How does a predominantly white institution begin to step into an anti-racist vision?
It’s a journey.
We paused — in the aftermath of January 6 — to look inward. To take some time to reflect on the systems that do not bend toward justice, and the actions that uphold them. We thought it necessary to take some time of reflection after that event, to recognize how we fit into the American story, to see where we are, where we’ve come from, and take part in shaping the version to come.
In our time away from “business as usual” we concentrated on the anti-racism work we began last summer. We dug in with thought leaders in the field who pushed us towards tough questions and uncovered uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the way we work. The undiluted time was exposing. We’re further from our mission than we thought — than we hope to be.
But the story continues…
We’re still examining. And will continue to do so, because undoing systemic inequality is not the work of two weeks or six months — we’ve learned it is generations of work. Honestly, as a predominately white institution, there’s resistance. We name it. And yet, the reflection, truth-telling, conflict, exposure and healing is the DNA of theater — and we are committed to that.
And the story continues…
So what did we learn after the pause?
We stand by our discoveries from last August. And fresh from the pause and with fresh eyes we find deeper meaning in this work…
Reflect: We will challenge “the way things have always been done,” by questioning and disrupting baked-in systems of oppression and white supremacy that exist within our organization.
Listen: We will provide for the needs of our guest artists and audiences. We will empower Black and Brown theater-makers and celebrate and support their visions. We will seek and learn from audiences that have been excluded and/or felt unwelcome.
Name: White supremacy is the prevailing guide in America. We acknowledge our participation in that. We are deeply uncomfortable naming this. Our need for comfort is at odds with our desire to live and work in an equitable world. This is the journey.
Act: We will undo a culture that suppresses the spirit, a culture that trades in harmful standards like perfectionism, urgency, defensiveness, paternalism, power hoarding, individualism, and fear of open conflict. We will normalize inclusive season planning, now and going forward, spotlighting artists on stage and those on creative teams. We will continue establishing healthy hierarchies and power dynamics for our staff and artists. We will continue to dig into our brand and purpose, challenging ourselves to practice privately what we preach publicly. We will continue anti-racism training for staff, and Board so these intentions are accounted for from the top down.
Come Together: Honest dialogue is TheaterWorks’ North Star. Producing stories that generate hard, thoughtful, uplifting, heartfelt conversation will propel us forward. Gathering as a community: audience, staff, neighbor, citizen, is our responsibility.
We’re committed to this work. To sharing our story…the story of US. To holding to account, even after it stops trending and the world opens up. We’ll still be here. Because the work never stops. Even after the pause.