Black Lives Matter. Racism. White Fragility. Live Theatre.
All of us here at SLO REP have done a lot of soul-searching over the past two weeks. We have been researching, meeting individually and as a company, discussing the difficult issues that have recently come to the forefront of our national consciousness.
We don’t have an answer. Big surprise. But we do have some key questions that we hope can be a starting point for change for our organization and our community. We still have an unbelievable amount of work to do. But we’re committed to listening, and learning and we are grateful to have this opportunity to explore our organizational culture and do better.
(To view a video of Managing Artistic Director Kevin Harris’s full message, please click HERE.)
Background for our discussion: Two years ago, SLO REP’s Board of Directors updated our “statement of belief” as a nonprofit performing arts organization. This belief statement became a focal point in our discussions this week:
“Live theatre’s powerful storytelling connects people in ways that open the mind, nourish the soul and illuminate our shared humanity.”
QUESTION #1: How can SLO REP use the power of live theatre and its platform in the community to fully realize our belief statement in the context of the Black Lives Matters movement?
- Now that we’re beginning the process of learning, and recognizing, what does “opening the mind, nourishing the soul and illuminating our shared humanity” mean?
QUESTION #2: How can our season selection help fulfill this goal?
- What stories need to be told? Just as importantly: given the economic and ethnic makeup of our audience, what stories do our community need to hear?
QUESTION #3: How can our year-round educational program reach, support, nurture, and empower a new generation of BIPOC theatre artists and patrons?
- What steps to we need to take to make our classes accessible, affordable, and meaningful to BIPOC youth in our community.
- How can we make finding these students and encouraging them to participate a priority?
- How can our curriculum better include and reflect the experiences of BIPOC students and their families?
QUESTION #4: How can we meaningfully diversify our casts, artistic teams, staff, and leadership?
- What changes do we need to implement to make BIPOC artists who have never worked here:
- Know that we exist
- Want to share their art with us
- Feel safe, supported, and heard while working in our organization and living in this community?
QUESTION #5: How do we need to adjust our annual budget to allocate sufficient funds to meaningfully address these questions and make significant changes?
- This is probably the most important question. Almost everything comes down to money, and in order to make something happen you have to have adequate financial resources behind it; you have to make it a priority.
Each of these questions leads to hundreds of other questions, and we recognize that seeking answers will be an ongoing process. We will certainly get it wrong some of the time and will need to try again. However, we are absolutely committed to do the work, to figure out the best way forward for each, and to allocate the money in our budget to make it happen.
If you have any input or questions for us, or specific areas you would like SLO REP to focus on in the future, please email our Board of Directors at Boardofdirectors@slorep.org.
We’d also like to share a short list of resources that have been incredibly helpful for us at the beginning of this process:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
Beyond “Decolonizing” the Syllabus by David Valdes, Howlround Theatre Commons
White Fragility (essay) by Robin DiAngelo
SLO REP is in a unique position, in that we are raising the funds to move into a brand new building dedicated to “illuminating our shared humanity” soon. It is our #1 priority to do everything we can to ensure that this new theatre is built with a strong, diverse, anti-racist foundation, that we act now, in our current space, to leave no question that we can move forward with integrity and true solidarity. We are grateful to have this opportunity to explore our organization and do better.
Thank you for listening everyone. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay involved. We’ll keep you posted.