Ouida Maedel, National Endowment for the Arts and EDI Voice

We See You White Theater:” BIPOC Demands Document:

We should welcome any tool that can be leveraged to help provide equal access to the arts in every community.

Good that it includes specific suggestions for action steps in small, manageable tasks.

This document is a very exciting development for the industry.

One Slot During Season for “One-Off Show” and Hiring People of Color:

Non-profit theater organizations have a mandate to serve the public good and the local communities that those theaters serve. Therefore, play selections and hiring decisions should be based on serving their diverse communities and not the interests of a few individuals on the Board. That is why 501(c)(3) organizations were started in the first place. There were community needs that the government nor the private sector could meet, and so non-profits were established to fill that gap.

The role of Board members is to be responsible stewards of the community’s trust and that role should not be taken lightly.

Power levels among theater leaders, Boards and communities should be a horizontal line, not vertical.

Measurable Actions to Take Now to Effect Diversity Progress:

Several changes proposed:

  1. Elimination of 10 out of 12 rehearsal schedule (12-hour rehearsal days during which you rehearse for 10) and six-day rehearsal week. This schedule disproportionately hits artists of color even harder and is a barrier for those entering the industry or having to choose between having a family or staying in the industry.
  2. Transparency of salary ranges in job announcements and postings.
  3. Providing robust benefit packages (i.e., paid vacation, family leave, retirement plans) and paid internships. It is hard to work in the industry without some type of outside financial support which few people of color have.

In other words, move from the “show must go on” mentality to taking care of our people.

How to Diversify Board and Staff:

First step, look at the demographic data of your current Board and whether or not those demographics reflect your community.

Ideas for Diversifying Boards:

  1. Revamping Board recruitment strategies to prioritize building relationships in the community
  2. Eliminate “give or get” requirement.
  3. Designating Board spots for Community leaders and certain constituents (i.e., people you would like to see in your audience).

Look at the artists with whom you work and determine who you are working with and also who you are not working with and why.

Training:

There is no such thing as “One off” training. Have to be in it for the long-term.

Have to acknowledge that people learn in different ways and adapt the training accordingly.

You don’t necessarily need high dollars to conduct training. There are many free resources online if the organization does not have finances to pay for a professional trainer.

Successes Parameters:

Theaters have to look at their communities, their missions, their staffs and establish their own measurable goals of where they want to go. Then the entire staff, leadership and Board needs to take ownership of these goals.

Notable Quotes:

“There is no better time for strategic planning, radical collaboration and bold visioning for the future of the industry.”

“As long as you are going forward, you are making progress.”

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