Broadway Producers Have Hired a Total of 5 Women to Design Sound. Ever.

Broadway Producers Have Hired a Total of 5 Women to Design Sound. Ever.

Pictured: Sound designer Victoria (toy) Deiorio with Jenny Lamb in a recording session for Lifeline Theatre’s “Flight of the Dodo.”

This Sunday’s Tony Awards ceremony will mark the return of the two Sound Design awards, which were eliminated in 2014. It’s a victory for the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA), a group of prominent designers which formed partly as a reaction to the exclusion. But the list of nominees points to another problem — all eleven are men.

It’s not exactly the American Theatre Wing’s fault — Broadway producers have hired five women to design sound to date. No woman has ever designed the sound for a Broadway musical solo. And a total of three non-white sound designers have designed on Broadway. The TSDCA’s Women+ In Sound group released a statement today urging Broadway producers and theaters across the country to hire Women+ for sound design positions.

“As a working professional theatre artist of 30 years, I am hopeful that this awareness to the lack of parity between individuals in our field will bring about change for the women+, and inclusion of people of color, not only in sound design and composition, but in the entire artistic community as well,” TSDCA Board Co-Chair Victoria (toy) Deiorio told PerformInk. “Accountability is long overdue.”

The first woman to design sound on Broadway was hired in 2003, about 40 years after the position was commonplace. This year was actually an anomaly, in that, of the 34 shows to open, a woman was hired to design one. An Asian-American male designed another. White male sound designers or design teams led the other 32. Regionally, 11% of theatrical productions have hired women in the sound design role over the past four years, but the Great White Way is stuck at 3% over the same period.

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.

“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,” read the statement. “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. How do we get the same support from directors, artistic directors, producers, and general managers to create equity in the sound designer position as well?”

TSDCA often hears from producers and general managers that they are unaware of women+ or diverse designers, so the organization has been creating lists of names and contact information, inviting hiring organizations to contact them for help. They say there are certainly options in NYC and around the country, people with experience levels equal to and above many of their white male counterparts, pointing to the fact that the Olivier Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and other regional theatre awards in sound design have nominated and awarded both people of color and women+ designers for their work.

“The Women+ In Sound group inside of TSDCA has been preparing this statement for months, and I am proud to stand with them in demanding better representation on Broadway and elsewhere,” said board co-chair Lindsay Jones. The statement went on to conclude that “too often, women+ cannot sustain a career path in design due to the lack of designs afforded to them. They would surely exist in greater numbers if more employment opportunities were made available. We challenge those in hiring positions, in New York City and across the nation, to seek out new options and improve these diversity numbers. Time’s up for our staffing to truly mirror modern thought and modern audiences.”

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.

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