OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE
New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) strives to empower artists to explore boldly, to create joyfully, to ask challenging questions, and to make the space for audiences to contend with our pasts, our shared present, and to collectively envision our future. Working toward a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist community is the only way to actually achieve this. We cannot truly be the community we aspire to be without these efforts.
For the last several years, we have been actively transforming our theatre, working to identify and dismantle White supremacy culture, anti-Blackness, and other forms of oppression. Our progress has not always been in a straight line. We have made mistakes along the way. As we have taken a hard look at our own practices and the systems we have participated in and benefited from as a predominantly White institution, we have seen that through our own actions and inaction, we have failed members of our community. We are grateful to those who have called us into difficult conversations to demand that we do better.
In January, our Core Team—a Staff task force that focuses on anti-racism and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts and that operates outside of the hierarchical structure of the organization—began the work to develop an organization-wide plan of action to push NYTW further towards being a fully anti-racist organization. This summer, a group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre makers, collectively We See You, White American Theater, issued a “comprehensive but by no means exhaustive” list of demands with the goal of creating a truly anti-racist theatre community. We acknowledge the tremendous labor of our colleagues in gathering and disseminating these demands, and we thank them for it. The We See You demands both accelerated and provided an additional frame for our work over the last several months. In that time, the entire Staff and the Board of Trustees have worked point by point through the demands as we have continued to develop our overall anti-racist action plan.
In an effort to provide greater transparency for our entire community, we share these next steps. We will continue to publish updates in the coming months about further commitments and the progress of our ongoing work.
- NYTW is committed to disrupting harmful interactions in every context and to maintaining and expanding avenues for our community to share feedback on where we have fallen short. We will continue the process of sharing our Core Values with every member of our community and holding ourselves and our community accountable for acting in accordance with them. We will incorporate our Core Values—which include our commitment to anti-racism—into every first rehearsal and first technical rehearsal as well as at all full Board meetings, and we will publish them widely so they remain ever-present in our work. We will also expand existing group agreements for all meetings, talkbacks, and classes.
- NYTW redoubles its commitment to centering the needs of BIPOC generative artists, including hiring BIPOC casting directors, dialect coaches, dramaturgs, intimacy directors, and cultural consultants. In addition, we will ensure transparency for all of our collaborators by sharing the full existing list of creative and production team members when engaging anyone for a role on a production.
- NYTW is actively reviewing our artistic initiatives and will work in tandem with members of our artistic community to ensure that programs are serving artists equitably. As part of this process, we will host a series of roundtable discussions this winter.
- NYTW is committed to understanding, acknowledging, and addressing the violent history of the land on which we make our art. Beginning this season, we will incorporate a formal Native Land Acknowledgement into all of our public programming and Board meetings, and we will investigate and share an accounting of enslaved Africans who have lived and were forced into labor on the lands we now occupy.
- NYTW is committed to developing long-term, authentic relationships with BIPOC communities across New York City. In 2019, we added a full-time position dedicated to Community Engagement, and we will continue to increase the resources for this work in each annual budget, invest significant resources into outreach to BIPOC audiences for every production, and partner with BIPOC marketing and press consultants all year long.
- NYTW will continue to center BIPOC youth, their voices, and their leadership in all of our existing and future educational programs. We will continue to invest in these programs while we support and uplift the work of local civic leaders and activist artists who have been engaging and supporting communities of color for decades.
- NYTW commits to embracing a culture of abundance, supporting our fellow theatre makers in seeking funding opportunities, advocating for BIPOC theatres and theatres dedicated to centering marginalized voices, and offering the counsel of our Development Staff to help support the fundraising efforts of members of our community who have been systemically underfunded for generations.
- NYTW commits to reinvigorating our existing Company-in-Residence initiative to offer sustained resources inclusive of space, mentorship, and administrative support, prioritizing independent BIPOC theatre companies.
- NYTW commits to hiring culturally competent designers and wardrobe personnel and providing proper training around styling of Black hair, makeup, and costumes. In addition, NYTW commits to always actively engaging BIPOC actors in conversations around the styling of their characters’ wardrobe, hair, and makeup.
- In order to create a welcoming environment for our audiences and those who interact with them, NYTW has created a cross-departmental Audience Services Committee. The group is developing intervention and disruption protocols to mitigate harmful encounters and expand modes of feedback—modeled on existing internal feedback loops that invite feedback both direct and anonymous—for audience members.
- NYTW commits to paying artists for their participation in fundraising events, for their contributions to fundraising proposals, and for work that falls outside the scope of their creative endeavor.
- NYTW commits to transparent discussions with our artists about how their projects are funded and to transparency around the financial priorities of the institution for our entire community. We will work to revamp our annual report to more clearly detail our finances and create opportunities for discussion annually.
