Anti-Racism Work at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

TheatreWorks has, since inception, had at its very core a belief in the shared humanity of all the world’s citizens from every race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and ability. With humility, we realize that this core belief has not grown with the times and that we must do more to become a multicultural and anti-racist organization. The ongoing violence toward and repression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) point to an ongoing disease, a virus, a pandemic of racism and discrimination that has plagued America for over 400 years.

We believe that Black Lives Matter and that we must as a nation work together to dismantle structural racism that dehumanizes and destroys the black body. We are committed to making theatre that celebrates the human spirit and builds bridges between communities and individuals from diverse backgrounds. We are grateful for the work of groups like We See You White American Theatre and our own community of BIPOC artists and are listening when they tell us that we have not gone far enough. We acknowledge that we have caused and continue to cause harm and pain as our community and country grapple with the trauma of centuries of racial injustice.

We also acknowledge that TheatreWorks is, in many ways, at the beginning of the journey to actively engage with anti-racist work. We are in the process of shifting to a different model of how we approach the art on our stages, who we interact with in our community, who we hire and collaborate with, and more. We are actively working to dismantle systems and structures that have been in place that are holding back our progress in being a more inclusive and truly anti-racist organization.

Our goal is to be aspirational and transparent with our methods. We are not looking for a quick fix and commit to a long-term process of change. With a sense of urgency we will build on the good work from the past, recognize our shortcomings, and include our community in building a new series of priorities.

The following vision statement, glossary, and transparent update represent a collective of ideas and prioritized action items that are evolving and will be updated regularly. 

(Updated September 28, 2020)

RESOURCES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

IDEA Collective Vision Statement

The IDEA Collective (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access-see glossary below) is a group of staff members that envisions TheatreWorks Silicon Valley as an anti-racist multicultural theatre company committed to uplifting the spirit of all humanity. We pledge to interrupt racism and bias towards anyone due to race, gender identity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, ability, class, or age. We acknowledge that, as a historically white organization, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has participated in upholding structures that perpetuate oppression and we are dedicated to dismantling institutional practices that implicitly uphold Eurocentric perspectives and undermine Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’s voices. We pledge to transform the culture of our workplace, our theatrical performances, and our educational engagement; to foster a more pluralistic audience and donor experience; and to expand our community partnerships to reflect our ongoing commitment to more inclusively celebrate everyone’s human spirit. 

 

A Transparent Update on our Progress and Action Steps

 

As of February 19, 2021

Here are the steps that we have put in place to build a deeper and longer commitment to change and systematically do this work:

  • We have shared the demands and valid issues brought forth by We See You White American Theatre with our full board, our entire leadership team, and our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) collective. We are working at the staff and board levels to prioritize these demands and issues in order to implement the policies, procedures, and cultural changes we need to make to move us toward an anti-racist future.
  • We have retained an experienced consultant (Randi Bryant) to provide facilitation and training of anti-racism and IDEA work.
  • We held our first full board of trustees retreat on anti-racism with our consultant in November of 2020 and are also holding IDEA-focused sessions with our board of trustees over the next 3-4 months. The first one was held on January 25, 2021.
  • We are building on the work of our IDEA collective to rigorously look at the policies and procedures that we need to reevaluate in order to make meaningful change.
  • We have conducted staff and board surveys to understand where we are on the continuum of becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. These results are helping to guide us on our next action steps.
  • Our staff is conducting weekly mini-seminars with our consultant on the following subjects: charting where you are on IDEA and where you want to go; fostering diverse and inclusive environments; language and its impacts on IDEA efforts; strategies for navigating difficult conversations around IDEA issues; insider and outsider dynamics; privilege and potential blind-spots for insiders, and risks of exclusion, disenchantment, and disenfranchisement that may accompany outsiders; self-assessing cultural competency.
  • We have created the new staff position: Director of Community Partnerships. This position will create long-term, trust-based, and reciprocal relationships with BIPOC and under-represented communities throughout Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and beyond.
  • We have launched initiatives to build programming that shines light on social justice and racial equity. Examples include our Voices of Democracy initiative (launched in fall of 2020), and Simple Gifts, our multicultural holiday celebration (streamed throughout December of 2020). We will continue to work towards this in the development of our future seasons and festivals. We will also be promoting A Kids Play About Racism as a virtual school tour in spring of 2021, which will include post-show workshops with actor and writer Davied Morales.
  • Recent updates to our newly announced Season 51 include two more playwrights of color.
  • Updates to our new works development process include our recent Writers’ Retreat, which celebrated diverse artistic teams and new voices that we plan to champion as we invigorate our commitment to multiculturalism. Our future seasons and festivals will reflect and reinvigorate that commitment.

 

VIEW PAST ACTION STEPS

 

Glossary

Anti-racism is a form of action against racial hatred, bias, systemic racism, and the oppression of marginalized groups. Anti-racism is usually structured around conscious efforts and deliberate actions to provide equitable opportunities for all people on an individual and systemic level.

Inclusionis inviting and valuing all diverse communities with true and radical equity. We strive to become a welcoming organization, especially for those who have been underrepresented on and off our stages including all artists, audience members, trustees, technicians, educators, teaching artists, volunteers, donors, and staff. 

Diversity is the presence of differences that may include race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, ability, and age. A commitment to diversity means acknowledging populations that have been—and remain—underrepresented and marginalized in the broader society, and welcoming them at all levels of leadership and participation in our artistic process and institution.

Equity is promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within our procedures, processes, and distribution of resources. To achieve equity for TheatreWorks requires a continual and vigorous interrogation of the policies and systems within our society and theatre company that lead to inequality and disenfranchisement.

Access is the concept that all people have equal chances at advancement, learning, participation, and leadership regardless of physical, economic, social, or cultural differences. A commitment to providing access for all means we must continually question and rebuild all systems, practices, and structures at TheatreWorks that lead to the exclusion of any individual or group.