Report: The 2023–24 Broadway Season Has the Most Female Directors Ever | Playbill

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Broadway News Report: The 2023–24 Broadway Season Has the Most Female Directors Ever

This season is a historic one for female representation.

In 2016, the New York Times ran an article that called the 2015–16 Broadway season "a year of women." That season, two shows featured all-women creative teams. Plus, four shows were directed by women, five musicals were written by women, and three plays were written by women. Considering that 39 shows opened that season, the fact that numbers like that were considered notable was a testament to how male-driven the theatre industry had become. 

Flash forward to this season, as the edit team at Playbill were publishing news about every new show that was opening, I noticed an interesting trend: women's names. It seemed that every other press release we received about a new show, a woman was at the helm of it or had written it. Indeed, in the 2023–24 season, out of 38 shows, 16 are directed by women. 

That seems notable. But was it historic?

Because Women's History Month was coming up, Playbill (specifically Margaret Hall, Meg Masseron, and Julia Chambers) decided to do some research. I asked them to identify the female directors, playwrights, book writers, and composers for every season going back to 1947 (the first year of the Tony Awards and when the modern conception of a Broadway "season," and its official delineations, was officially born). Then we all went through and did some counting. 

What we discovered was 2023–24 isn't just a historic season for female directors. After years of conversations about the need for more female voices on Broadway, it seems that many have taken those calls to heart. Below, we present some of our most surprising findings (with graphics by Vi Dang)—findings that we hope inspire realization at how far the industry has come, and discussions on where it can still go. Yes, we are currently living through a key moment in Broadway history, but in the words of Shaina Taub's new musical Suffs, we need to "keep marching" because there is more work to be done. —Diep Tran

The 2023–24 Seasons Has the Highest Amount of Female Directors Ever*

*We also included co-directors in our count.

The 2023–24 Shows That Are Written By Women

In 2023-24, seven plays were written by women, six musicals featured female book writers, four musicals were composed by women, and five had female lyricists. In total, seven new musicals were written by women. Historically, seven new musicals by women is the most there's even been on Broadway. The last time there were this many new musicals by women was the 1949-50 season.

The Number of Works By Women Produced on Broadway Has Fluctuated Widely Over Time

The popular assumption is that women's representation on Broadway has steadily trended upward over time. But actually, when we divided all of our data according to decade, we found that since a peak in the 1950s, there's a slight decline in each decade of works written by women (shows featuring female playwrights, book writers, composers, or lyricists). But since the turn of this century, there's been a welcomed increase in women's voices on Broadway, and we hope this trend accelerates as the 2020s proceeds. 

However, keep in mind that since 1980, a regular Broadway season averages 39 new productions, adding up to almost 400 productions in a decade. Even disregarding all revivals, with only 100 shows by women, that's still a long way from gender parity. 

The Most Prolific Women Broadway

Below are the women whose works have been done on Broadway the most (we're counting individual titles, not revivals). And we should also note that last season, 2022–23, history was made when Jeanine Tesori became the only female composer to win a second Tony Award. As you can see below, we're walking amongst living legends.

Susan Stromen, Jeanine Tesori, Betty Comden, and Lillian Hellman

The Seasons Which Had the Most Female Playwrights

There's a popular assumption that female playwrights truly ascended in the 2000s. But their voices were powerful on Broadway in the 40s and 50s. Below are the seasons that had the most new plays written by women. We encourage you to look up the women from those seasons and the plays they wrote (such as Jean Kerr's King of Hearts and Fay Kanin's Goodbye, My Fancy), and learn how they were able to make their voices heard in America's post-war era. There's forgotten treasures here waiting to be re-discovered.

As with any unofficial data analysis, please assume there's a small margin of error due to us being unable to identify certain writers or human oversight. If you have any corrections, please contact [email protected]

And in the meantime, continue to celebrate Women's History Month with Playbill by watching the roundtable conversation with women who are currently working on Broadway: director Jessica Stone, choreographer Camille A. Brown, actor Amber Iman, and playwright Heidi Schreck. 

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