- NYTW is committed to ensuring a diverse pool of candidates and greater transparency in hiring. Over the last three years, NYTW has begun publishing salary ranges, removing years of experience and educational attainment requirements, broadening the network of people and places with whom we share job postings, and including members of our Core Team in the hiring process. NYTW will continue to expand these efforts at every level of recruiting, including committing to transparent and equitable searches for executive leadership.
- NYTW is committed to establishing a clear picture of the demographic makeup of our collaborators. In the next year, through means of voluntary self-identification, we will implement methods of tracking the makeup of candidate pools for all positions as well as the ethnic and racial composition of our full and part-time Staff, artists, technicians, teaching artists, and our front of house and box office teams. We will also begin a vendor audit to fully understand where we are spending our dollars and identify greater opportunities to support businesses owned and run by BIPOC community members.
- NYTW is committed to continually building greater cultural competency. We have already engaged our full Staff and Board of Trustees in anti-racism and EDI trainings. We will create a standard on-boarding training for all new Staff and Trustees and continue to engage regularly throughout the year in exercises around micro-aggressions, conflict-resolution, and de-escalation training. NYTW will expand this work to find ways to include the rest of our collaborators and our broader community.
- In 2019, NYTW’s Board established an EDI Committee that has primary responsibility for Board trainings and education as well as Board accountability in these efforts. The Board EDI Committee will collaborate with the Staff’s Core Team to refine existing modes of feedback and avenues for communication and to create new ones for our entire community.
- NYTW will continue to support both the Staff’s Core Team and the Board’s EDI Committee, including continuing to provide a significant budget for their efforts and increasing those resources in the years ahead. NYTW’s existing Staff BIPOC and Multiracial Affinity Group will continue to be encouraged to meet during office hours and continue to be provided with an annual budget. Building on these commitments, when we return to full productions, NYTW will provide EDI resources in every production budget in addition to the institutional allocation.
We will conduct quarterly evaluations of our progress, refining these commitments, and building out others along the way. You can expect to hear from us in this space regularly as we have new developments to share. In the meantime, we are committed to addressing fear of open conflict, listening to those who share their experiences, and learning from the conversations to build a better Workshop. If you have thoughts about how we’re doing or would like to begin a dialogue, we invite you to reach out to us by email at LetsChat@nytw.org.
JUNE 2020 UPDATE
To live the NYTW Core Values requires concrete action toward ensuring NYTW is an anti-racist organization. Since our inception, we’ve valued pushing the theatrical form forward by championing artists with diverse voices, aesthetics and modes of making. To ensure that our practice matched our artistic commitment, three years ago we began to assess institutional culture and its impact on employees, artists and audiences.
With the support of consultants and outside facilitators, NYTW commissioned an initial assessment identifying areas of friction across the institution and outlining active next steps toward improving workplace culture. The Core Team was established as a non-hierarchical group of staff volunteers who help guide EDI work from within the organization. A Core Team sub-committee was also formed with NYTW Trustees to ensure sustained leadership support and engagement.
To date, training and facilitation has been led by artEquity (Beyond Diversity: Practicing Equity and Inclusion), The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (Undoing Racism), A.R.T./New York & The Raben Group (Diversifying Our Organization, NYTW Board Anti-Racism Education), Equity Paradigm (White Supremacy Culture), The Center for Anti-Violence Education (The Upstander Project: Upstander/Bystander training), and Safe Harbors Indigenous Collective (Institutional Land Acknowledgments).
- We commit to active civic engagement in collaboration with organizations and individual organizers including campaigning for budget justice, voter registration drives, census support, and increased engagement with our hyper-local community as part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB). Staff members will be entitled to three days of paid time off each year for civic engagement, and NYTW will guarantee that no team member will lose their job if they are arrested for protest participation.
- We commit to exploring and implementing facilitated methods of restorative justice for those who have been impacted by prior incidents with members of the NYTW community.
- Staff members commit to openly receiving feedback and being called in. We will work to dismantle fear of open conflict and continue to develop tools to empower all members of the staff to raise difficult or awkward conversations without fear of retribution or retaliation.
- We commit to annual anti-racism workshops led by an outside facilitator on topics including but not limited to dismantling white supremacy, changing anti-black culture and structures, and gender equity in order for current community members to continue to deepen their commitment to this work and for new community members to be engaged in the work.
- We commit to participating in regular workshops and exercises led by outside facilitators and members of Core Team on topics including but not limited to micro-aggressions in the workplace, conflict resolution, and de-escalation training.
In our commitment toward being a fully anti-racist organization, we have published our Core Values alongside this active list of action steps to interrogate and practices, disrupt patterns that reinforce institutionalized oppressions and inequities, acknowledge our missteps, and hold our organization to a standard that does not accept that this work is ever done. We stand in solidarity with the Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our community, and recognize that we have not always lived up to these values and must contend with the harm that those shortcomings have caused.