, Chavkin told Vanity Fair that she wished that she had “10 other female colleagues” directing Broadway productions.
“I am frustrated that I don’t have 10 other female colleagues alongside me working because I love my female colleagues, and I don’t want to be a torchbearer,” she told Vanity Fair. “I’m saying this as a white woman, so I’m a pretty fucking empowered person by all things considered in our white supremacist society, [but] I can pretty confidently say it doesn’t ever feel good to be the only one of whoever you are.”
“And so more than anything, what I want to keep reaffirming to everyone who’s making decisions that are going to affect next season and the season after is that directing on Broadway is not a prerequisite for directing on Broadway,” she went on. “Too often, I think it’s that belief that is holding back so many women and artists of color who are absolutely ready for the opportunity to bring home a Broadway play or a Broadway musical.”