Spring 2021 Community Updates: Ongoing Commitment to Change
Last summer, the Company committed to fulfilling our duty as a cultural institution to shape the present and future by becoming pro-BIPOC and actively anti-racist. For us, that means living up to ever-evolving standards of Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity, and Justice. Keeping that evolution in mind, this is an update on how the Company is working to live up to those commitments.
In shaping those initial commitments and in the process of examining our organization, both past and present, we have been guided by the work of a number of organizations: We See You White American Theater, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Black Theatre Coalition, Black Theatre United, and Black Lives Matter to start. These are just some of the organizations shouldering the burden of this enormous and inspiring work. We are grateful to them for leading the community to improve, to grow, and to do the right thing.
Accountability and transparency are vital to this process and so, if there are questions, recommendations, adjustments, or comments of any sort, please contact us directly. Our email addresses are listed below and on our website: http://theactingcompany.org/about/leadership/
We want to let our community know of some of the steps we have been taking.
Acknowledging Those That Come Before: The colonization of America involved the dislocation, exploitation and mass killings of indigenous peoples, and much of what we have now was built on the labor of many who have been left out of the histories. We need to remember so that we can change. Here we want to acknowledge those that have come before and the debts that we owe them. This is something we will make part of all our public work.
The Acting Company and the city of New York is located on Lenapehoking, the unceded traditional territory of the Lenni-Lenape people. We acknowledge debts we owe to the Indigenous peoples who have and still live, work, create, and contribute to communities here in Lenapehoking,
The City of New York, where our offices are located, was built by enslaved Africans during the Colonial Era and beyond. We acknowledge the trauma, pain, and suffering that occurred and will acknowledge the contributions of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color past and present in our home base of New York and in communities where our tours play.
Ongoing Commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice: Our staff and board are currently collaborating with the Raben Group, a national policy firm, to clarify our values and visions, advancing and building systems to nourish and sustain the equitable, inclusive, diverse, and just organization that our community deserves.
Time and Resources: Last fall the Company committed to eliminating the “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals and switching to a five-day work week. As we move toward producing again and plan our upcoming season, we have kept to this new schedule.
Language of Colonization: The harm to members of our community that is caused by continued use of colonial language has been brought to our attention. Titles that include words like “Master”, “Chief”, or “Foreman” can evoke negative responses as they are titles founded on systems of oppression. We are working to decolonize the language the Company uses in both titles and documents.
Casting Announcements: The Acting Company’s mission has always been devoted to the next generation of actors, with a desire that each new generation represents the full breadth of our culture. We know that casting announcements, particularly those for classical texts, are often phrased in ways that discourage actors from auditioning because they maintain cultural assumptions on the identity of the character. We are committed to producing casting announcements that encourage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to audition for any and every role they feel is appropriate to them. We will also promote and welcome gender diverse, non-binary, and ability conscious casting.
Diversity On and Off Stage: This means that we will actively seek BIPOC artists to lead artistic projects, that artistic teams should not be racially or culturally homogenous, and that diversity is reflected at every level of production.
Continued Transparency and Accountability: Part of this process demands that our actions are visible to our community so that we can be held accountable. We are in the midst of a full redesign of our website and addressing this transparency is part of that process. We are working with Isometric Studios to build a site where our community can engage with us directly. The site will include spaces where these evolving commitments can live in full public view, where we can acknowledge those that have come before as well as those that we are learning from now, where we can gather feedback from our community, and where we can lift up and celebrate members of our community. We will include the names and bios of current staff, production teams, and acting ensembles. We want our community to know who we are and what we do.
The Acting Company Staff:
Ian Belknap (He/Him/His), Artistic Director
Devin Brain (He/Him/His), Associate Artistic Director
Joshua David Robinson (He/Him/His), Artistic Associate
Pamela Reichen (She/Her/Hers), General Manager
Caitlin White (She/Her/Hers), Director of Development
Colin Parrinello (He/Him/His), Development Associate
Margot Harley (She/Her/Hers), Founder