A Juneteenth benchmark of local #WeSeeYouWAT action

A measure of antiracist work underway and a reminder of work yet to be done.

On this Juneteenth 2021, DC Metro Theater Arts republishes from half a year ago Ramona Harper’s benchmark progress report on antiracism in DMV theater— as a measure of work underway and a reminder of work yet to be done. See also: #WeSeeYou antiracist accountability report includes 11 DMV theaters

Theaters honor Dr. King’s dream by acting on #WeSeeYouWAT demands

A progress report on response in Baltimore/Washington to the BIPOC Demands for White American Theater

Originally published January 16, 2021

An insurrection by far-right extremists within the U.S. Capitol; Washington, DC, looking like a war zone prepared for battle; and state capitals around the country braced for violence on the eve of a presidential inauguration. Who would have thought the United States would be in the shape we are in as the nation celebrates the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader and spokesperson for a nonviolent movement for racial justice and social change?

The U.S. clearly has not yet achieved Dr. King’s dream, and one wonders if we are at the beginning of the end or the start of the beginning of an insidious chapter in American life. But Dr. King gave his own life believing that change is possible.

Graphic by DC Metro Theater Arts. (Photo of Martin Luther King monument by Bernaden. Logo from weseeyouwat.com.)

The performing arts have as important a role to play as any instrument of national power. Theater can influence the impact of extremist ideologies and misguided conspiratorial theories because it presents life on stage in full view for all to see and to contemplate. The arts are change agents that can use their soft power in a mighty way.

In the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests last summer, American theaters around the nation responded with statements of solidarity. The We See You, White American Theater movement birthed the beginning of a new chapter for change and accountability. Its BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] Demands and other documents spelled out, very clearly, what and how theater needs to change in America for more equitable representation.

DC Metro Theater Arts first reported on the BIPOC Demands in July 2020 and recently offered itself as a platform for theaters in the Baltimore/Washington area to report back on how they are doing — so far, six months later — to make changes in response to those demands.

Our call did not fall upon deaf ears. Theaters transparently told us what has been done and what still remains to be done. They took We See You, White American Theater’s BIPOC Demands seriously. Powerful conversations of collaboration are really happening and significant actions are underway.

White American Theater in the DC/MD/VA area said we see ourselves; we see each other; we see how we wish to be seen; and we see what we would like to see in each other.

This seeing is the seed of radical social change.

Here are some of the major highlights of steps already taken and ongoing progress made by the leading theaters that responded:

  • Intense ongoing mandatory anti-racism training for boards and staffs
  • Board leadership structural changes
  • Expanding the canon available for American theaters from Eurocentric to multiracial, multigenerational models
  • Policy and procedural changes in hiring and pay equity
  • Artistic freedom for BIPOC theatermakers
  • New opportunities for networking and collaboration between performing arts organizations and BIPOC communities
  • Creation of safe affinity spaces for BIPOC theatermakers
  • Flattening the decision-making hierarchy in art leadership
  • Decentralizing whiteness in American theater
  • Casting goal changes
  • New board positions and staff positions that address BIPOC representation
  • Changes in play submission policies
  • Land acknowledgement statements in programs and on websites
  • Expanding applicant pools for all theatrical positions
  • Paid internships, fellowships, and mentorships for the next generation of BIPOC theatermakers
  • New strategic planning for racial inclusivity
  • Ongoing self-reflection in working groups and community conversations

See progress reports below from 1st Stage, Arts on the Horizon, Baltimore Center Stage, Creative Cauldron, Everyman Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Mosaic Theater Company, NextStop Theatre, Olney Theater Center, Rep Stage, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Theater J, Theatre Prometheus, Toby’s Dinner Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Total read time: 50 minutes.

These iconoclastic performing arts organizations are also using smart power to effect social change. Demographic stats project the United States to become majority-minority in little more than a generation over the next 20 years.

If performing arts organizations are going to survive — and certainly at the end of a pandemic when no one really knows what live theater will look like — change must happen. It’s not an option. Aging white audiences are going to change along with funding sources and a demand for more diverse programming that meets the needs of a changing demographic.

Many of the theaters responding to this call expressed gratitude to We See You, White American Theater for demanding accountability. However, they might also have thanked the movement for implicitly giving them a strong mandate to save themselves — because America is moving toward inevitable change.

Our culture will not be weakened by it, but with enough courage and commitment, it will be strengthened, enriched, and made more vibrantly alive.

Sam Cooke captured this moment so well in his soulstirring “A Change Is Gonna Come”:

It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will.

1st Stage

What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

1st Stage was one of many DC-area arts organizations that published statements in response to the calls for racial justice that have echoed across the country since May 2020 (and for many years prior). We were very specific in that statement to call out white supremacy as a defining factor in the proliferation of racial injustice and inequality in America.

As an organization led by predominantly white individuals, 1st Stage followed up on our statement with action. We have been working with an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion facilitation team, at all levels of the organization, since the summer. This work has incorporated interviews and surveys (distributed and facilitated by the ED&I team) of the staff, independent contractors, artists, board members, and volunteers at the organization. The responses to these initial surveys helped to identify 1st Stage’s blind spots, vulnerabilities, and assumptions, and set the basis from which our work since the summer has stemmed.

Since this initial identification phase over the summer, 1st Stage has moved through an intensive training with the full-time staff and board of directors to bring the leadership of the organization into alignment on equity goals and 1st Stage’s current position within a white supremacist society. Most recently, this work has turned toward visioning. The ED&I facilitation team has invited a selection of board members, staff members, and contracted artists into a virtual space to discuss what a racially just future will look like for 1st Stage. This phase helps to confront internal biases and long-held assumptions about the “better angels of our nature” and reckon with the work we must do to make our vision of a racially just future possible. Part of this ongoing visioning work includes the creation of a racial equity statement that will stand alongside our mission statement and serve as a tool for accountability as our work continues.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

The term white supremacy itself (while important and accurate) is a common sticking point. For many adults raised in the early mid-twentieth century, that term evokes images of white hats and cross burnings. In today’s society we understand white supremacy to be more latent but still as pernicious. Helping our community come to terms with the fact that white supremacy persists now as it has for centuries will continue to be a challenge. One that we are prepared to meet. Further, we are working to confront the way that capitalist hierarchical structures uphold systems of white supremacy and looking into ways that we can reimagine leadership structures to give more power and voice to our colleagues (primarily contracted artists) who hold the least power in our current hierarchy.

1st Stage understands that change is often slow, but the work to end racial inequities in our theatre companies and spaces must not be slow. We are envisioning ways to enhance wages and opportunities to share power and responsibility that can be enacted swiftly. We are an agile and eager company that is prepared (at all levels) to challenge our existing structures and make thoughtful and meaningful change rapidly. We are committed to ensuring that these changes are not simply written structural changes, but changes by which we live, grow, and create.

What will your theater look like when it fully reopens regarding decision-making and whose stories get to be told and who gets to tell them?

1st Stage acknowledges its complicity in upholding and benefiting from the white supremacist structures that cause so much suffering. While we cannot erase the harm that has been caused, we are determined to disrupt and dismantle these structures so our company can be a model for equity and justice. We are constructing a specific set of actions and next steps, which will be released publicly before audiences and artists return to our stage so that we can be held accountable. While these action steps are being finalized, 1st Stage has commissioned eleven playwrights to create new pieces of solo work that the theater will help develop and foster. It is 1st Stage’s hope that these pieces will be presented in future 1st Stage seasons as well as at theaters across the country greatly expanding the canon of work available to the American Theater. Artists in the cohort are Frank Britton, Jasmin Cardenas, Gary-Kayi Fletcher, Khanisha Foster, Jeremy Keith Hunter, Caleen Sinnette Jennings, James J. Johnson, Natsu Onoda Power, Brian Quijada, Juan Francisco Villa, and Justin Weaks. The Commission of Solo Work project will provide creative support and resources to artists during a particularly uncertain time. These works will be an extraordinary contribution to our collective stages.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

We believe that working toward justice is a lifelong process for each member of our team and for our organization. We are committed to centering anti-racism in every facet of our company. 1st Stage, as with many other theater organizations in the region and across the country, is renewing this dedication to creating an equitable, just, and dignified theater space. This work was important to our founding artists back in 2008 and continues to be at the forefront of our growth initiatives moving forward.

Arts on the Horizon

Arts on the Horizon would like to express its gratitude to the individuals who drafted the We See You, White American Theater demands. By illuminating our weaknesses and demanding change, this document presents indispensable guidance on the steps we need to take toward growth and inclusivity. Arts on the Horizon strives to provide intelligent, innovative, and original work for children ages 0–6 that is accessible, inspiring, and joyful, and we want to ensure our organization is welcoming not only to artists, staff members, and volunteers but to the very young audience members we serve.

To serve our community, we recognize that we must actively seek out information, tools, and resources to identify our shortcomings. By listening to artists in the DC Metro area and participating in conversations with the national BIPOC TYA artist community, we have learned that the act of implementing positive change is never complete. We want to navigate this change purposefully, but also urgently and voraciously, doing the work, while ensuring lasting and ongoing positive change.

We have established several committees, composed of various board members, staff members, company members, and artists. Each group has been tasked with focusing on a specific goal including but not limited to: examining Equity, Diversity, and Access within our organization; setting the foundation for our EDIJ plan; studying the We See You, White American Theater document; and crafting action steps to support emerging BIPOC artists.

While we move forward to realize the goals of these committees, we recognize that our work is not done, and we commit to stay vigilant in our growth. Here is a selection of the new initiatives that we are currently actively implementing:

— Invest in and champion more Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of color (BIPOC artists) both onstage and off, especially in creator, playwright, designer, and director roles. We recognize that in the past we have filled the roles of directors, playwrights, and designer roles predominately with white artists. We commit to ensuring that more than half of these roles will be filled by BIPOC artists each season. At this time, we have engaged BIPOC artists to create and direct all our digital programming in 2020 and planned digital programming for 2021. All of our designers and 75 percent of the actors for our digital programming in 2020 are BIPOC artists.

— Examine, identify, and implement new ways to bring BIPOC artists into our organization. To provide an avenue to the world of Theater for the Very Young for emerging artists who might not otherwise discover it, we will create a new voices program, which provides paid opportunities, access to our work, and resources for emerging artists.

— Reexamine the programming selection process. We will create a rotating committee of company members and artists to discuss programming ideas and options for future seasons. It is important to us that a majority of this team is represented by BIPOC artists, to ensure that our programming is not built through a lens that is primarily white. In order to prevent any conflicts of interest, committee members will not be directly involved in the development of said programming.

— Expanding our reporting structure to ensure that individuals have multiple safe avenues to report incidents of racism, harassment, oppression, and discrimination, including an anonymous form.

