Diversity and Inclusion

“Live theatre’s powerful storytelling connects people in ways that open the mind, nourish the soul and illuminate our shared humanity.”

Our desire and our mission as a company of artists and storytellers is to live up to our vision statement — to “open the mind, nourish the soul and illuminate our shared humanity.” Over the past several months, all of us here at SLO REP have done a lot of soul-searching, listening, researching, listening some more, meeting individually and as a company; all in an effort to determine how we can do better, be better, become active allies in the effort to recognize and change the systemic racism that is present in our community, our country… and our organization.

On June 12th of this year, our organization released a written and recorded statement in response to Black Lives Matter protests occurring both in San Luis Obispo and around the world. This initial statement listed a series of questions that we felt our organization must honestly answer in order begin the process of becoming an anti-racist theatre. The starting point for this discussion was our belief statement, which is included at the top of this page.

We realized early on that it is impossible to truly live in that belief as a theatre when your understanding of those phrases — due to widespread economic inequality, due to pervasive systemic racism — is unbelievably narrow. All of us here at SLO REP knew that we had, and still have, a lot of listening and learning to do.

Over the last few months, we have met regularly to discuss our individual and organizational progress, and missteps, in order to try to identify tangible, actionable steps forward. SLO REP is in a unique position, in that we are raising the funds to move into a brand new building dedicated to that vision — illuminating our shared humanity. 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, and that we act now, in our current space, even while we’re closed to the public, to leave no question that we can move forward with integrity and true solidarity. All of us remain grateful to have this opportunity to explore our organization and do better. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.

This page will be continually updated to include the steps we are taking as a company to achieve these goals of diversity and inclusion. This is only the beginning– we are committed to continuing this conversation and evolution of the company for as long as we’re in existence. For SLO REP, this is only the starting point. (You can also view Episode #52 of The Intermission Show to hear Managing Artistic Director Kevin Harris talking through each of these steps.)

5 Questions

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?

  • We will produce a weekly segment on THE INTERMISSION SHOW highlighting a BIPOC* artist or a play written by a BIPOC playwright. You can view our first episode featuring playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins HERE.
  • Simultaneously, SLO REP will create a dedicated website page highlighting BIPOC voices in theatre; this page will include links to purchase/read about all the plays covered on the Intermission Show. You can view our new “Diverse Voices in Theatre” page HERE.

*BIPOC is an acronym that stands for black, indigenous and people of color.

QUESTION #2: How can our season selection help fulfill this goal?

  • In the year of the first full season after reopening to the public SLO REP commits to:
    • Produce at least one play written by a BIPOC playwright in our 5 play mainstage season.

QUESTION #3: How can our year-round educational program reach, support, nurture, and empower a new generation of BIPOC theatre artists and patrons?

  • Beginning with our Fall class sessions, SLO REP will translate all ACT outreach/marketing materials into Spanish.
  • We will amend scholarship requirements/materials to make more accessible for potential BIPOC students.
  • Board and staff will actively seek and reach out to potential BIPOC students for all class sessions.
  • We will allocate an additional $1,250.00 in marketing funds specifically to reach out to potential BIPOC students.
  • All of these items above are designed to achieve a goal of at least 10 new BIPOC students participating in the ACT program by the end of this fiscal year, or June, 2021.

QUESTION #4: How can we meaningfully diversify our casts, artistic teams, staff, and leadership?

In the year of the first full season after reopening to the public SLO REP commits to:

  • Contracting BIPOC performers for at least 25% of available mainstage contracts.
  • Contracting BIPOC directors/core artistic team members for at least 20% of available mainstage contracts.
  • Organize in-person auditions in areas with a greater population of BIPOC artists.
  • Add at least one BIPOC Board member.

And, while SLO REP is COVID closed, we commit to:

  • Diversifying our database of BIPOC artists by organizing a call for virtual submissions aimed at building relationships that can lead to future in person collaborations.

QUESTION #5: How do we need to adjust our annual budget to allocate sufficient funds to meaningfully address these questions and make significant changes?

The Board and staff commits to immediately:

  • Allocate $2,000.00 in annual budget to fund all ACT ACTION ITEMS (Question #3)
  • Allocate $5,000.00 in annual budget to fund all other ACTION ITEMS (Questions #1-4)

While we recognize that we have a long way to go, we are happy to offer these first steps, and look forward to be held accountable to these items. We are also currently in the process of updating our strategic plan, adding a dedicated module in the document focusing specifically on Diversity and Outreach goals encompassing all aspects of the organization. We will certainly get it wrong some of the time and need to try again. However, we are absolutely committed to do the work, to figure out best way forward for each, and to allocate the money in the budget to make it happen.

If you have any questions at all, or would like to suggest specific areas that you feel SLO REP should focus on in the future, please email Kevin Harris at kevin@slorep.org. We will continue to update this page as our plans evolve.

You can view all of the above action items on the September 11th episode of The Intermission Show HERE.

Thank you for listening everyone. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay involved. We’ll keep you posted.