We’d like to begin by stating where we stand.
We at the theater stand with those protesting injustice and ignorance.
We stand with those who are demanding that the systemic murder of innocent black citizens come to an end.
We stand with those who are horrified at the tactics, actions, and behaviors used by law enforcement to harass and assault those who are exercising their right to speak out against oppression and abuse.
We remember those who lost their lives and we join in mourning them while echoing the cries of those who seek not only the convictions of those responsible for their deaths, but the dismantling of infrastructures that allowed those deaths to occur in the first place, and those who have benefitted from such institutions.
We stand with Black artists and are grateful for their work, their voices, and their presence in our artistic spaces.
We believe Black Lives Matter and that white supremacy in all its forms is terrorism. We believe America is currently seeing a bolstering of racists beginning with the current Presidential administration and working its way down to city halls and town councils all over the country, including right here in Rhode Island.
We believe that it is the work of artists to shine a light on persecution wherever it exists and to cause disruption, particularly of destructive societal mechanisms.
That’s what we believe, and that, in and of itself, is not enough.
We have not done nearly enough to make our theater a loud enough voice in this fight and we have not worked hard enough to see to it that the work we do has included as many Black perspectives and points of view as possible.
It would be easy for us to post a message on social media and an image that says “Black Lives Matters,” because as we’ve seen time and time again, no matter how focused any of us are on change, the channel changes first. The news cycle shift. Promises become platitudes. We feel that it is not enough for us to ask you to listen to what we say without demonstrating how we’re going to do better.
So we’ve come up with an action plan, and it begins today.
First, we’ll be using our social media accounts to spotlight various organizations and charities that are fighting to make change manifest. These include long-standing non-profits fighting for racial equality and newly formed groups seeking to aid protesters with bail money, legal representation, and other services. These will be daily reminders that these organizations need your help and attention.
Second, while we will be continuing with our digital programming, we’ll be using several of our existing programs to raise funds for the causes we’ll be highlighting. Over the years, we’ve used our opening weekends to raise money for all kinds of charities, but until we can resume theatrical programming, we’ll be using our presence in the digital sphere to make a direct financial impact. As for future digital endeavors, we’ll be prioritizing creating a diverse slate of talent, with a focus on work curated by and featuring Black artists.
When we are able to return to in-person programming, we are committed to having the theater we make be a representation of the audience we would like to see experience it. That means seasons that offer significant space for Black playwrights, directors, designers, actors, administrative and creative staff. It means choosing work based on input from Black artists already working with us and those we plan to work with in the future.
If that sounds too broad, we want to offer these hard numbers so you can hold us accountable:
- No seasons where the majority of plays are written by white male playwrights.
- No seasons without Black directors.
- No productions with all-white casts.
- An expansion of the current artistic and administrative staff so that Black artists make up at least half the staff here at the theater, including the newly created Associate Artistic Director position, by 2021.
- A plan to ensure that Black audiences are not only made aware of our work, but feel that the work we’re doing is speaking to them.
- Commissioning at least one play per season from a Black playwright moving forward.
- Creating a policy for how we handle all forms of aggression both during the artistic process and as part of the daily business of the theater.
- Integrating our commitment to supporting Black artists and Black perspectives into our mission statement, acknowledging that diversity is not a department that you check in with occasionally, but a philosophy that should permeate the entirety of your organization.
We recognize that all of this is just a start, not a solution. We have failed at achieving goals similar to these in the past, but failure is no longer an option.
For those who we’ve let down by not taking action until now, we apologize and give you our word that we will do better.
Many individuals and organizations have taken this time while they were forced to shut down as a reset, and we believe it’s appropriate for us to do the same. The word reflection is often used when people talk about change, but reflection is passive. In theater, we talk about verbs. We talk about objectives.
We talk about action.
Now is the time to act.