— Commit to supporting our artists in a humane work environment by hiring understudies for all live productions, drafting actionable policies to allow for substitute stage managers, and providing access to stipends for hair and skin-care products for Black artists. We will also continue our commitment to artists by never scheduling 10 out of 12 technical rehearsals, maintaining short rehearsal days, and never scheduling more than five workdays per week.

— Recognize the importance of and provide anti-racism resources and training to existing staff, board, company members, and artists.

  • Our producing artistic director has participated in several anti-racism trainings, including the 11-week anti-racism webinar series Listen, Learn, Lead produced by TYA/USA and Arts in Color. She and our board chair will also be participating in the Community of Practice – Abolishing Racism in the Workplace Initiative workshops February–July of 2021 facilitated by YPT’s AROW program, which will build a community of practice committed to addressing racism and oppression within each of the participating organizations and within the larger DMV theater community. Anti-racism resources and webinars have been provided to members of the board and company members. Our company members are actively participating in the anti-racism conversation within the DC Metro theater community to learn of additional resources or ideas that can be applied to our organization.
  • Along with our EDI committee, the organization is creating a specific schedule for mandatory anti-racism trainings and additional anti-racism resources for the board, staff, and company members for the future.

— Prioritize the telling of BIPOC stories in our arts education classes and on our stages.

  • We require that at least 50 percent of the books used in our education programs feature BIPOC characters and are written by BIPOC authors.
  • We have created a list of books for ages 0–6 on our website, written by authors of color and featuring stories about children of color, in an effort to expand the resources available to families and teachers. This will continue to be updated periodically.
  • We have provided anti-racism resources and tools (including, but not limited to, videos, articles, and books) via our website and newsletter for parents and families of children ages 0–6. This list of resources will continue to be updated.

This list is not a comprehensive one. While we actively engage with the work, we understand that this is just the beginning of a neverending journey for our organization. There is always room for improvement — and our promise is to continue to strive for positive, meaningful progress to fulfill our mission to serve our community. We plan to update the community with transparency about the work that we do.

Baltimore Center Stage

To our communities:

Over the summer, we committed to being “productively dissatisfied” with our own progress toward anti-racism, and we enumerated a series of steps we would take to continue our journey. Today, in the spirit of practicing transparency and emergence, we’re writing with an update on where we’ve been and what we’re learning along the way.

But first, we begin with gratitude. We are grateful to our local organizers, who work each day across sectors to make Baltimore a more equitable community. We are grateful to Black-led organizers in our field — We See You WAT, Black Theater United, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and many more — who are working across multiple communities to help move the American Theater ever closer to anti-racism.

And we are grateful to the individual Black, Indigenous and non-Black theatermakers of color, working inside and outside institutions. Thank you for holding us accountable and for moving with us as we continue the work of acknowledging and repairing generations of harm, and building toward a more just and equitable future.

Thanks in large part to our staff-organized Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression group (ARAO), four interconnected areas of focus have emerged over the past several months, all with the dual goals of not only effecting change at a policy level but also — as important — holistically shifting the organizational culture to create spaces of Belonging.

ONGOING LEARNING

This fall we implemented a three-part mandatory staff training arc that includes Anti-racism, Bystander Intervention, and Restorative Practices. Each training was followed by a processing/debrief space facilitated by members of ARAO. We’ll repeat this sequence again in the spring and then collect feedback for future iterations of the training.

The components of our staff training arc were as follows:

Anti-racist Theater Training with Nicole Brewer: The goal of this module was to establish a foundational and common understanding of the ways racism shows up in theater, the definition of anti-racism, and a shared analysis around anti-racism at BCS. (For more information about Nicole Brewer visit nicolembrewer.com.

Bystander Intervention with Hollaback: If the first module was about understanding what racism and anti-racism is, this module was all about what to do when you witness an act of racism or other forms of oppression. It included multiple strategies for intervening to help mitigate and reduce harm. For more information about Hollaback visit ihollaback.org.

Restorative Mindset with Restorative Response Baltimore: Acknowledging in advance that despite our best intentions and efforts, it is very likely that people will experience unintentional harm, we chose to introduce restorative practices into our collective toolkit. This training builds on the first two modules in not only being able to identify racism and oppression, and then to intervene and disrupt it, but also to facilitate a healthy path forward. For more information on Restorative Response Baltimore visit restorativeresponse.org.

After each training, members of the ARAO group held an optional space for processing and debriefing among the staff. Each gathering focused on how to integrate learnings into our staff culture and individual work practices.

Our Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression group continues to practice shared learning with self-organized biweekly sessions open to the whole staff. With the goal of building knowledge together and the understanding that learning is a nonlinear and ongoing process, members of ARAO lead these biweekly learning opportunities. Topics are chosen through a process of offering knowledge that each of us can share, requesting subjects where we have individual or collective interest, and responding to happenings in the workplace or the world more broadly. Sample topics include:

Strategies for dreaming and shaping a liberated future:
Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown

History of racism and whiteness in America:
Seeing White podcast by Scene on Radio

Ongoing structures of colonization and how they show up in theater:
Decolonizing Theatre: An Introduction by Annalisa Dias and Madeline Sayet

Mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and the history and impact of criminalizing Blackness:
13th directed by Ava DuVernay
Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition

The intersection of environmental justice, racial justice, and theater:
Green New Theatre written and compiled by Groundwater Arts
Just Transition Zine from Movement Generation

The nonprofit industrial complex, the way our funding models reinforce racism and inequity, and our role in these systems:
The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, edited by INCITE!
Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villenueva

Microaggressions and other harms that Black artists experience at Primarily White Institutions:
The 40-Year-Old Version written and directed by Radha Blank
Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Tema Okun

DECENTRALIZING POWER

Updating Grievance Policy: Rooted in the principle that those most affected by a policy should be crafting it, our ARAO group is leading a reimagination of the organization’s grievance policy and practices. With intentional input from the whole staff, a core team of junior staff members is rewriting the policy such that those who have been harmed actually feel comfortable using it. Additionally, the staffwide policy and practices for resolving conflicts will be informed by restorative justice principles. For a working copy of our grievance policy, please email info@centerstage.org.

Equitable Hiring Processes: In addition to standardizing transparency around starting salaries and the pathway for each process within our job postings, we’ve also begun engaging in small experiments designed to help subvert the power dynamics embedded in the employer/candidate relationship.

In recent job postings, we’ve engaged in some universal experiments such as listing cultural competency as a key skill and removing formal education requirements. Additional experiments included allowing candidates to send written, audio, or video statements in place of a cover letter during our recent search for a Director of Learning and Social Accountability. And our development department focused on mitigating bias in their recent search for a Donor Relationships Manager by committing to interviewing every applicant as well as sharing a video introduction of the team to provide information about the position for those who may be less familiar with the industry.

For sample job postings, or to speak with someone about our lessons learned, please email info@centerstage.org.

Internal Budget Transparency: Understanding how we allocate our resources helps create space for learning and accountability. To that end, we recently held an open Q&A session for the staff and our executive leadership to review the organizational budget. Our Directors of Artistic Producing and Production then held a joint session to look closely at our production budgets to interrogate the assumptions and values reflected within. This process helped demystify financial decision-making and correct misconceptions. It further helped surface questions about how to visibilize labor, align resources with priorities, and more.

VALUES ALIGNMENT

Board Vice President of Equity and Progress: This newly created position signals a real focus and commitment to moving our board community along the anti-racism path. Our VP of Equity and Progress is collaborating with our staff Director of Artistic Partnerships and Innovation to co-chair a board and staff group called our “Pathway Action Table” to help guide BCS going forward.

Sunsetting Apprentice Program: We intend to keep the best of what our apprenticeship program had to offer in terms of education and professional development, but we’ll be letting go of outmoded practices that have the unintended negative consequence of exclusion and inequity.

Department Expense Audits: Our production department heads have started an audit of their vendors, and will prioritize vendors that are BIPOC-owned, are local, and/or align with our values, with particular attention to environmental impact as we continue to better understand the intersection of climate justice and racial justice. We plan to take what we learn from our production departments and expand this practice throughout the organization.

BUILDING COMMUNITY AND RESILIENCE

Affinity Spaces: Two staff-organized affinity spaces have emerged over the last several months: White Privilege Affinity Group and a Black Affinity Space. With these spaces, we are practicing holding dedicated time for learning, growth, healing, and joy.

There is still a lot of work to be done both at Baltimore Center Stage and in our field and more broadly. We look forward to continuing our progress in the new year and to updating you every step of the way. Thank you for being on this journey with us and thank you for holding us accountable.

https://www.centerstage.org/about/social-accountability/

Creative Cauldron

What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

We have not completed a formal anti-racism EDI action plan, but have begun the process through staff discussions and instituting an EDI committee on our Board of Directors. We have signed up to participate in the AROW workshops through theatreWashington that will help the DMV theater community develop and adopt a “Community Practice” document articulating commitments that theaters can make to ensure they are anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

We are not producing live theater due to the pandemic and are working to keep our skeletal staff employed, so expanding opportunities for BIPOC artists and administrators and meaningfully addressing this issue has been challenging. As an organization, focused on producing musicals or plays that use music as a significant part of the storytelling, we are also struggling with how to replace the predominantly white, Eurocentric canon that is musical theater with more representative works. One solution is to throw that canon out and replace it with new original works, commissioned from BIPOC creators who can create roles and stories for their community and earn money from them. Shake off the complacency of typical white theater.

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

We are proud of the Guest Artist Concert and Cabaret Series (summer and holiday) that we have been able to offer and that have provided opportunities for BIPOC artists to perform in and receive equitable compensation—we keep evaluating our model to make sure artists are paid fairly for these events. We are most proud that we were able to help our long-time collaborators The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and influence a local developer, Insight Property Group, to dedicate a plaza in their development in the center of Falls Church as the “Unity and Justice Plaza.” The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and presenting the African American legacy and promoting racial reconciliation in Northern Virginia. The “Unity and Justice Plaza” was proposed to us by Nikki Graves Henderson, their Social Justice Committee Chair, because Insight Property Group is providing a new black box theater for Creative Cauldron in the development. This plaza will give THHF a place to shine a spotlight on Falls Church African American Civil Rights pioneers and a starting point for their “Make History Visible” walking tours. We also look forward to collaborating with them on programming at the plaza that furthers their goals and engaging with our community as good citizens and leaders in addition to our role as arts community leaders.

What remains to be done in your part of the artsphere to promote social justice and social change?

Keep listening. Keep trying to address economic and cultural inequity in our community. Keep examining and evaluating our progress. Keep BIPOC creators and evaluator voices at every organizational level. Achieve being the “accomplices” that Amy Smith describes: “It’s a word that implies shared analysis and shared understanding and shared purpose.”

What will your theater look like when it fully reopens regarding decision-making and whose stories get to be told and who gets to tell them?

