Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion in the Theatre Industry

Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion in the Theatre Industry

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!
Jeff Davis started this petition to All members of the theatre community

As theatre artists and enthusiasts, we all know that the performing arts can do more than simply entertain.  Through our art, we hold a mirror up to society, asking our audiences to reexamine and reevaluate our society and to create change.

As such, we often talk about our industry as a beacon for inclusion and diversity, but even we fall short.  Recent events--including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black Americans--can not be ignored.  Just as we ask our audiences to reexamine and reevaluate themselves and create change, we must do the same.

We must address the systemic racism in our industry and our role in systemic racism in our country.  Regardless of our role in the theatre--whether we are a producer, artistic director, playwright, publisher, designer, director, technician, performer, or audience member--we are all partially responsible for this problem and can have a hand in changing the theatre industry’s relationship with race.

By signing this pledge, we publicly declare our commitment to the following principles:

We believe that theatre producers, artistic directors, and management personnel should:

  • Confront their own personal biases and privileges and apologize when they feed the problem of systemic racism.
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect.
  • Commit to producing more work written by people of color and other often marginalized persons.
  • Commit to producing more work exploring the stories of people of color and other often marginalized communities.
  • Make appropriate casting decisions regarding characters whose race or ethnicity is integral to their character’s story.  If the role is for a person of color, cast a person of color.
  • Open auditions to all performers regardless of race or ethnicity for roles in which the race or ethnicity of the character is not integral to the character’s story.
  • Inform performers during and/or prior to the audition process if a specific character or characters may be considered by some to be racial stereotypes.  Express how the company plans to navigate that topic throughout the rehearsal and performance process.  
  • Allow performers to inquire about how their race will be used within the production, particularly when the work will be devised throughout the rehearsal process.
  • Inform performers during and/or prior to the audition process if stage combat, sexual content, or nudity will be involved in the production, especially if such content is somehow tied to race or race relations.
  • If possible, provide performers with access to the full script or a working draft of the script prior to the audition process.
  • Inform performers if the script includes racial slurs and/or other offensive language.
  • Inform performers that they can decline invitations to audition and may decline casting offers without fear of losing future audition opportunities.
  • Encourage performers to voice their concerns if they are uncomfortable with the production’s use of their race.  Understand that these concerns may extend to the performer’s costuming, blocking and choreography, accents or dialects, make-up, and other aspects of the production.
  • Address any and all concerns expressed by members of the cast, crew, creative team, audience, or community with generosity and humility.  Do not let any expressed concern go without a response.
  • Establish hiring practices designed to attract more diversity within their staff and contractors (directors, designers, choreographers, technicians, etc).
  • When producing work that is culturally specific, attempt to hire contractors who can speak to that cultural experience.
  • Establish compensation plans that pay employees and contractors fairly with the aim of eliminating pay disparities between white and non-white employees.
  • Establish and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards racism that responds to racism with retraining, disciplinary action, and termination if necessary.
  • Establish a whistleblower policy that establishes several points of contact for the reporting of any grievances or concerns regarding discrimination or general concerns, protects those who speak up about discrimination and harassment, and offers them anonymity if at all possible.
  • Make the policies listed above available to performers prior to auditions.
  • Require all cast, creative team, and crew members to attend a diversity and inclusion training prior to their first day of work on any production.  Require individuals to repeat this training prior to any subsequent production.
  • Require all company staff members (box office, front of house, administration, etc) and board members to attend a diversity and inclusion training annually.
  • Require individuals who are listed as points of contact in the whistleblower policy (equity/non-equity deputies, stage managers, directors, artistic directors, managing/executive directors, board members, etc) to attend a more rigorous diversity and inclusion training aimed at giving them the education and resources to properly and respectfully address concerns.
  • Work with local and national organizations to ensure that minorities are adequately and appropriately represented onstage and backstage.
  • Incorporate community outreach programs designed to attract more people of color and typically underrepresented sectors of the community to the theatre.
  • Offer regular talkbacks and study groups regarding race and diversity after performances, especially when producing works that tackle such issues or have a problematic history regarding race and diversity.
  • Adopt the Chicago Theatre Standards which tackle other issues related to harassment, bullying, discrimination, and safety in the theatre, and offer procedural preventions and potential responses for theatre companies to incorporate into their general operating procedures.
  • Encourage all members of the company to utilize the “Oops/Ouch Approach” outlined on page 32 of the Chicago Theatre Standards as a way to handle issues and concerns in real-time.
  • Write a formal apology to the community if they have reason to believe that their organization currently has an internal problem with systemic racism or has had a problem with systemic racism in the past.
  • Post this pledge in high-traffic backstage areas (green rooms, dressing rooms, etc).  Consider including it in employee/contractor handbooks and on your website.
  • Encourage others to sign this pledge.

We believe that theatrical publishers should:

  • Confront their own personal biases and privileges and apologize when they feed the problem of systemic racism.
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect.
  • Seek out and publish more works by people of color.
  • Update websites and catalogs to help theatre companies easily identify and select plays and musicals which tackle themes of race or discrimination, focuses on people of color, or provides people of color with strong leading and supporting roles.
  • Hold theatre companies accountable to any contract riders regarding the appropriate casting of characters whose race or ethnicity is integral to their character’s story.
  • Encourage theatre companies to work with local and national organizations to ensure that minorities are adequately and appropriately represented onstage and backstage.
  • Encourage theatre companies to offer regular talkbacks and study groups regarding race and diversity after performances, especially when producing works that tackle such issues or have a problematic history regarding race and diversity.
  • Include guides and resources regarding how to contact national organizations and how to effectively produce and lead audience talkbacks in licensing documents provided to producing theatre companies.
  • Encourage others to sign this pledge.

We believe that playwrights, directors, performers, designers, and technicians should:

  • Confront their own personal biases and privileges and apologize when they feed the problem of systemic racism.
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect.
  • Seek out opportunities that explore themes of race or discrimination and/or focuses on people of color.
  • Respond to producers, directors, and their peers when they see systemic racism in the workplace by discussing the issue if possible and reporting the issue if necessary.
  • Listen to others when reports of systemic racism are made.
  • Refuse to work with organizations that have a long history of racism within the theatre community and have no plan to change.
  • Encourage others to sign this pledge.

We believe that theatre educators should:

  • Confront their own personal biases and privileges and apologize when they feed the problem of systemic racism.
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect.
  • Teach students about the problem of systemic racism in the theatre industry.
  • Teach students about important works by or about people of color.
  • Celebrate the achievements of notable people of color within the theatre industry.
  • Push school districts and lawmakers to revise theatre educational standards and curricula to specifically include the study of marginalized and/or minority groups and their representation in the theatre.
  • Encourage others to sign this pledge.

We believe that audience members should:

  • Confront their own personal biases and privileges and apologize when they feed the problem of systemic racism.
  • Treat all people with dignity and respect.
  • Seek out productions by, about, or starring people of color.
  • Encourage friends and family to also seek out productions by, about, or starring people of color.
  • Support black theatre companies by attending their productions, volunteering for their organizations, and participating in their fundraising opportunities.
  • Write to the artistic directors of your local regional and community theatres and encourage them to sign this pledge.
  • Write to the artistic directors of your local regional and community theatres to celebrate their diversity and inclusion efforts or to share what they could do better.
  • Encourage others to sign this pledge.

And most of all, we believe that if we all work together, we can--and will--make a difference within our industry and within our global community.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!