It has been five months since we posted our first statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and our commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist theatre company. During that time, we’ve been looking into what our future as a company looks like – both in response to the pandemic, and in response to the important calls for change in the theatre industry. As we continue to listen deeply and learn from our BIPOC* peers, leaders and partners we are concurrently taking steps to grow and develop a more inclusive environment of mutual respect and support within our organization.
To begin our process of learning and education, all Driftwood staff and board members have completed Human Rights 101 and Call It Out online modules through the Ontario Human Rights Commission to better understand our responsibilities and privileges with respect to the Human Rights Code and how to recognize and become active partners in calling out racism in our communities.
During the summer months, Driftwood was using social media to regularly share links to anti-racist resources and BIPOC art/artists. This kind of sharing and outreach will continue to be a part of our social media presence going forward.
We believe that the composition of Canadian theatre should reflect the composition of the world at large, and as such we are committing to achieving a minimum of 50% BIPOC representation and 50% female and non-binary people in positions across our organization (board, permanent and contract staff) within the next two years. To achieve this, we will not only be prioritizing BIPOC candidates, but we will actively seek out BIPOC candidates for all future postings by reaching out to BIPOC community organizations and hiring programs.
We have updated the wording of our job postings, specifically prioritizing BIPOC candidates and using language that is free of unconscious bias, such as “years of experience” or specific education requirements.
We believe that transparency is integral to building trust and confidence in an inclusive and respectful environment and as such we will be making Driftwood’s full budget and all salaries public with our next, and all subsequent, annual reports (January). This report will be shared with all donors and will be available on our website.
We will also find affordable ways to ensure that all our company members have the appropriate knowledge and training to be a part of a safe, anti-racist workplace. We recognize that while Driftwood’s limited fiscal resources may limit the scope of our work to some extent, it does not excuse us from doing the necessary work to bring about change. As of our 2021 summer season, we are committed to:
- Finding a way for all contracted, seasonal company members to have anti-racism training of some kind.
- Developing anti-racism statements that will be read at the start of all meetings and rehearsals alongside land acknowledgements and anti-harassment statements.
- Updating our company handbooks to include our explicit commitment to anti-racism, as well as including resources for learning more about anti-racism, anti-ableism, and other forms of harassment and exclusion. We will also be including specific best practices and suggestions for bystander intervention and dealing with conflict wherever it may arise onsite in our over 25 touring communities in Ontario.
- Making a permanent commitment to maintaining a five-day work-week and to shortening and restructuring rehearsal days. We will also restructure technical rehearsal days to divert from the traditional 10/12 model and minimize the required hours for as many company members as possible.
- Building in time at the beginning of the contracted production/rehearsal period to work toward creating an environment where everyone feels empowered to express themselves and talk about their concerns. We recognize that one of the insidious parts of systemic and institutional racism is a pervasive fear that criticism will result in negative backlash or the loss of employment, and so one of our long-term goals is to do everything we can do to prevent this in our own company. Time will also be built in each week for company check-ins, explicitly designated for company members to express any concerns or criticisms they may have about their experience and how we might resolve any problems that have arisen.
- Expanding our current annual anonymous post-mortem comment form to be accessible to all company members throughout their entire contracts. The form will be regularly monitored and all submissions will be discussed weekly during check-in meetings.
Once we have conducted this initial work and undertaken a full process of self-evaluation, we will hire a team of no fewer than two Black and/or Indigenous people to act as an anti-racism working group. This working group will be paid to assess and critique (and alter where applicable) our current and planned commitments, as well as to lead us in taking other anti-racist actions across all facets of the company. This working group will be composed of people who have not previously worked for Driftwood and who do not plan to work for us in other capacities in the future. This is to ensure that they are able to critique us freely and without any fear that doing so might jeopardize their future job prospects. This working group will be hired by our 2021/2022 season.
Looking further out, our long-term goals include: the evaluation, investigation and change of our current artistic model by considering de-centralized structures; undertaking projects to cultivate meaningful, long-term relationships with BIPOC artists and communities across Ontario; working toward fully diversifying our audience to ensure an audience that is diverse in race, age, and ability, with explicit priority being placed on BIPOC audience members.
And finally, we are committed to learning how to do better by listening to and accepting criticism and taking responsibility for our actions. If you would like to engage in further discussion or provide any feedback, please reach out directly to Jeremy (jsmith[at]driftwoodtheatre[dot]com) or the board (boardofdirectors[at]driftwoodtheatre[dot]com).
Jeremy Smith, Artistic Director
Shirley Freek, Board President
*BIPOC; Black, Indigenous and People of Colour