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Research Study Unveils the Sobering Truth for Directors & Choreographers

NCAP partnered with SDC + SDCF on research study that reveals the state of the field before & amid COVID-19

(BROOKLYN, NY, October 14, 2020) – Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) announce the release of On the Edge: The Lives and Livelihoods of Stage Directors and Choreographers…A Next Stage Report.

The report, which captures the state of the field in fall 2019 and amid the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 with quantitative and qualitative data, is a two-year, three-phase research study. During the Next Stage project’s first two phases, SDC worked with the Network for Culture & Arts Policy (NCAP) to design and deploy comprehensive surveys for distribution to SDC’s Membership. The full report reveals a sobering picture of retooled artistic aspirations and urgent financial insecurities for women, people of color, and mid-career artists with 15-30 years of experience.

Next Stage considers why an investigation and articulation into the lives of directors and choreographers has meaning right now; not simply for the world of these artists individually and collectively, but for our theatres, and our communities in New York and across the country,” says Laura Penn, Executive Director of SDC. “Even before March 2020, few directors and choreographers were able to rely solely on their earnings in the field to put a roof over their head or food on their table. Wages and opportunities were not fairly available, especially for artists of color and women. Because the top-line revenues of some artists were at record levels, not enough attention may have been paid to the glowing red warning signs.”

The complete report is available here.

Key Findings

The Next Stage study reveals that mid-career directors with 15-30 years of experience often lack both the financial security and creative opportunities they need to stay in the profession.

  • More than 70% of mid-career directors and choreographers make less than $70,000 per year, which includes income from all sources, not just SDC contracts. The average mid-career Member only earns $17,000 from directing contracts. Yet health care and debt costs alone are often more than $17,000 per year for the average mid-career Member.

  • Artists of color are almost twice as likely not to have health insurance coverage. However, those artists of color who do have health insurance report SDC as the source of their coverage more often than their white counterparts.

  • Following the COVID-19 shutdown, SDC developed a Remote Work Contract under which compensation is negotiable and benefits are paid as a flat daily rate. Under this contract, artists of color—while filing contracts at a higher rate—have earned an average of $77.57/day and white artists have earned an average of $102.13/day.

  • Women reported a decrease in income during the pandemic at a higher rate than their male counterparts. They were more likely than men to report that they were not sure about returning to work in the theatre.

You can read the complete report and review all findings and recommendations on the SDC website [].

The Next Stage project was made possible by grant funds from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME, Commissioner Anne del Castillo and Director of Theatre Programs and Partnerships Carla Hoke-Miller) and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA, Executive Director Mara Manus and Former Director of Literature & Theatre Programs Kathleen Masterson).

About NCAP

NCAP supports organizations and individuals that advance cultural and social initiatives, programs and enterprises through evidence-based analysis combined with marketing and communications services. Examining cultural and social activities, trends, policies and practices that aid in shaping our lived experiences, NCAP conducts original mixed methods research and collaborates with a range of cross-sector partners to substantively communicate how the arts and socially responsible organizations offer economic and creative benefits to enrich communities at both the local and national levels. NCAP focuses on demonstrating the quantifiable and qualitative value of active social and cultural engagement between urban-based organizations and their constituencies.

About SDC

SDC is the theatrical union that unites, empowers, and protects professional Stage Directors and Choreographers throughout the United States. Our mission is to foster a national community of professional stage directors and choreographers by protecting the rights, health and livelihoods of all our Members; negotiating and enforcing employment agreements across a range of jurisdictions; facilitating the exchange of ideas, information and opportunities; and educating current and future generations about the critical role of directors and choreographers in leading the field.

About SDCF

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) celebrates, develops, and supports professional stage directors and choreographers throughout every phase of their careers. SDCF works to build a theatrical community that reflects the cultural, racial, and gender diversity of our nation by creating opportunities for artists of all backgrounds to bring their full, authentic selves to their work as creative leaders in the theatre. SDCF’s goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; to increase the awareness of the value of directors’ and choreographers’ work; and to convene around issues affecting theatre artists.

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