Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Racial Equity Statement

Theatre plays a vital role in shaping our culture and our community. SLO REP believes that we have a responsibility to enact positive change through our productions, operations, educational programs, and policies.

We at SLO REP acknowledge that we operate within a society of long-standing racist and oppressive systems, and so we commit ourselves to being an actively anti-racist organization that is welcoming to all. We make these commitments to you and to ourselves. We invite our artists, audiences, and colleagues to hold us accountable

Anti-Racism Work and Commitments

Our Belief Statement: 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 this statement. Since 2020, our board and staff have taken a long, hard look at our organization and have sought to identify tangible, actionable steps forward to make SLO REP a more welcoming, inclusive and diverse organization. We started with a list of questions which led to a list of action items (see below) and we are committed to making changes and moving forward in this area.

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, 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.

Our Current Work (2022 – present)
SLO REP’s current DEI intiatives are a result of our efforts to become a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and actively anti-racist organization and from the 5 Questions (see below) we posed to ourselves in 2020. We want to be a model in the San Luis Obispo community as well as for other regional theatres for the actions that we take.

We have distilled our efforts and program into three core initiatives that will directly and indirectly impact on our organization and the community.

Programmatic Goals

Since fully reopening our doors in 2022, we have made progress toward more diverse casting and artistic team roles and have been able to hire more diverse casts and creative teams for our productions. However – as we already knew – the outreach to and hiring of actors from outside San Luis Obispo County is costly.  Therefore, we continue our commitment to:

  • Organize in-person auditions in areas, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, with more diverse actor and artistic talent pools. This effort incurs travel costs for our team and off-site (i.e. space rentals) costs.
  • Continue to seek talent through virtual auditions, in order to provide more equitable access for actors and artistic professionals from out of the area.
  • Contract with performers from underrepresented communities for at least 25% of available mainstage contracts.
  • Produce at least one play written by a BIPOC playwright in our 5 play mainstage season.
  • Contract BIPOC directors/core artistic team members for at least 20% of available mainstage contracts.

Education – ACT Goals

Growing and building participation in a theatre training program is an investment in our local youth. Numerous studies have shown that students who participate in theatre education reap gains in academic and intellectual skills and in measures of psychological well being, i.e. regulation of emotions, positive self-concept, empathy, and the ability to take others’ perspectives.  To grow and diversify the ACT program, we are committed to:

  • Actively seeking native Spanish speakers to fill administrative and teaching roles.
  • Continuing to translate ACT outreach/marketing materials into Spanish.
  • Reserving places in each class for scholarship students.
  • Ensuring tuition scholarships are accessible and comprehensive for potential students and families.
  • Expanding outreach to local schools, particularly those nearby such as Pacheco and Hawthorne Elementary Schools and Laguna Middle School.
  • Allocating marketing funds to ACT, in order to specifically reach out to underrepresented communities.

Organizational Education and Training Goals

We believe in the importance of focusing inward, as well, and are committed to providing DEI seminars and training for all staff members (working more than 25 hours per week), all Board Members and all ACT instructors. This will include in-person training as well as virtual theatre industry-focused training.

5 Questions

These 5 Questions were part of SLO REP’s work during 2019-21, when we were shut down due to the pandemic. We continue to ask these questions to review where we are as an organization.

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 social justice?

Action Items:

    • During the 2020 shutdown, we produced a weekly segment on THE INTERMISSION SHOW highlighting BIPOC artists and plays written by playwrights of color. (Note: This action item continued until our last Intermission Show on May 14, 2021.)
    • Our staff researched the work of under-recognized playwrights and artists of color and created a dedicated website page highlighting diverse voices in theatre. This page includes links for our audience to learn more and to purchase/read these often brilliant works of theatre. You can view our “Diverse Voices in Theatre” page HERE. 
QUESTION #2: How can our season selection help fulfill this goal?

Action Items:

    • 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?

Action Items:

    • SLO REP will translate all ACT outreach/marketing materials into Spanish (Completed Fall, 2020; ongoing updates will be made with new classes and programs)
    • Scholarship requirements/materials amended to make scholarships more accessible (amended Fall, 2020; also ongoing)
    • Board and staff will actively seek and reach out to communities of color for all class sessions (ongoing)
    • We will allocate additional marketing funds specifically to reach out to potential BIPOC students (ongoing)
QUESTION #4: How can we meaningfully diversify our casts, artistic teams, staff, and leadership?

Action Items:

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 in the meantime, SLO REP commits to:

    • Diversifying our database 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?

Action Items:

The Board and staff commits to immediately:

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

Additionally as part of our work in 2021, we welcomed  Geno Franco to  SLO REP as our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consultant. Geno’s extensive experience includes work at theatre companies across the country, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Steppenwolf Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, South Coast Repertory,  PCPA – Pacific Conservatory Theatre and Oregon Contemporary Theatre.  Geno was named a Rising Leader Of Color by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and a Multicultural Fellow at Steppenwolf Theatre. Geno worked with us for one year before moving on to other opportunities.

Moving Forward

While we recognize that we have a long way to go, we are absolutely committed to listen more, talk less and do the work required to make SLO REP a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and welcoming place to all — both onstage and in the audience.

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

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

SLO REP’s DEI initiatives and programs were underwritten in 2021 by a generous grant provided by the City of San Luis Obispo through their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.