Require a Private HR Company Present in Every Production featuring Actors Equity Members
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Black members of the Broadway community have been speaking out regarding the injustices they have faced working in theater. It is becoming increasingly clear that this industry must make quick, decisive action to better itself. One of those steps must be requiring every production to have a private HR company present NOT affiliated with the producing or creative team of the show.
In a piece she wrote (link:https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Exclusive-Jenny-Laroche-Speaks-Up-About-Racism-on-Broadway-20200603 Broadway veteran Jenny Laroche details some things that were said to her in the course of her career. Included was “‘I want this moment to feel like you're a slave in the fields and your hot!’ (A demonstration was given with this comment)” and “‘Wardrobe doesn't want to dress you. They don't like you or your look’”
Along with sharing her experiences dealing with racism, she also outlines a plan to create real change in the industry. Included is the proposal to “require a private company HR department in each production NOT affiliated with the producing team of said production or creative team of said production.” We are following her lead, as well as the lead of many other BlPOC artists, and calling on the Broadway industry to create this workplace requirement and protect artists of color.
Currently, BIPOC artists are provided little support when facing discrimination at work. James Pierce III, when faced with racial discrimination while working on Broadway in Anastasia (link:https://www.onstageblog.com/editorials/2019/6/3/actor-alleges-professional-bullying-amp-racial-discrimination-at-broadways-anastasia was faced with heavy pushback from Equity, who told him to “lay low” when he wanted to move forward with filing a formal complaint. However, when a white AEA member wanted to file a complaint, they were backed by the union without question. How can the AEA protect Black artists if it in of itself is discriminatory? A private HR company would help to resolve this issue. By outsourcing to a third party, actors could be provided more protection when reporting issues as they would not be bogged down with the politics of the theater industry.
These stories are just two of COUNTLESS others. Scroll through social media and you will see a litany of posts and videos from Black theater artists who prove exactly why it is a NECESSITY that an objective, third party HR company is present at every Broadway production. There are even entire Instagram accounts dedicated to collecting and sharing these stories, which I urge everyone to scroll through and take in. Perhaps, with this meaningful change, instances such as those described in the posts will be unable to occur, and if they do occur they will be met with easily accessible, just action in response.
It is a well known fact that Broadway and the theater industry at large are deeply racist institutions. While we cannot make up for the decades of racial discrimination we have allowed to exist, we can fight to ensure that positive change is made. This is just one step out of many we must take, but it is a vital one. Please join me in calling on Actors Equity to require theater productions to have a private HR department not affiliated with the producing or creative team.
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