We envision that there will be more projects in which we will in essence hand over the reigns completely allow a BIPOC company or artists to have complete artistic freedom and control. There will be BIPOC artists at the table when we make decisions about programming, and we hope there will be additional BIPOC voices on our Board of Directors and staff. We look for ways to examine the financial structures for how both BIPOC and all performing artists are paid — we fundamentally believe that fair compensation is a cornerstone of racial equity. We’re experimenting with a “Difficult Conversations” series seeking works that depict conversations between two people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and places in the world — how do those conversations go? How should they go? Why do they matter? Our Passport to the World of Music concert series may be a good template for how to increase inclusion and artistic control. Artists have control over their concerts, and it’s been a wonderful way to hear music and languages from all over the world by artists who know and live in that music. Another important consideration is the children we serve. How do we continue to create arts opportunities at every level? Making sure that our audiences and our stories look like our community.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

We are still at the beginning of this journey. Surviving the pandemic has taken up way too much of our time, but the seeds of change have been planted and we look forward to the progress that we believe we will achieve in the coming year.

Everyman Theatre

To the We See You, White American Theater organizers, our staff, our artists, and the wider Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theater community:

Everyman Theatre is committed to an equitable, diverse, and inclusive atmosphere at every level of our organization: staff, Board, audience, and artists. We seek to include, reflect, and honor the lived experiences of our community being mindful of the historically marginalized BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and ADA communities. We aspire to become an artistic home that is multicultural in representation and centered on anti-racist and anti-oppression practices. We commit to improving our individual biases and ask each member of our community to help create a work culture that is supportive and safe.

Everyman Theatre acknowledges that allyship is an action, not a title we give ourselves. Our commitments and accomplishments over these past months represent a living, breathing list that will evolve and change as we implement new action items and learn more about ourselves and our needs as artists, partners, and members of a greater community.

As a leading artistic hub proudly serving Baltimore for 30+ years, we acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done, but we have made considerable strides of which we are proud. Some were simple, more obvious steps, some required a great deal of thought, soul-searching, dialogue, and compromise. We are committed to each and every one.

In addition to drafting our organization’s first-ever statement of solidarity and inclusion, the following list represents some of the specific action steps that have been taken and adopted at Everyman Theatre to date:

  • We renamed and repositioned our already-existing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force to be a permanent Standing Committee of the Board and established a working group of staff that engages in tandem with the now renamed entity Everyman CARES (Committee on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Solidarity).
  • We thoughtfully and intentionally added important BIPOC voices to Board and staff leadership.
  • We took a magnifying glass to our staff titles and renamed positions to remove offensive words such as Chief, Master, and Foreman.
  • We began to rethink our tech and rehearsal process in order to create more equitable schedules and to establish inclusivity training.
  • We created a Code of Conduct that includes a pronounced stance on our commitment to be a multicultural and anti-racist organization. This commitment calls on actions based on persistent bystander intervention, thoughtful conflict resolution, and clarity around harassment and discrimination policies.
  • We established a Discussion Group for our staff, Board, and Resident Company to openly discuss articles and resources on anti-racism and inclusivity.
  • We began to more intently strategize how we can become better stewards in our Greater Baltimore community through our programs, actions, and presence.
  • We made a more conscious commitment to empowering and amplifying the voices and experiences of BIPOC and other marginalized artists by continuing to place a spotlight on their art and humanity.

These are but a few of our successes in the ongoing struggle to change the footprint of American theater both immediately and for those who come after us.

We approach all of this work with humility, compassion, and transparency, acknowledging that we have and will continue to make mistakes along the way. We commit to continuing our self-examination as an organization. We commit to listening. We acknowledge our own imperfection, our lack of expertise, and the role complacency takes in compounding and perpetuating injustice. We continue to grow.

GALA (Grupo de Artistas LatinoAmericanos) Hispanic Theatre

GALA has always been a BIPOC theater. As the only Hispanic theater in DC, we mainly work with BIPOC artists (though we also welcome and work with white artists and technicians). Our programming varies in order to reflect and highlight the different Hispanic cultures, including the Indigenous people. Our mainstage shows are presented in Spanish with English surtitles to be inclusive. We meet the demands not because it’s a demand but because it’s part of our mission statement and what we have been doing for 45 years.

The Kennedy Center

On June 2, 2020, The Kennedy Center made a public statement to hold this institution accountable, promising to create more strategies to support Black lives, Black artists, and Black culture, and that The Kennedy Center will always be a home for critical conversation about race and discrimination. As the National Cultural Center, our institution has a unique and urgent responsibility to turn symbolic gestures into tangible systems. We recognize that words might garner attention, but it is the essence and the constancy of our actions that will effect broadscale change within our campus and throughout the performing arts industry.

For Fiscal Year 2021, the Center has identified Anti-Racism as one of its four institutional priorities to be prioritized across The Kennedy Center.

Social Impact

On July 9, the Center introduced a Social Impact framework, outlining a multipronged, five-year strategy to advance our anti-racism and equity efforts, both in our local communities and on a national scale. Led by the Social Impact team under the leadership of Marc Bamuthi Joseph, The Kennedy Center has defined eight intersecting channels of work that it will prioritize, pursue, and weave into the Center’s crossdisciplinary organizational practices to redefine and recommit to its identity as the National Cultural Center. These are not intended to be immediate solutions, but iterative strategies that will enable the Center to foster systemic anti-racism within the organization and across the performing arts. While several Social Impact initiatives have been in operation or development for several years, the Center is accelerating plans to amplify the work and see significant progress in all eight channels over the next three to five years.

Arts Across America

One of the eight channels of Social Impact’s work, Arts Across America has provided more than 20 weeks of free online programming, five days a week, featuring artists from all 50 states and numerous U.S. territories. Through Arts Across America, the Center has broadened its curatorial lens, showcasing diverse culture-makers who play leadership roles in their communities, exemplify unique regional artistic styles, and use their medium as a tool for advocacy and social justice. 

Culture Caucus

A hyperlocal investment in the creative economy, the Culture Caucus fosters a sense of belonging and agency at The Kennedy Center. Supporting an assembly of more than 20 DC-based individuals, organizations, and initiatives—many representing historically marginalized communities—the Culture Caucus, which has been meeting throughout the pandemic, offers ample opportunities for networking and collaboration, guarantees access to much-needed space, and prioritizes the development of new creative work and cultural strategies. Over the course of their two-year engagement with The Kennedy Center, Culture Caucus members receive a $20,000 stipend, micro-commissions and production support in the REACH, opportunities to curate digital content spotlighting voices from the DC community, and access to annual convenings and curated events.

Page-to-Stage

At this time when many theaters are struggling to survive, The Kennedy Center has invited theater companies in this program to experiment, collaborate, and inspire. During the pandemic, the Page-to-Stage initiative, which this year has focused on theater companies with BIPOC and/or Queer leadership, has been providing space and financial resources to artists and companies to develop new work.

The Cartography Project

A new curatorial program led by the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, The Cartography Project embraces equity and pursues diverse, contemporary art makers to engage in pressing social issues through classical music. Inspired by the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, this initiative will use music as both a source of healing and a way to open a dialogue about an anti-racist future. The first iteration of The Cartography Project will commission composers, librettists, and artists in Atlanta, Aurora, Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York, and Oakland to create a musical map of extrajudicial violence across the country. That first iteration is in process and these commissions will be announced this spring.

Anti-Racism through The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Anti-racism work has been woven throughout this year’s eight regional conferences for The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of the eight conferences, which together gather thousands of pre-professional theater students from across the country, features workshops on Anti-Racist Theater facilitated by Nicole M. Brewer and a “Theatrical Intimacy Education and Intersection of Race and Theatrical Intimacy” keynote. Presentations and panels offered include “Black Acting Methods, Hip-Hop Theatre, & the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” hosted by Sharrell Luckett and Kashi Johnson and a We See You, White American Theater panel and discussion with Marissa Ford, Ken Matt-Martin, and Cody Renard Richard, facilitated by Alfred Heartley and Kelli Crump.

KCACTF has also been pleased to support the 2020 BIPOC Critics Lab, developed and led by cultural critic Jose Solís. Solís has created an educational space for BIPOC writers who haven’t been welcomed into cultural criticism, whether due to systemic oppression, lack of opportunity, or because they didn’t know they were allowed to see themselves as critics.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Kennedy Center is committed to fostering an empowering staff culture and strengthening an environment of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. With an intention to deepen and amplify existing efforts, the Center conducted an internal reassessment of DEI strategy and activities in 2020. The organization subsequently held several forums and critical training sessions on Allyship as well as enhanced its existing Unconscious Bias training, receiving participation Center-wide at every level of the organization.

The Kennedy Center is refining metrics to better measure DEI initiatives and practices. As we seek to foster an authentically inclusive culture, we prioritize accountability in our assessment and ensure responsive actions to address representation, retention, recruitment practices, and belonging. The Center will soon embark on the creation of a Diversity Council and subsequent establishment of employee resource groups for ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion communication, and support of organizational change efforts.

Mosaic Theater Company

Mosaic Theater Company appreciates DC Metro Theater Arts for providing a platform of accountability and communication about our community’s progress in its anti-racism work.

The We See You, White American Theater movement has catalyzed vital transformation in the theater community at large and met Mosaic at a critical moment of institutional evolution in our culture and in our practice. We are grateful for those who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to We See You’s formation and mission.

Over the last five months, each staff and Board member has engaged with the Demands at least once throughout the process, with a majority of both groups joining in weekly, communal working groups, held during work hours, to digest, discuss, and determine next steps for policy change. The last five months have revealed both reasons for encouragement and instances of failure from Mosaic’s six seasons of operation. We acknowledge that many of the more positive occurrences can be attributed to hardworking and courageous individuals, and now commit to codifying practices so that they become official policy, independent of any single person. In facing our weaknesses, we have begun the work of self-reflection and proactive course correction in order to fully realize and implement an anti-racist theater ethos that is specific to Mosaic.

As pledged in our October acknowledgement, we will release a thorough progress report on our website by the end of the month.

We recognize that the work does not end with addressing these Demands, and commit to ongoing self-examination and action in our efforts to undermine and dismantle systems that support white supremacy and oppression at Mosaic.

NextStop Theatre

What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

Over the past eight months, NextStop Theatre has been committed to listening, learning, and growing in an effort to become an anti-racist organization. Like many organizations in our community and around the country, we published a “statement of support” in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. However, we immediately recognized that any words of support would ring hollow without an equally strong and public commitment to action. As result, less than two weeks later, our executive leadership and board of directors unanimously approved and published a “statement of action,” outlining the first (but not only) steps that we would be taking along a path to greater equity within our organization. Since that time, our leadership and board have been working passionately to fulfill those promises, while simultaneously expanding upon them. Since the beginning, we have publicly documented all of our statements and regularly updated the work we are doing on our website, at nextstoptheatre.org/antiracism.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

It has been a difficult process, as we have begun to recognize the insidious way that racism and white supremacy are baked into so much of theatre’s culture, decision making, and expectations. Furthermore, the work requires an exceptional amount of (and capacity for) humble learning and introspection, to begin to extricate ourselves from choices and systems that were often designed specifically to benefit us (as white leaders).

