Inclusivity at at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley must use our voice and art form to take a much more focused and effective stand against the conscious and unconscious bias, systemic racism, and violence that continue to plague our nation. In the summer of 2020, we joined the many voices throughout our community and across this nation that are fighting for racial justice and who are outraged at the unconscionable murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, among countless others. See the letter from Tim, Phil, and Kelley from May 2020. The ongoing violence toward and repression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) points to an ongoing disease, a pandemic of racism and discrimination that has plagued America for over 400 years. We believe that #BlackLivesMatter and that we must as a nation work together to dismantle the structural racism that dehumanizes and destroys the Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Middle Eastern, multiracial, and all BIPOC members of our community.

As a predominantly white institution we at TheatreWorks are interrogating our organizational policies and practices that we acknowledge are upholding harmful perspectives and marginalizing BIPOC voices. We plan to create a more equitable and pluralistic culture on our stages, on our Board of Trustees, and at our workplace. We pledge to interrupt racism and bias towards anyone due to race, ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, ability, class, or age and are excited to engage in community partnerships that reflect our renewed commitment to more inclusively celebrate everyone’s human spirit.

With tremendous gratitude we acknowledge and honor TheatreWorks’ beloved community of trailblazing BIPOC artists who worked to bring change. These artists – on the stage, behind the scenes, and in our offices – travelled from all over the Bay Area and nation to tell stories that were not often told, performed in roles they had traditionally been excluded from playing, and made their voices heard. Their brave and beautiful work is a large part of the foundation on which TheatreWorks was built and we pledge to remember their extraordinary efforts while also acknowledging the harm done by our institutional shortcomings. We rededicate ourselves to build upon the foundation of that good work to become a more inclusive and actively anti-racist organization. 

We have much work to do as a company. We invite you to join us as we explore new ways to place anti-racism at the heartbeat of our work on and off our stages, our engagement with our multicultural community, and how we welcome a more diverse audience. We aspire to a transformative and transparent process that ensures lasting and long-term change. We will uplift the voices that more fully represent the diversity of our region. We will focus on repairing the harm we have caused and build on our past successes while never resting on our laurels. We will include all in our journey – our loyal TheatreWorks community as well as new friends and partnerships.

This is hard work, but it can be joyful work. We will share our progress with you and, toward that end, we offer our most recent update below.

 

The following transparent update and glossary represent a collective of ideas and prioritized action items that are evolving and will be updated regularly.

 

A Transparent Update on our Progress and Action Steps

May 2020 update from Phil Santora and Robert Kelley

As of February 19, 2021

Here are the steps that we have put in place to build a deeper and longer commitment to change and systematically do this work:

  • We have shared the demands and valid issues brought forth by We See You White American Theatre with our full board, our entire leadership team, and our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) collective. We are working at the staff and board levels to prioritize these demands and issues in order to implement the policies, procedures, and cultural changes we need to make to move us toward an anti-racist future.
  • We have retained an experienced consultant (Randi Bryant) to provide facilitation and training of anti-racism and IDEA work.
  • We held our first full board of trustees retreat on anti-racism with our consultant in November of 2020 and are also holding IDEA-focused sessions with our board of trustees over the next 3-4 months. The first one was held on January 25, 2021.
  • We are building on the work of our IDEA collective to rigorously look at the policies and procedures that we need to reevaluate in order to make meaningful change.
  • We have conducted staff and board surveys to understand where we are on the continuum of becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. These results are helping to guide us on our next action steps.
  • Our staff is conducting weekly mini-seminars with our consultant on the following subjects: charting where you are on IDEA and where you want to go; fostering diverse and inclusive environments; language and its impacts on IDEA efforts; strategies for navigating difficult conversations around IDEA issues; insider and outsider dynamics; privilege and potential blind-spots for insiders, and risks of exclusion, disenchantment, and disenfranchisement that may accompany outsiders; self-assessing cultural competency.
  • We have created the new staff position: Director of Community Partnerships. This position will create long-term, trust-based, and reciprocal relationships with BIPOC and under-represented communities throughout Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and beyond.
  • We have launched initiatives to build programming that shines light on social justice and racial equity. Examples include our Voices of Democracy initiative (launched in fall of 2020), and Simple Gifts, our multicultural holiday celebration (streamed throughout December of 2020). We will continue to work towards this in the development of our future seasons and festivals. We will also be promoting A Kids Play About Racism as a virtual school tour in spring of 2021, which will include post-show workshops with actor and writer Davied Morales.
  • Recent updates to our newly announced Season 51 include two more playwrights of color.
  • Updates to our new works development process include our recent Writers’ Retreat, which celebrated diverse artistic teams and new voices that we plan to champion as we invigorate our commitment to multiculturalism. Our future seasons and festivals will reflect and reinvigorate that commitment.

 

VIEW PAST ACTION STEPS

 

Glossary

Anti-racism is actively and continuously working within ourselves, our networks and our institutions to identify and oppose racism in order to create a more just and equitable society. 

Inclusionis inviting and valuing all diverse communities with true and radical equity. We strive to become a welcoming organization, especially for those who have been underrepresented on and off our stages including all artists, audience members, trustees, technicians, educators, teaching artists, volunteers, donors, and staff. 

Diversity is the presence of differences that may include race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, ability, and age. A commitment to diversity means acknowledging populations that have been—and remain—underrepresented and marginalized in the broader society, and welcoming them at all levels of leadership and participation in our artistic process and institution.

Equity is promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within our procedures, processes, and distribution of resources. To achieve equity for TheatreWorks requires a continual and vigorous interrogation of the policies and systems within our society and theatre company that lead to inequality and disenfranchisement.

Access is the concept that all people have equal chances at advancement, learning, participation, and leadership regardless of physical, economic, social, or cultural differences. A commitment to providing access for all means we must continually question and rebuild all systems, practices, and structures at TheatreWorks that lead to the exclusion of any individual or group.

 

RESOURCES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE