Backstage at Broadway: a demographic study

Drew Gehling, Shaum Sridharan, Mark Fritz, David R Friedmann, Yixin Fang, Milan R Amin, Ryan C Branski
Journal of Voice: Official Journal of the Voice Foundation 2014, 28 (3): 311-5

OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: To provide insight into the demographics and vocal habits of current Broadway musical theater performers.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective, Questionnaire.

METHODS: Adult musical theater performers in Broadway Productions as defined by the League of American Theater Producers and the Actors' Equity Association were asked to complete a survey collecting demographic information, vocal health and habits, alcohol, tobacco, and drug use and information regarding their level of vocal comfort and threshold to miss performances based on their voice. Data were subjected to descriptive and statistical analysis based on sex and role type (lead vs. ensemble).

RESULTS: One hundred thirty-five performers completed the survey from seven actively running shows. Ensemble members were younger and had not been in the business as long as performers in lead roles. Over 25% of respondents had been diagnosed with a vocal injury, yet the number of days missed per year due to voice problems was relatively low (1.7-4.7). Across all respondents, only approximately 54.8% reported consistently warming up before a performance and 7.4% reported consistently cooling down afterward. Nearly 91% of respondents reported regular alcohol consumption and tobacco use was 10.4%; 23.0% reported illicit drug use.

CONCLUSIONS: This study marks the first time that vocal health has been addressed in this elite group of vocal professionals. The performer's low self-reported numbers of missed days is interesting particularly given that they appear to participate in harmful vocal health activities at the same rate as the general public.

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