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

We are deeply proud and honored to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from Service Never Sleeps, an amazing local nonprofit, dedicated to being a catalyst for service and social justice through allyship, as well as the Joy-Jackson Initiative, a California-based nonprofit that is creating and providing tools and resources for the American Theater industry to identify, reflect on, and improve their role in creating the safest, most welcoming spaces for members of the BIPOC community in the arts.

What remains to be done in your part of the artsphere to promote social justice and social change?

More than we could possibly list here. At present, we continue to reimagine and rebuild our organization in the image of what we truly wish to see and how we wish to be seen. In time, we hope to be able to strengthen bonds with other organizations and collectives in Northern Virginia to see that image reflected in every corner of our community.

What will your theater look like when it fully reopens regarding decision-making and whose stories get to be told and who gets to tell them?

It is still difficult to imagine what anything will look like when we are able to safely reopen. However, we hope to continue to build on the steps we have already taken, bringing in diverse new leaders and collaborators at the board and administrative level. We expect to see that same diversity reflected in our artists and stories when we welcome audiences back.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

We look forward to working with our new board, collaborators, and community stakeholders to publish a more comprehensive strategic plan, which builds on the commitments first made in our “statement of action” last year and provides even more specific, nuanced, and measurable actions.

Olney Theatre Center

We just recently posted our new multipoint plan to make OTC a more anti-racist institution. You can find it here: olneytheatre.org/about-us/anti-racism.

SUMMARY

The leadership, staff and board of Olney Theatre Center for the Arts (OTC) are challenged, inspired, and creatively charged by demands for justice being made in our sector, in particular those demands made by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists and their allies. American theaters have rightly been called to account for a long history of racism, and their historic exclusion of BIPOC artists and administrators from equity in the field. We recognize that OTC has contributed to this exclusion through our past support of inherently racist structures and the insufficiency of our efforts to change. We hear you, and commit to repairing lost trust and to healing those in our community who have been harmed.

With shared spirit and as collaborators in pursuit of a more equitable industry, we today publish a list of substantial changes we are making or plan to make in six areas: programming, personnel, audience, education, cultural competency, and workplace protections. These priorities are not an exhaustive list, but they represent the most urgent commitments we’ve made, from the sharing of authority in program selection to salary equity. Taken together, they’ll transform OTC into a better anti-racist institution that serves every member of its community in an inclusive and equitable manner.

These steps require we address OTC’s over-reliance on earned income. Not-for-profit American theaters, unlike their counterparts in other countries, are hamstrung by a culture that primarily equates success with rising ticket sales. Despite strong increases in contributed income, increases in earned income have driven the theater’s growth over the past seven years. (In OTC’s most recent full season, earned income accounted for nearly 60% of the budget.) This, along with old outstanding debt of nearly $5M, puts tremendous pressure on our productions to deliver dollars on a rapid schedule. Historically, that pressure has translated into a punishing season calendar, fewer dollars for community-based efforts, over-reliance on those paid least, and near-exclusive outreach to audiences we already know. Addressing our over-reliance on ticket sales must be a priority if we’re to become a truly anti-racist institution.

But no matter the speed with which we make that change, OTC recognizes the budgetary implications of these priorities. We follow through on our commitments — the way we’re striving now to follow through on the commitments we’ve made to artists and stories that have been postponed due to the pandemic. Those shows, and these steps, won’t all happen overnight. But we’ll follow through on these commitments, because we recognize that the more successful we are in transforming our institution, the more successful we’ll be — by every metric — in the long run.

METHODOLOGY

Our process in creating these action steps has been monthslong and multipronged. The process has included:

  • Internal and external EDIA (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access) committee meetings and practice reviews
  • Paid listening sessions with BIPOC artists with whom we’ve worked
  • Cultural competency work with staff and Board
  • Working sessions with Senior Staff and the Board’s Executive Committee, with particular focus on the We See You, White American Theater list of demands
  • All-Staff meetings on anti-racist and anti-harassment practices
  • Executive Committee and full Board meetings, leading to approval of this document.

The work we’ve done and will continue to do has been guided by our values:

  • Because we believe that inclusion is necessary to a full understanding of our shared humanity, we know our theater and our community will be made better and more impactful by taking these steps.
  • Because we believe the essence of good artistry is collaboration, we will continue this anti-racist work with input from freelance artists and community members.
  • Because we believe challenging ourselves is essential to creating impactful work, we will accept feedback with humility.
  • Because we believe the essence of good artistry is collaboration, we will approach this complex work as collaborators, not adversaries.
  • And because we believe that pursuing our values requires an ongoing process of reflection, training, and application, we recognize these steps are just the beginning.

We encourage you to read the rest of OTC’s values here.

We are indebted to We See You, White American Theater, the Black Artist Coalition, and many other fieldwide activists, along with the committed members of our internal and external EDIA committees, our senior staff, our Board’s executive committee, and our Board’s Long Range Planning Committee. We extend a special thanks to those BIPOC artists who shared their thoughts so transparently with us in our listening sessions.

OTC will review its progress toward these steps by engaging with these same constituencies on an annual basis.

We’re presuming a return to the kind of live programming we saw prior to the pandemic, but if the pandemic’s course prevents it, we’ll update these steps with others, based on different programming plans, that honor the same anti-racist commitment.

We hope members of all the communities we serve will share their responses to the following priorities with us. We invite you to hold us accountable for our actions and the progress we make. Feel free to email staff leadership at Jason@olneytheatre.org and Debbie@olneytheatre.org.

PROGRAMMING

Throughout its history, OTC has followed a Eurocentric producing model in which a singular artistic director (who has always been a white cis male) selects all programming with little input from voices unlike his own. OTC is committed to changing that model over the next five years. We’ll flatten the decision-making hierarchy by involving a diversity of voices in the artistic, staff, and patron communities in programming decisions. We’ll share curatorial power and authority by hiring BIPOC curators to populate our stages with work we might not normally select. We’ll go beyond the Eurocentric palette to embrace stories from other cultures and a roster of interdisciplinarywork. We’ll tell more BIPOC stories, ensure BIPOC artists have our support to reimagine the canon, and ensure those stories receive equitable levels of support from every department in the institution. We’ll publicly define our color-conscious casting policies, which demand intentionality in casting choices. And we’ll ensure BIPOC stories are the majority of work we develop through our Vanguard Arts Fund.

  • Already, half of our virtual programs are curated by paid artists not on the artistic staff: Just Arts: A Celebration of Arts and Activism and Signal Boost. This kind of decentralized programming is a first for OTC, and we are committed to staging work chosen by BIPOC curators starting in 2021–22. Our goal is to reduce the size of the season selected by the artistic director to make room for different kinds of stories and storytelling that ensure all segments of our diverse community are included in our programming.
  • These curators will be encouraged to follow the lead of Just Arts and Signal Boost by programming interdisciplinary and crosscultural work, and space onstage will be provided for it.
  • The artistic director will meet regularly with the internal and external EDIA committees to discuss the state of program planning and receive feedback.
  • We seek to present a fully diverse theatrical program with at least 50% of new and recent plays being BIPOC-created stories, starting with the theater’s first full post-pandemic season.
  • All three of this year’s Vanguard Arts Fund projects in 2020–21 are BIPOC stories and written or co-written by BIPOC artists.

THEATERMAKER DIVERSITY

Because we believe inclusion is necessary for understanding our shared humanity, OTC is committed to making our staff, Board, and artists reflect the diversity of our community.* We humbly recognize we have a long way to go to make that happen. On stage and backstage we’re committed to normalizing diversity through casting and creative team representation, working toward more equitable contracts for freelancers to counter unconscious bias, working with our unions to help them diversify their local memberships, and aggressively pursuing new artistic relationships with BIPOC theatermakers. With staff and Board we’ll commit to intentionally diverse pools of candidates for every position we appoint or hire, ensure our next HR Manager is a leader in BIPOC advocacy and anti-racist issues, and we’ll commit to accelerated Board diversification so that in both general membership and leadership it reflects the County’s demographics. Board practices, including candidate vetting and membership requirements, will be evaluated and, as necessary, changed to ensure that our Board of Directors is a more inclusive, equitable, and antiracist Board of Directors.

  • Approximately 30% of lead roles in our currently scheduled 2020–21 season are cast with BIPOC performers. We have set a goal of casting at least 50% of lead roles with BIPOC performers, starting in 2021–22.
  • We will commit to more equitable and transparent pay for actors: pay ranges based on union membership and veteran status will be publicly available immediately. And by 2025, we will reduce the spread in pay scale between first-time OTC performers and top-paid stars by 33%.
  • We are committed to the goal of increasing BIPOC representation on our Board of Directors to at least 33% by 2024, and 50% by 2027, if not sooner.
  • We will commit to creating pathways for Board membership with reduced financial commitments, and increasing the range of skill sets members provide, including artistic skill sets.
  • No senior-level position will be filled unless at least 33% of final-round interviewees are BIPOC individuals.

*While Olney itself (population 33,000) is 70% white, we sit near the heart of the State’s most populous County, Montgomery, which is majority-minority. For demographic purposes, when we consider who makes up our geographic community, we consider a ten-mile radius from the theater, which includes highly diverse population centers Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Wheaton. Our diversity goals are to match the demographics of that population, which is approximately 51% BIPOC.

AUDIENCE DIVERSITY

OTC commissioned a study of the theater’s patron demographics in early 2020, and the results demonstrated just how far we have to go to reflect the demographics of our community. “Build it and they will come” is no longer our mantra; instead, “Ask them to help you build it and they’ll own it” will underpin our audience-development initiatives going forward. This means many changes, especially ending the one-size-fits-all approach to audience development that results in an unconscious bias towards existing, primarily white audiences. Guaranteeing access for all in our community is going to mean big shifts in how we sell content, how patrons experience it, and how and when we make it available. That will include the creation of a membership model that provides accessible points of entry for BIPOC participation and counters inherently racist subscription patterns. And making all in our community feel they have ownership over the theater means changes to our talkback policies, encouraging culturally authentic audience behaviors, expanding the external EDIA committee to include BIPOC artists and patrons, and giving public-facing employees in the front of house the same anti-racist and PR training as our full-time staff.

Giving the community greater and more diverse ownership over the theater requires the immediate hiring of a Community Engagement Director, and empowering that individual with an appropriate budget and job description to learn about the communities around us, to deepen our relationships to them, and to establish new, long-lasting relationships with an antiracism lens.

