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Research

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Radha S. Menon's comprehensive investigation into the publishing practices of Canadian play publishers, made possible through generous funding from the Canadian Council for the Arts (CCA), provides invaluable insights into the world of Canadian theatre and publishing practices. Join RBT as we shed light on the Canadian theatrical landscape.

Canadian Play Publishing Report

As a window into Canada's cultural landscape, theatre reflects diverse stories and voices that shape its culture. This report delves into an examination of published plays (written by one playwright and not part of collections within Canada), analysing the representation of various ethnicities and sexes from the years 2011-2021.

Despite progress made toward diversity, there are still gaps to be addressed.

In a comprehensive study of 418 published plays from the four largest play publishers Talon Books, Playwright Canadian Press, Scirocco Drama - J Gordon Shillingford, and Coach House Books, an exploration of their authors' ethnic backgrounds and sex reveals an uneven distribution.

Among these, 304 publishings were authored by playwrights of European heritage that form a significant majority.  

The various racialised categories represented are South Asian, Middle Eastern, East Asian, Black identifying, Hispanic and Indigenous peoples. 

113 racialised playwrights were published between the years of 2011-2021. Of the 418 published plays, 232 were authored by males whilst 185 were written by females. 

Of the racialised groups 40 plays were published by Indigenous playwrights, 22 by East Asian playwrights, 20 by South Asian playwrights, 19 by Black identifying playwrights, 8 by Middle Eastern playwrights and 5 by Hispanic playwrights. 

There are significant diversity and representation gaps among the four publishing houses

Talon Books, Coach House Books, Playwright Canadian Press, and Scirocco Drama.

Despite making the most progress, Talon Books' publishing is still shocking, with nearly 64% of their authors being of European heritage and about 36% IBPOC.

Coach House Books, on the other hand, employs exclusively European heritage publications and lacks racial diversity. A stark contrast like this raises questions about the publisher's efforts to promote multiculturalism and adequately represent the broad spectrum of literary voices. 

Playwright Canadian Press and Scirocco Drama- J Gordon Shillingford, although more diverse, still exhibit discrepancies with nearly 72% and about 76% authors of European heritage, respectively. As a result, there is room for improvement in terms of achieving a more representative and equitable staff composition.

 

Despite the nuances between different races and sexes, this report does not take into account sexual orientation. 

While women are collectively underrepresented in publications, not all women experience marginalisation at the same level. Authors of European heritage often possess certain privileges due to their racial identity, making them the leading group represented among the marginalised groupings. 

This distinction highlights the complexity of intersectionality, where factors like race, gender, and other identities intersect to create varying degrees of disadvantage and privilege within marginalised groups.

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Recommendations

  • The creation of a new play publishing press to support and disseminate the work of Canadian IBPOC playwrights.

  • The creation of a system to monitor the publishing practices of existing Canadian Play Publishers

  • The hiring of new editors within existing Canadian Play Publishing companies that are reflective of IBPOC communities

  • More research into the practices of the entire Canadian publishing industry as it relates to IBPOC authors.

Visual Representation of Canadian Play Publishing Practices

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