NEW YORK -- The Black Theater Coalition is spending more than $1 million to improve diversity on Broadway and to increase representation behind the scenes - and the efforts are paying off.
Four years after the organization was formed, the number of Black professionals working behind the scenes on Broadway has increased dramatically.
There are currently 48 participants working as fellows or apprentices on more than a dozen productions.
Half a century of diversity on stage has created what the Black Theater Coalition calls the illusion of inclusion.
"The idea that there are Black and Brown people in theater but there are not actually Black and Brown and minority people behind the table," said associate director Tanisha Fordham.
Fordham is part of a program that trains people of color and transitions them to assume power behind the scenes of Broadway shows.
"I didn't go to the colleges that people on Broadway go to, I didn't have the connections, I wasn't familiar with all the names of the people in the industry, but they saw me," Fordham said.
Fordham was working as a teacher in Newark when the founders of the coalition offered her a fellowship.
"If it wasn't for the people at The Black Theater Coalition, I wouldn't be here," Fordham said. "There is no way that I end up working on Broadway productions without those people."
She joined the team behind a revival of "Company" and then worked on "Death of a Salesman."
"And ever since then it's been an upward trajectory," she said.
Her experience as a performer helps Fordham connect with actors, but it is her entire background that benefits everyone who attends the shows where she is involved.
"It's not just that Black and Brown people are disadvantaged when Black and Brown people don't get to sit behind the tables," Fordham said. "You're disadvantaged because there's a way that this world could be that you'll never see until I get to say, until I get to direct it."
The Black Theater Coalition was founded by T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams and Reggie Van Lee.
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