  • Since August, OTC has held over a dozen listening sessions with nonprofit and community leaders to learn what their constituents need and how the theater can serve them. We will hold many more listening sessions, with both leaders and ordinary community members, as part of our Community Engagement strategy.
  • The Board has approved the Community Engagement Director position as our next full-time hire, in February 2021.
  • OTC will roll out a new membership model by fall 2021 that will be less restrictive and provide pathways for less-expensive access to our programs than its traditional subscriptions.
  • Talkback policies are being revised with community agreements and facilitator training now to ensure that, when we return, BIPOC artists are protected and our anti-racist values are maintained.
  • When we return, we will engage with and educate audience members about the variety of cultural responses to live performance, encouraging patrons to respond in the moment with authenticity, energy, and delight.
  • Upon its return, we will add local mobile-unit work to the National Players activities to increase accessibility in our community to OTC’s artistic output.
  • With the agreement of the artists, we will provide streaming options for all live work we produce and curate.

EDUCATING A MORE EQUITABLE GENERATION OF THEATERMAKERS

Theater will be a more anti-racist industry in the future if we ensure the next generation of theatermakers is a more equitable one. OTC’s Advanced Training Program (our Apprentices) and National Players are at the forefront of our anti-racist efforts in paving the way. We’ll start by prioritizing increases in salaries and/or benefits for these early-career professionals to drop barriers to access. Early Career Artist and Apprentices of Color Funds will be part of the plan, too. We’ll aim to select each class of Players and Apprentices with intention, to reflect our community’s demographics. We’ll continue to tip the scales in favor of mentorship, and away from labor. And when any funds can be put toward salary increases, we’ll commit to raising entry-level full-time salaries first.

  • OTC commits to raising full-time salaries to at least $40,000 per annum before providing merit-based raises to higher-paid full-time staff.
  • OTC commits to raising apprentice and National Players compensation annually by at least double the government’s cost of living adjustment.
  • OTC’s freelance teaching artists for both in-person and off-campus work will continue to align closely with our community’s majority-minority demographics.
  • OTC commits to the goal of having its freelance teaching artists, for both in-person and off-campus work, be at least 50% BIPOC.

CULTURAL COMPETENCY

Ensuring every individual at OTC understands our anti-racist commitment and can follow it through means ensuring cultural competency at every level. In addition to mandatory anti-racist training for staff and Board on an ongoing basis; we’ll empower our internal EDIA committee to interface with every department, including the artistic department on programming and hiring decisions; and we’ll expand our external EDIA committee to include local BIPOC artists. It’s crucial that we compensate BIPOC individuals for cultural competency work they do with us, whether through attending listening sessions, providing cultural context, or serving as BIPOC advocates in rehearsal rooms. We also recognize that educating ourselves and our patrons about OTC’s origins is essential to cultural competency, so we’ll add land acknowledgments to all our programs, which recognize not only the debt we owe to the Piscataway-Conoy Tribe but also the impact to BIPOC individuals in the suburbanization of our region.

  • Starting with Just Arts, we are incorporating land acknowledgments for all our programming.
  • BIPOC individuals working with us on cultural competency, whether as advocates or through listening sessions, are being paid for their work with us.
  • The Board of Directors will incorporate anti-racist work at every meeting, and anti-racist training for staff will begin once we return to programming and staff has come back from furloughs.

DEMANDING A SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE SPACE FOR RISK

OTC recognizes it has failed in the past to protect its BIPOC artists and staff adequately, and we’re committed to learning from those deficiencies to ensure this theater is a safe space for risk and a rewarding place to work. Public group agreements in every rehearsal room will require everyone to share in our anti-racist priorities, and empower every artist to demand accountability. Until such time as our artistic staff reflects the diversity of our community, we’ll commit to hiring and empowering BIPOC advocates to ensure BIPOC concerns are addressed. Production schedules will be eased over the course of our Long Range Plan to ensure opportunities for reflection and self-care for theatermakers: extending rehearsal periods as we can to eliminate 10-out-of-12s and 6-day weeks, and creating more space in the season calendar. Employee policies will be revised with the help of the internal EDIA committee. Special attention will be paid to the Board of Directors, ensuring they are a partner in our anti-racist efforts, and they are working to replicate them on the Board and donor levels.

  • Production schedules for upcoming productions have been adjusted to eliminate 10-out-of-12s for non-musicals immediately.
  • Group agreements will be posted in every rehearsal room, including virtual rehearsal rooms going forward.
  • We are revising our employee handbook based on recommendations from the internal EDIA committee.

Rep Stage

Rep Stage’s Statement of Commitment

What good are the stories of injustices on our stage if we are not willing to disrupt those same injustices in our organization and personal lives? Rep Stage views the work of anti-racism as integral to the art we create, the people that work at our theater, and the communities we serve.

Rep Stage acknowledges its complicity in upholding and benefiting from the systemic structures that have caused harm and inequity. As we work to change these practices, we commit to an anti-racist theater ethos that actively reduces harm, prevents harm, and repairs relationships while acknowledging the past and reimagining the future.

With transparency to those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our community, and all the communities we are in relationship with, Rep Stage will implement a series of action steps in direct response to creating an anti-racist theater practice. These actions are not inclusive of all the anti-racist practices and policies that we are working toward. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing practice and that this work does not end.

To our artists and patrons who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, thank you for your call to action as well as for holding us accountable; for this we are truly grateful. We know these conversations take emotional energy, and in some cases the revisiting of past harm.

Our Definition of Racism

The systemic oppression of and/or harm inflicted upon an individual or group based on race, ancestral identity, or immigrant experience.

Initial Action Steps

1 – Rep Stage will continue to be committed to having equitable Black, Indigenous, and People of Color representation in regard to casting and creative teams.

2 – Rep Stage will continue to hire trauma counselors to support artists working on plays that focus on violence toward Black and Brown bodies.

3 – Rep Stage will continue to engage our resident intimacy director on all productions.

4 – Rep Stage commits to continued ongoing anti-racist theater training at the organizational level. We will also be transparent about what that training is and when it occurs.

4 – Effective immediately, Rep Stage is eliminating the “10 out of 12” technical rehearsal day.

5 – Rep Stage will be moving toward a five-day rehearsal week, with plans for this shift to be complete by the beginning of the 2021–2022 season.

6 – Rep Stage will restructure our season production apprenticeship (a paid position) and actively seek out local emerging BIPOC artists. If an emerging BIPOC artist is hired for this position, we will hire a BIPOC mentor to support this apprentice during their season at Rep Stage.

7 – Rep Stage is examining how to continue our collaboration with Howard P.R.I.D.E., a Black student organization, as well as other BIPOC student groups on the campus where we are in residence, to create partnerships that intersect theater and education.

8 – Rep Stage will prioritize the cultural care of BIPOC artists by promoting statements of inclusivity for different cultural practices among audiences.

9 – Rep Stage will restructure its season planning process to prioritize collaborative decision-making including both staff and guest artists.

Rep Stage’s staff have been actively engaging in anti-racist theater training and consulting over the past months. This includes the Artistic Director working one-on-one with Nicole Brewer as well as the staff taking many workshops/trainings. Rep Stage will also be participating in the upcoming six-month training through theatreWashington with AROW (Abolishing Racism and Oppression in the Workplace), a program of Young Playwrights’ Theater. For a complete and transparent list of Rep Stage’s staff training work please visit https://www.repstage.org/anti-racist-theatre/staff-training.html

Round House Theatre

Updated January 28, 2021:

ROUND HOUSE AND ANTI-RACISM
A Progress Report | January 2021

Round House updated its mission in March 2020 to be a Theatre for Everyone—a theater of and for our community. Our organizational values, adopted at the same time, include a commitment to be an anti-racist, anti-sexist organization. In early July 2020, Round House published a Commitment to Anti-Racism that outlined what we had already implemented alongside the new initiatives and procedures we would take on to address inequities at our theater. As we noted at that time, the work of anti-racism must be active and ongoing and our commitments continually updated.

Later that month, a collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatermakers issued a set of demands following the We See You, White American Theater (WSYWAT) testimonial letter addressing the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and racism in American theater. To those artists, and to artists everywhere who spoke out about their experiences: thank you. We hear you and we recognize the systemic harms perpetuated by the theatre industry.

Round House’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA) Staff Workgroup and executive leadership have undertaken an item-by-item review and discussion of the WSYWAT demands to thoughtfully assess our current practices, recognize where we have failed, and decide what changes we need to make. Part of this process included holding listening sessions with our full-time staff, part-time staff, Round House artists, and members of the Black Artist Coalition to learn more about their experiences directly. All participants were compensated for their time.

Based on the feedback shared in these conversations and our assessment of the WSYWAT demands, Round House has added several new and significant commitments to our initial list. This document reflects the most current set of programs and policies aimed at furthering our anti-racist goals—some already in place, some currently in progress, and some soon to be implemented. Each of the following sections lays out our prior commitments and progress thus far and then outlines our new commitments.

This list will continue to evolve as Round House emphatically pursues our mission to be a Theatre for Everyone.

ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK & PROCESSES

Round House Theatre is committed to breaking down racial barriers through our promotion of dialogue and understanding, building bridges within our communities, and engendering empathy in our audiences. We recognize that the values of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility must be a fundamental part of every aspect of our work, starting at the administrative and organizational level.

In January 2020, our full-time staff and board participated in three days of racial equity training with artEquity, an organization that provides resources and training to support the intersection of art and activism. In early 2020, we formed Staff and Board EDIA Workgroups to guide our efforts to transform our organizational culture into one that is fully inclusive and equitable. The individuals on the Staff EDIA Workgroup represent all Round House departments and comprise a diverse mix of identities, staff levels, and tenure. Recognizing a need to decentralize our hierarchical power structure and to ensure BIPOC staff voices are heard and valued at Round House, the EDIA Staff Workgroup advises on all policies and procedures. In February 2020, Round House expanded our Senior Staff to a larger and more inclusive Management Team, and we are continuing to explore shared power structures throughout the organization.

New Commitments

  • We are building systems to ensure that all staff (including part-time staff and volunteer ushers) and board receive ongoing anti-racism, anti-bias, anti-oppression, and bystander intervention training. We have also invested in the training of EDIA Staff Workgroup members to become EDIA facilitators equipped to lead continued conversations, trainings, and onboarding.
  • We will establish a permanent line item in our annual organizational budget dedicated to EDIA training​ and initiatives.
  • In Fall 2020, we began publishing salary ranges in all full-time job postings. Moving forward, we will review all hiring practices through an EDIA lens, actively work to diversify our recruitment channels (including hiring search firms with a proven track record of finding and recruiting BIPOC talent), changing the qualifications and requirements in job descriptions to remove unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to entry, and cultivating an inclusive organizational culture in an effort to hire more BIPOC staff.
  • As a predominantly white and white-led institution, Round House is committed to cultivating and nurturing BIPOC leadership. In addition to our commitment to actively recruit BIPOC talent, we are invested in training, mentoring, and creating clear pathways for professional development for BIPOC staff.
  • Round House’s Land Acknowledgement has been published on our website and in all programs beginning with the 2020–2021 Season and will be displayed physically in the theater when we are able to return to live performances. We are committed to continued research and learning and to cultivating a relationship with the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, the American Indian tribal community on whose traditional lands our venues sit.
  • We are working with other theaters nationally and in the DC region to determine where we can mutually strengthen our commitments to anti-racism by working cooperatively and collaboratively.

