OUR COMMITMENT TO INCLUSION, DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND ACCESSIBILITY
We believe that live theatre connects us all in the universal pursuit of a purposeful existence and reveals through storytelling the meaning of our humanity. This can only be achieved when theatre is genuinely inclusive and reflects the stories of all, particularly those who have been ignored, diminished, or erased.
In June 2020, we released an anti-racism statement expressing our commitment to build a fully inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible culture at Shakespeare & Company. Since then, we have made incremental steps towards this goal. Along our journey, and with the realization of the magnitude of the task before us, we have slowed down in order to be more accountable for the impact of our actions. We are listening, increasing our awareness, and understanding of how pervasive systemic racism and gender bias are in the power structures, practices, policies, and norms of institutions across this country, including in our predominantly white institution, Shakespeare & Company.
We have been urged by company members to be more forthcoming in the ways we plan to make our spaces and programming anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and accessible for all, in particular people of the global majority who work at Shakespeare & Company. By allowing entrenched patterns to dictate practices and interactions, we have neglected to prioritize anti-racism, gender inclusion, pay equity, and economic justice. We owe artists, staff, volunteers, and patrons, as well as the community at large our commitment to sustain this work and communicate our intention and process clearly.
To date, we have either fulfilled or begun to pursue the following:
- In 2018, we initiated Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) training with BRIDGE (Berkshire Resources for Integration of Diverse Groups through Education) for year-round staff, Education teaching artists, and Actor Training faculty. BRIDGE is a local partner and grassroots organization dedicated to advancing equity and justice through cultural competence, positive psychology, and mutual understanding and acceptance.
- In August 2020, our Board of Trustees completed the first phase of IDEA training with BRIDGE, increasing their awareness of accountability, and establishing the commitment to set aside resources, time, and attention to IDEA and racial justice work. This includes funding in the short-term and, in the long-term, building a more diverse board. Time to discuss and advance IDEA work is now incorporated into every board meeting agenda.
- An IDEA committee made up of board members, staff, and seasonal artists has met every other week since October 2020 to develop a shared vision and charter which will lead to a phased action plan of next steps for the board, staff, and volunteers.
- Over the course of the next the year, the Artistic Director, Managing Director, and a Board member are participating in the Inclusive Leadership Cohort with BRIDGE at Berkshire Taconic Foundation. This unique peer-led program will help local cross-sector leaders refine their own equity and inclusion initiatives through race analysis and by working towards a goal for positive social impact in our local community.
- We have allocated funding in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year (beginning April 2021) to hire consultants to collaborate with the IDEA committee to develop and facilitate IDEA and sexual harassment training for all staff, seasonal employees, and volunteers throughout the year.
- We will restructure all Performance, Education, and Actor Training orientations this year to include IDEA, sexual harassment, and bystander intervention training at the beginning of the summer season for all administrative staff, part-time employees, artistic and technical employees, teaching artists, faculty, and volunteers.
- We have also designated funding to hire a consultant in Human Resource Management to assess the company’s needs and work environment. In coordination with staff, the consultant will devise a long-term plan for human resources to include management of equity and inclusion practices, and amending and reinforcing our system for all staff and seasonal employees to be able to report instances of harassment or bias confidentially.
- In December 2020, we implemented closed captioning in our virtual gala production. We will now explore the feasibility of adding closed captioning to all of our virtual artistic programming and continue to develop plans to provide other accessible programming and resources, such as sensory-friendly performances and assistive listening devices.
- Beginning with the 2021 summer season, we are committed to ensuring at least 50% of our year-round non-Shakespeare performances consist of works by global majority playwrights.
- In our workplace and programming, we will continue to develop policies and procedures to prevent and address instances of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and any other discriminatory behavior that is inconsistent with our commitment to a fully inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible culture.
We move forward with the understanding that becoming a fully inclusive and anti-racist organization requires continual practice and self-examination through the lens of racial and social justice. This includes rehearsal procedures, season planning, casting/hiring practices, employee compensation, leadership, governance, curriculum of our Actor Training and Education programs, and the accessibility of our programming and campus to people of all abilities. We cannot pretend that change will come quickly or easily, but we will remain vigilant and focused. We know there is no going back. We will continue to build an organization with authentic inclusion, diversity, and racial and gender equity as its foundation, a place where all of our stories are nurtured and celebrated.
- Shakespeare & Company