Are we producing more new plays each decade or less?

Yesterday we talked about musicals, and today we’re talking plays.

What has been the trend for new plays throughout the decades?

Let’s go to the stat board and see what we’ve got.

  • In the 1940s, the average number of new plays produced each season was 49.4
  • In the 1950s, it was 41.4
  • In the 1960s, it was 35.7
  • In the 1970s, it was 25.1
  • In the 1980s, it was 17.4
  • In the 1990s, it was 10.9

Down, down, down like a submarine filled with sumo wrestlers . . . holding bricks.

But wouldn’t you know it, the average crept up a bit this last decade, just like musicals.

  • In the 2000s, the average number of new plays was 11.7

But still, a 77% decline from the 1940s?  Wowza.

Now yes, some of the decline from the days of old is from the additional theaters that were around/available . . . but 77%?

There is without a doubt a direct correlation to both the play and the musical decreases over the decades and the increase in risk as costs have escalated.

Let me be absolutely clear.  We must find ways of stabilizing this risk.  If we don’t, the disturbing trend above will continue, and as you can see, it’s very hard to reverse it. The best we can hope for over the next decade is that it doesn’t drop again.

So there’s our challenge readers.  Operation “Don’t-Let-The-Averages-Drop-This-Decade” is on.

Let’s get to it.


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– 97 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.