PROGRAMMING & PRODUCTION

Round House is invested in diversifying the voices that are amplified through live theater. Launched in 2017, our Equal Play commissioning program is commissioning and developing 30 new plays written exclusively by female-identifying playwrights and BIPOC playwrights to create a new body of work that will help reshape the face of American theater. Additionally, beginning with the 2019–2020 Season, we committed to staffing our shows with at least 50% BIPOC artists (actors, stage managers, designers, directors, and crew) in an effort to address inequities in our field, to enrich our storytelling by better reflecting the diversity within our community and our country, and to hold ourselves accountable. In 2018, we implemented Equal Play, a non-negotiable, equitable pay scale for all contracted artists.

We believe that engaging in the arts is essential to the human experience and actively work to break down barriers to attending, learning, and creating theater. We offer affordable ticket options, including a range of standard and discounted tickets. Our community ticket access programs Free Play and On the House, respectively, provide free tickets to all Round House productions to students age 13 through college and to the staff, volunteers, and constituents of community serving nonprofit organizations in the DC metropolitan area.

New Commitments

  • Beginning in Spring 2021, we are eliminating needlessly long workdays such as “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals and are piloting a five-day work week for rehearsals of all productions.
  • We created a new Associate Artist position who, as a part of our efforts to decentralize power and include more voices in artistic decisions, will be the producer of our annual new play festival.
  • EDIA policies and resources will be offered to all guest artists throughout the entire production process, and artists will be proactively supported by staff who are trained to disrupt harmful interactions during donor and patron events. We will provide artists clear mechanisms to safely report any racist and other unacceptable behavior throughout their time at Round House.
  • We will hire and compensate cultural consultants for productions and culturally competent facilitators for discussions and talkbacks when appropriate. We recognize that, while we have hired cultural consultants in the past, we have not always included fair payment for this vital work in the production budget.
  • In addition to continuing our practice of hiring intimacy coordinators when appropriate or requested, we are committed to finding ways to specifically support BIPOC artists working with material that deals with racialized experiences and racialized trauma.

BOARD DEVELOPMENT

Round House proactively and intentionally recruits BIPOC members to our Board of Trustees. BIPOC Trustees represent 23% of our current Board, and we are committed to furthering our efforts to increase BIPOC Board membership to accurately reflect and represent the diversity of Montgomery County and the DC metropolitan area. Artists are represented by two Artist Trustees on the Round House Board, which has been a part of Round House’s bylaws for 15 years.

New Commitments

  • As of January 2021, the Round House bylaws were amended to establish the Board EDIA Workgroup as a permanent standing committee, elevating it to the same priority level as Development, Finance, Governance, and Nominating.
  • The Board has established a task force to explore the decoupling of governance and fundraising, in order to reduce barriers to Board service.
  • The Board has established a Code of Conduct to ensure that the Trustees are held to the same standards of behavior as staff and artists.
  • The Board has committed to EDIA being an essential and significant component of the upcoming strategic plan.

EXPECTATIONS & ACCOUNTABILITY

Round House is a people-first organization committed to fostering a safe, supportive, and equitable environment for our staff, artists, and patrons. We have reviewed and expanded our Code of Conduct for Staff and Artists and ensured its broad distribution to full-time, part-time, and contracted employees​.​

We will apply an anti-racism lens to all major organizational decisions and all current policies and procedures, recognizing that if a policy is not anti-racist, it is inherently racist. We will also review our vendor relationships, giving preference to companies who actively and publicly work toward EDIA objectives. We are committed to auditing our progress on these anti-racism commitments on—at minimum—an annual basis, publishing our progress each year in our Annual Report.

New Commitments

  • We are in the process of implementing the EthicsPoint Incident Management Reporting System to allow artists and staff to confidentially report incidents of harassment or bias. ​
  • As a theater, we recognize that many of the people we work with are part-time staff, guest artists, and teaching artists, and we are committed to creating community rules and guidelines for donors and patrons that will protect all Round House guests and employees and empower them with policies, procedures, and training to enforce these rules.
  • We commit to creating structures that allow staff and artists to safely provide accountability feedback​, and to making space for affinity groups within the organization.
  • We are grateful for the rigor and comprehensiveness of the WSYWAT demands, and we acknowledge that this set of commitments only begins to address the issues outlined. The EDIA Staff Workgroup and executive leadership will continue meeting regularly to reexamine practices and policies across all departments through an anti-racist lens.

ONGOING EDIA INITIATIVES

While the harms of racism—especially anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous oppression—must be addressed and repaired in American theater, we recognize that racism is not the only system of power and oppression in our society, professional field, or institution. Individuals and groups are also marginalized and discriminated against based on identity factors including (but not limited to) gender, sexuality, ability, class, age, religion, and citizenship. We also recognize that these systems do not operate independently, but compound and intersect with one another, as first described by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.

The WSYWAT demands were instrumental in guiding Round House’s anti-racism work as outlined above. We also want to detail some of the other ongoing commitments and initiatives that address EDIA more holistically or were designed to combat other systems of oppression.

New Commitments

  • Starting in our 2019–2020 Season, Round House began regularly offering open captioned performances in addition to our previously offered audio described performances and assistive listening devices. In the fall of 2019, the entire Round House full-time staff participated in a training with Roger Ideishi, an accessibility consultant and leader in developing arts programming for people with sensory and cognitive processing disabilities. This allowed us to offer our first Relaxed Performance in March 2020. This was an important next step in Round House’s work to improve inclusion and accessibility for all patrons regardless of ability, and Round House’s plans for returning to live performances in the future include programming more Relaxed Performances.
  • Steps have already been taken to improve gender inclusivity in our systems and our theater facilities, including adding the sharing of pronouns for those inclined to in meetings and rehearsals and encouraging patrons in our theater to use whichever restroom—including a unisex single stall restroom—best fits their own gender identity or presentation. We are committed to exploring further ways to remove gender bias and disrupt the gender binary across our organization.
  • We are in the process of developing a self-identification system for all employees and patrons. We need this information to properly assess the demographics of our staff, artists, donors, students, and audiences, and to satisfy many of our stated anti-racist and EDIA objectives. We recognize the complexity of this issue and are committed to a thoughtful exploration of how to most accurately and ethically collect this personal information.

Shakespeare Theatre Company

What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

Building from our EDI action plan that was created in 2019, the We See You, White American Theater list of demands, and surveys from our staff, we are in the final phase of creating an anti-racist action plan. Though the action plan is in development, we have begun to move forward with new policies that reflect the vision of the plan.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

In addition to the current lack of diversity within the company as a whole, the current financial state of the theater presents a challenge in beginning EDI trainings and creating new positions and fellowships. With the theater being closed due to the pandemic, we are unable to provide our space as a community resource.

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

Creating more seats at the table. With producing classical theate at our core, everything starts with the artistic department. We recently added three new roles to this department including two associate directors and the director of equity and enrichment, which were all BIPOC hires. The cast and content of our virtual gala not only represented what theater can look like when it is inclusive and embraces who we are as a society, but it was also made available to the public for free, shifting the dynamic of accessibility that has hindered many from attending theatrical productions.

What remains to be done in your part of the artsphere to promote social justice and social change?

Every aspect of theater should reflect our community and its complexities. The staff, productions, pay scale, and initiatives within our organizations should be reflective of these policies that are being created. Until this is achieved there is still work to do.

What will your theater look like when it fully reopens regarding decision-making and whose stories get to be told and who gets to tell them?

With the new positions on our artistic staff supporting inclusive and equitable creative decisions, the anti-racist action plan, and initiatives with HBCU’s and other local organizations, we hope to foster a classical theater that reflects our community and society.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

The changes that will occur within the culture of the company once EDI trainings have begun.

Signature Theatre

Signature has developed an Anti-Racism and Equity statement, which has been distributed to all staff, is read at the top of every first rehearsal by a different member of the staff or company, and is distributed in writing to the production teams. This statement is intended as a living document, and Signature’s staff Anti-Racism & Equity Working Group welcomes all edits and suggestions from staff, company members, and Board members.

The Statement:

Signature is committed to becoming a more equitable, anti-racist organization. In this company, we condemn all acts of racism, discrimination, and hatred, and will not tolerate any inappropriate and/or disrespectful behaviors.

Recognizing our status as a white-led institution, Signature is actively building an anti-racist culture and welcoming artists, staff, students, volunteers, donors, and audiences of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Signature has committed its time and financial resources to this effort; Signature’s staff Anti-Racism & Equity Working Group, Board Anti-Racism Task Force, and social justice and equity consultant Wayfinding Partners are leading the organization to discover, embrace, and implement new policies and approaches that will result in a richer, more equitable experience for all who interact with Signature.

We agree to face racism head-on, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, in order to maintain the safety of our spaces. We agree that each of us will work to acknowledge our own faults and accept the reality of our innate biases and prejudices, which we have learned over centuries and which we are responsible for actively unlearning. We agree to assume positive intent during our time together, while also acknowledging the powerful difference that can exist between our positive intentions and their negative effects. We will work as a team to learn and grow as individuals and as a group.

Theater is a powerful tool for building community and empathy, and all our lives are enriched when we welcome all people to share their stories. We recognize that the human experience comes in all colors, shapes, abilities, ages, backgrounds, gender expressions and identities, and sexual orientations. Signature is proud to use our art to shed light on our shared humanity.

We acknowledge that this statement will always be a work in progress as we seek to achieve racial justice and equity.

Ongoing anti-racism and equity work at Signature includes:

  • Staff and Board assessments, trainings, and planning in partnership with Wayfinding Partners;
  • Conversations with the community, including meetings with Black Artist Coalition, participation in the Ten Chimneys Foundation summit with Black Theatre United, and racial equity work in partnership with theaters across the DC region with AROW and theatreWashington;
  • Prioritizing BIPOC artists and stories in Signature’s programming;
  • The ongoing support of a BIPOC affinity space for artists and staff;
  • Evaluation and reconsideration of workplace culture, policies, and procedures through the lens of the We See You, White American Theater demands and other resources.

Studio Theatre

Released January 27, 2021

Anti-Racism at Studio: Reflection and Action 

To Our Community:

We hope that this message finds you and your loved ones safe and hopeful at the start of this new year.

These are extraordinarily challenging times, both for our company and the American theater field. Artists and other theater professionals are facing devastating levels of unemployment, institutions that produce theater are under fierce economic pressure, and all of us are in the tenth month of a forced absence from our continued source of inspiration: the production of plays for live audiences.

But this has also been a time for reflection that offers the potential of renewal and reinvention. In particular, calls for racial justice and reckoning have gripped our country, the world, and our field since this summer. In the theater, those calls have taken specific form in a series of demands issued from the We See You, White American Theater collective (We See You, WAT). Many artists who have created theater at Studio for years helped shape these demands, which are a critical and instructive contribution to the well-being of the field and of our company.

It is past time for us at Studio to reckon forthrightly with entrenched inequalities and our role in perpetuating them, to acknowledge shortcomings throughout our theater’s history and the impact of those shortcomings on valued members of our community, and to create more equity within our organization. We are a predominately white institution with a professed value of inclusion, and while we have diversified some aspects of our art and company in the past five years, we had not fully devoted ourselves to combating racism across the organization or to actively dismantling barriers to the creation and celebration of live theater by all. We cannot fully fulfill our mission of using theater to foster a more thoughtful, more empathetic, and more connected community if we do not serve and represent our entire community.

Recognizing that we had work to do, Studio chose to engage in a process of internal conversation and commitment to change-making before we offered this public statement. Since our staff returned from furlough in July of 2020, a committee comprised of the entire senior staff and others throughout the organization has been meeting weekly. This group has been examining our systems, structures, practices, and behavior, using the We See You, WAT demands as our framework. A Board committee, working in parallel to the staff committee, is focusing on questions of governance, membership, and Trustee leadership.

We are also in the process of building the relationships that will inform our formal land and labor recognition process, which will acknowledge that Studio Theatre sits on traditional land of the Piscataway people, that we have benefited from systems created by the free labor of Black people, and that our theater has played a role in the gentrification of our neighborhood and displacement of Black communities with roots here. As part of that process, we are currently working to create restorative, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous artists and members of the Piscataway tribe, and with people from the Black community with roots in the Logan Circle neighborhood and Black theatermakers in the DMV area.

All of this work is ongoing, by its nature and because there is much to examine and change. What follows is a list of actions that we will pursue as first steps. We share them publicly to make these changes transparent, and so that you, our community, can hold us accountable to these commitments, and to the process of ongoing change.

The resident theater movement that created theaters like Studio was born of audacious dreaming. We hope that this challenging moment and its forced pause encourages us, and our field, to dream anew. We hope to help create a changed field, where what we make next and how we make it will be different and better. We are buoyed by the belief that anti-racism can lead to abundance—new and exciting aesthetic approaches and points of view, new stakeholders and audiences, and the ongoing relevance of our work in a rapidly changing world. In short, we believe that this work, challenging as it can and should be, ought to bring us hope, and that its fruits are joy and an environment that helps all members of our community thrive, in art and in life.

To create a more inclusive community and more vibrant art form, we at Studio Theatre will take the following actions, make the following commitments, and set the following goals, starting now:

Programming, Artists, and Production

We commit to creating a space that welcomes BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) theatermakers and makes them central to our work, nurtures their processes and artistic visions, and fairly compensates them for their work by:

  • Ensuring that plays by BIPOC theatermakers are a central part of our programming, producing them regularly and robustly. To that end, we will critically examine our season planning “inputs,” with a goal that at least 50% of the work we consider is written by BIPOC artists; diversify the team who reads and recommends plays for programming with at least 50% BIPOC readers in the coming season; continue our current trend of commissioning at least 50% BIPOC artists; and continue to commission directors to propose projects, which is one of the ways we widen the notion of where programming ideas can come from.
  • Making BIPOC directors, designers, and other theater personnel a regular part of all of our creative and production teams. That will involve building relationships with and hiring artists we haven’t worked with before; increasing the number of BIPOC artists working on productions not written by BIPOC writers; and actively recruiting and hiring BIPOC production crew.
  • Empowering BIPOC artists who work here and actively supporting them. We will share information about known members of a production’s creative team with artists considering joining the project; proactively orient new artists to our spaces; and budget for and hire cultural consultants, counselors, conversation facilitators, BIPOC casting directors and consultants, hair/makeup support, and intimacy directors, whenever a project warrants any of them.
  • Compensate artists and other personnel more fairly and support them more robustly by: paying artists for talkbacks, donor events, and other work done outside of the rehearsal process; eliminating differences in pay for artists working in our Main Series and Studio X programming series; and exploring ways to actively support families and caregivers, such as continuing our practice of not scheduling marathon “10-out-of-12″ technical rehearsals, setting and sharing rehearsal schedules in advance, and proactively soliciting requests for how we can better support those in caregiving roles.

Staff, Workplace, and Board

We commit to building a shared understanding of systemic racism and anti-racist practices, to infusing that understanding into our work at all levels of the organization, and to dismantling the barriers that have prevented our Board and staff from diversifying by:

  • Holding regular anti-racism learning sessions and facilitated conversations for staff and Board members, starting with a full-day session in early 2021 with Equity Quotient; integrating anti-racism training into onboarding for new employees and visiting artists; and creating a dedicated budget line to support the trainings, workshops, and facilitated conversations needed to create and maintain an anti-racist organization.
  • Interrogating and improving processes for recruitment, hiring, and onboarding, aiming to lower barriers for entry and foster a more inclusive workplace. To that end, we will disclose salary ranges for available positions, eliminate educational and years-of-experience requirements from job postings, and institute bias awareness training for hiring managers.
  • Revising our codes of conduct, “On Working Together,” to better reflect our anti-racist commitment; ensuring that systems for reporting and remedying discrimination and disrespect are in place; supporting affinity groups that staff self-define and encouraging them to meet during working hours; holding regular financial seminars for staff and artists and offering free financial consultants to all active employees; and, recognizing that the work is ongoing, making our EDI committee a standing group that meets regularly, composed of members from all departments and levels of the staff.
  • Actively seeking out BIPOC Board members that better reflect the diversity of the DC metropolitan region and using the newly formed Board EDI working group to examine, and recommend changes relating to, a variety of issues, including financial commitments, opportunities for ongoing Board learning and awareness-building, Board composition, and hiring and evaluation of theater leadership.
  • Beginning a process to critically examine and restructure our apprentice program, with equity, opportunity, and meaningful mentorship in mind.
  • Conducting an audit of external vendors and looking for opportunities to better support BIPOC-run businesses and businesses that actively work to advance equity and inclusion.

Audiences

We commit to building an audience that better reflects the population of the  DC Metro area and the work on our stages, and to serving them better, by:

  • Launching a ticket affordability program to make our work more financially accessible, and reserving more prime seats for single ticket buyers, made available throughout runs of our productions.
  • Intentionally reaching out to a more diverse audience. That will involve targeting BIPOC audiences in marketing plans for all productions, with resources to support that effort; continuing the work of meaningful audience demand-building, building on the successes of artist Psalmayene 24’s residency at Studio; and involving artists — directors especially — in audience visioning and marketing strategy.
  • Deepening and broadening engagement with community organizations, including our current partners: CreativeWorks at Joe’s Movement Emporium, DC Public Library, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the Howard University Department of Theatre Arts, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, N Street Village, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Team Rayceen, Us Helping Us, and Whitman-Walker Health.
  • Providing front of house staff and volunteers with learning and training opportunities, including bystander intervention training, to better prepare them to welcome and support diverse audiences.
  • Using social media to celebrate BIPOC artists and collaborators, share resources, and amplify civic voices that align with our values.

In Closing

This letter is our first public step after months of internal work. It will not be our last.

We see these plans as a departure point, a series of first steps in what we imagine to be an ongoing, yearslong effort. And we acknowledge that there are changes of real importance that remain aspirational for us, like compensating artists and staff significantly better, and eliminating six-day rehearsal weeks.

We will provide regular updates to our community as our work progresses through direct communication, updates on our website, and information in our annual report.

We will also be soliciting feedback from our constituents to help us improve, inviting them to share with us their experiences with Studio and their ideas. Should you have any thoughts or concerns to share with us, please do so. We welcome them.

Thank you for joining us on this journey to make Studio more inclusive, more equitable, and more vibrant.

Sincerely,

David Muse, Artistic Director / Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg, Managing Director

Theater J

 What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

Theater J’s response to the We See You, White American Theater Demands is below and published on our website. Our anti-racism task force continues to meet weekly to continue the work.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

There is no industrywide playbook for a culturally specific theater (we are a Jewish theater) to address these issues. We are excited by the opportunity to play a leadership role in creating the model by which we can be true to our identity and also ensure that our theater is anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and inclusive.

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

We are very proud of our efforts to shift our script-submission policy. We now allow for BIPOC playwrights to submit their scripts directly to us, bypassing our agent or professional-recommendation requirement. We hope that this will greatly improve our access to Jewish plays written by BIPOC artists (including Jews of color). We are also incredibly proud of the classes for theater lovers that we have offered around this topic, including our “Becoming a Raised-Conscious Audience Member” class and our upcoming “Conversations on Theater: Race, Jewish Identity, and Justice” co-taught by our Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr, Rachel Grossman, and Katherine MacHolmes.

What remains to be done in your part of the artsphere to promote social justice and social change?

We need to continue cultivating and educating our audiences. The professional theater community has been called in to examine our practices, but during this “great intermission” we haven’t yet had a chance to bring our audiences with us. While the classes above are an attempt to begin that education, Theater J sees that as one of our greatest responsibilities when we return to live performance.

To our community,

As the leading Jewish theater company in the U.S., Theater J strives to infuse our Jewish values in every aspect of what we do. We place special emphasis on the value of tikkun olam: repairing the world. It is through this lens that we acknowledge that white American theater has created and benefitted from a foundation of systemic racism and oppression that has harmed generations of BIPOC artists, technicians, and producers. We are enormously grateful to the organizers of We See You, White American Theater for shining a light on many of the ways in which our industry, including Theater J, is broken, and some of the paths we can take toward becoming inclusive, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive institutions. Theater J has both knowingly and unknowingly failed to live up to our values, and we are deeply committed to change.

Theater J is a Jewish theater, and a program of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center. We tell stories of Jewish culture, history, and faith that speak to both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. The experience of being Jewish is not particular to any one demographic, one set of beliefs, or one singular identity; for example, ethnically and racially diverse Jews represent a significant portion of the Jewish population in the U.S. As with many communities, Jews are and have been both victims of persecution and beneficiaries of privilege. Our histories tell stories of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and oppression in a multitude of forms. By producing and presenting both new and classic Jewish stories for our stage, we seek to teach empathy, create community and commonality, and reflect the world back to our audience so they can help make it a better place for everyone. We are committed to doing that work in a more just way, becoming more inclusive, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive both onstage and off.

We have been meeting regularly as a staff to outline the steps forward. The action items listed below are only the first of our commitments in this work, which we see as a constant journey toward a more just world. We are currently an all-white full-time staff, and we commit to listening and learning as we develop these practices further.

  • Judaism is both multicultural and multiracial, and yet we have failed to seek out, fully support, and embrace Jews of color. We commit to seeking more representation of ethnically and racially diverse Jews on our stage, in our audience, on our staff, and in our leadership.
  • We have failed to produce as many works written by artists of color as we should or could have, and we commit to improving that ratio. One step toward that goal will be in revising our script-submission policy, which previously required a playwright to have an agent to submit a play (with very few exceptions). By requiring agency representation, we were perpetuating an existing discriminatory system. We will now allow unrepresented BIPOC artists who have written plays that meet our mission to submit those plays directly to us.
  • We commit to producing more plays that explore the intersections of Jewish and BIPOC lives, such as Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror.
  • We have failed to communicate clearly to our artist community during the casting process, leaving actors unsure of whether they are eligible to be cast in specific roles. Many roles at Theater J are cast with an eye toward multiracial inclusivity. But as a Jewish theater, we often produce plays in which we feel that white Jewish ethnicity is essential to the play and the production, such as in Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy, in which characters have been arrested because they have physical characteristics of being Ashkenazi Jews. We have had and will continue to have multiracial casts playing Jewish roles in plays in which white Jewish ethnicity is not essential, such as in many of the plays of the Yiddish theater. We commit to publishing a clear explanation of our casting policy and communicating the specific casting goals of each production more clearly in all of our casting breakdowns.
  • We commit to compensating artists at all talkbacks and donor events outside of rehearsal hours at which they will be expected to speak publicly. We also know that artist talkbacks and donor events can be places that are or feel unsafe to BIPOC artists, particularly when those artists are invited to participate with a predominantly white audience. We commit to developing intervention protocols for these harmful incidents and ensuring that facilitators are culturally competent and well-versed in these protocols.
  • We know that the burdens of being a parent and caregiver can have disproportionate impacts on BIPOC theatermakers (artists and technicians). We have created a Parent/Caregiving Committee that seeks to find ways in which artists and technicians who are parents and/or caregivers can be better supported in our practices. We have committed to disseminating the full rehearsal schedule (including planned rehearsal times) at least 45 days in advance of first rehearsal so that theatermakers can better plan for their parenting and caregiving needs. We also have committed to sharing a policy about how and when parents can bring children to the workplace when caregiving needs arise. We will proactively reach out to all incoming theatermakers and let them know about our Parent/Caregiving Committee, inviting theatermakers to share their needs with us, rather than placing the burden on the theatermakers to initiate that conversation. The Committee will continue to examine ways in which we can be supportive of all theatermakers who are parents and/or caregivers.
  • The greatest subsidizers of the U.S. theater are theatermakers working below livable wages, and this presents a disproportionate barrier to entry for BIPOC artists. Union rates, which are set nationally, are often too low to survive on in the DC metropolitan region. Theater J commits to publishing our actual rates for all artistic positions in all breakdowns and employment notices, as well as listing information about our artistic salaries on our website.
  • We will no longer hold “ten out of twelve” rehearsals. Furthermore, we commit to ending all rehearsals at least one hour prior to the last scheduled Metro train, so that artists and technicians who rely on public transportation will not be disproportionately burdened by our rehearsal schedule.
  • We commit to sharing a land acknowledgement in all our programs, on our website, and at every first rehearsal. Our current land acknowledgment is: Our building sits on the traditional homeland of the Nacotchtank (Anacostan), farmers and traders who lived along the banks of the Anacostia River. Beginning in 1608, European settlers decimated the Nacotchtank with disease, warfare, and forced removal. By the 1700s, the survivors fled to join other tribes to the north, south, and west, including the Piscataway Peoples, who continue to steward these lands from generation to generation. We know this acknowledgement is only a small step towards justice, and we ask that all of us learn about the past and present and invest in the future of our country’s Indigenous communities wherever we are.
  • All of our currently employed full-time staff members have recently completed anti-racism training, and we commit to continued training for all current and future full-time staff and lay leadership.
  • We commit to developing intervention protocols for incidents of racial insensitivity and harm both in the rehearsal room and the theater. These protocols will be distributed to stage managers, production assistants, technical crew, actors, designers, house managers, ushers, and all members of the staff.
  • We commit to developing a full and comprehensive feedback and review process for all current staff members, holding both managers and employees accountable for furthering anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and inclusive practices. We commit to full exit interviews for all departing staff members. Furthermore, we commit to disseminating an anonymized survey to all departing artists and show-specific production staff, the results of which will be shared with staff, executive leadership, and lay leadership.

We invite our community to share their input with us and hold us accountable; please send comments to Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr at adam@theaterj.org or Managing Director Jojo Ruf at jojo@theaterj.org.

Theatre Prometheus

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

After taking the last six months to review, reflect, and discuss the We See You, White American Theater demands as a team, the biggest decision Theatre Prometheus has made is to reduce our season from three shows to two. This change will help eliminate the artificial rush of white supremacist company culture that we now realize we’ve been perpetrating. Among many things, this shift will allow us to increase pay for all artists and provide a longer timeline for casting and production. This will enable us to push beyond our normal networking circles and work toward our goal of ensuring the final pool of applicants is over 50% Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

Over the next year, we hope to see this diversity equally reflected within our internal staff. Our goal over the next 12–18 months is to identify and implement the structural, financial, cultural, and systematic changes needed to move from a predominantly white administrative staff to one that reflects the rich diversity of our community. To assist us in this process, we are currently working with our development team to raise enough funds to subsidize a companywide equity and diversity training as well as an HR consultant.

To read our full 6-month progress report, please check out theatreprometheus.org/accountability.

For further inquiries, please contact our Artistic Director, Tracey Erbacher, at tracey@theatreprometheus.org.

Toby’s Dinner Theatre

Toby’s Dinner Theatre and The Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA) has always prided itself on being inclusive and diverse and for providing opportunity. We will continue operating in such a manner, keeping ourselves open and available for discussion and education, always striving to do and be the best we can.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

What is your anti-racism EDI action plan and how successful have you been so far in implementing it?

In August of 2020 we released our response to the We See You, White American Theater organizers. While we have made progress on all twelve commitments, there is still so much work to do. We are deeply grateful to WSYWAT for holding the theater industry accountable for harm consistently caused to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our field.

Please know that the response to these questions is not comprehensive of all the anti-racist practices and actions we are working toward, as we believe being anti-racist results from the consistent conscious decision to make equitable choices in our daily lives. We welcome any opportunity for transparency and accountability to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our community. Thank you to DC Metro Theate rArts for the opportunity to share where we are in this anti-oppression work.

One of the most egregious imbalances at Woolly Mammoth has been a reliance on unpaid or underpaid internships and fellowships. This fieldwide practice often rewards privilege and discourages inclusivity, thus creating one of many barriers to entering the theater industry. In December 2020, Woolly Mammoth launched the Miranda Family Fellowships, a new program designed to provide talented candidates from historically excluded communities, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, with the resources and training necessary to build their careers as arts administrators or theater technicians. Each fellowship is structured as a paid yearlong department-specific position with benefits (including health insurance) and a housing stipend. As of January 15, 2021, we have received over 200 applications for three positions, demonstrating a clear need for this point of entry for the next generation of arts leaders. We ultimately seek to expand these fellowships to all departments, and we look forward to sharing updates on that progress over the next few seasons.

As part of our commitment to anti-oppression work, we recently reimagined every job description at Woolly Mammoth, including companywide responsibilities around engaging in equity and justice work. These companywide responsibilities include committing to Woolly’s value of radical inclusivity by furthering one’s own independent journey with anti-racism, engaging in intentional cross-departmental collaboration, and explicitly advocating for policies both internally and externally that further advance Woolly’s stated values on an organizational, local, and national scale. In all job descriptions, we have also included language outlining the culture we are striving to create at Woolly:

We acknowledge that Woolly Mammoth has upheld and benefited from systems of oppression in our country and we aim to do better, using the principles of anti-racism to guide our actions and decision-making. How we do things is as important as what we do, and we expect our core values and anti-racist practices to influence the way we work together as a team. We strive to center openness, integrity, and care in our policies, processes, and how we interact with one another. We embrace a culture of transparency, accountability, and mutual respect as the foundation of all our collaborations, both inter-departmentally and externally. We take seriously our role as a civic leader, and strive to address local and national challenges using our knowledge, skills, commitment, and resources. As part of this work, all employees are expected to develop meaningful internal and external relationships that are mutually beneficial and impact-aware. We believe that everyone in the Woolly community is worth engaging in conversations about the art we make and how that art intersects with the world. We lean into the unconventional, especially if a nontraditional and inventive approach will help us reach new understandings of our art form, our industry, and our world.

By being explicit about expectations, we are able to hold each other accountable and recognize how central this work is to the success of Woolly Mammoth as a cultural institution, and the success and well-being of every individual staff member who works here.

On the board level, we recently prototyped racial caucusing and learning groups including an Analyzing and Mobilizing White Privilege space as well as an affinity space for Board members of color from ours and other DC theaters, with representatives from Woolly, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, Studio, and Round House. Both of these groups have plans to continue in the future.

We consider this work to be an ongoing process, and that success ultimately looks like the collective liberation of all people — the recognition that every person is worthy of dignity and respect, and that within systems of oppression, everyone suffers. Until then, we will continue to cultivate a distinctively Woolly culture of “productive dissatisfaction” with the status quo.

What have been your challenges in dismantling white supremacy in your theater?

We swim in the waters of white supremacy, capitalism, and oppression in this country — and in our own organization. It’s humbling how often conflict arises between our stated values and harmful systems of oppression. It is hard work, and asks for a level of openness, vulnerability, and transparency, and an ability to PAUSE when something occurs that needs to be named.

What anti-racism achievements are you most proud of?

It’s hard to say that anti-racism is something that can be “achieved.” We at Woolly are in the thick of what feels like tremendous and overdue cultural change within our organization. How information is communicated, how decisions are made, how we handle conflict — these are ongoing conversations happening with the full-time staff. We have a ways to go, including building more pathways into this work for our seasonal and part-time staff and artists.

What remains to be done in your part of the artsphere to promote social justice and social change?

Take a look at We See You, White American Theater, from an anonymous multigenerational collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color theatremakers, who fiercely love this art form and labored over this question on behalf of our industry. A lot of what remains to be done is outlined in their demands.

What will your theater look like when it fully reopens regarding decision-making and whose stories get to be told and who gets to tell them?

Our seasons and projects will continue to be selected by our artistic teams, and we are working to make that process more porous. We have added Sonia Fernandez as the Director of New Work, and we are excited to partner with her on all she has to offer our artistic processes and play-making. We are also experimenting with shared artistic leadership on a project that we will be announcing shortly, which was mentioned briefly in our August 2020 response to #WeSeeYouWAT.

The stories we center and the artists who tell those stories will continue to align with our mission to push the boundaries of aesthetic innovation and simultaneously provoke civic discourse and action. With radical inclusivity as one of our core values, these stories need to represent the people who inhabit the world we live in — across race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic background, and political viewpoints.

What results do you want to see that have not yet happened?

The results we want to see is the collective liberation of all people. There are many things we want to do in service of the results we want to see.

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