On June 1, following the protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd, Marin Shakespeare Company put out a Statement of Solidarity. Since then, our staff and board have begun the ongoing work of examining every aspect of our operations to determine how we can become an anti-racist organization. We have studied the We See You White American Theatre and Bay Area Living Document work, and participated in many trainings and peer convenings.
On August 31, we issued a Statement of Commitment
Theatre plays a critical role in the national conversation about social justice and injustice, the desire for equity, and the need for change. As a theatrical company with a commitment to social justice, Marin Shakespeare Company has both the desire and responsibility to create theater, provide an artistic home for Bay Area theater artists and audiences, and produce performances that are inclusive, equitable, and just. We have a responsibility to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and equality at all times.
We have not lived up to that responsibility. We have created art that has been hurtful to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) artists and audiences, that did not live up to expectations we have of ourselves as individuals and as a company. Because of our biases, blind spots, and culture of white supremacy, we have not worked hard enough to implement practices to ensure diverse participation and inclusion, falling short of the values we are committed to. We deeply apologize. We know we can do better.
Marin Shakespeare Company values equity, inclusivity, and the power of theater to effect change. We commit to being an organization that is actively anti-racist, acknowledging that Social Justice is not just a concept but a verb — a daily practice that infuses and informs all of our decision-making.
With humility, we share the following commitments, which will be followed by specific actions as we deepen our understanding and implementation of justice.
- We recognize that all art is political. We commit to making artistic choices that recognize and dismantle racism.
- As a theatre with Shakespeare as our inspiration, we know that Shakespeare’s words can be a powerful tool for all people to examine aspects of our shared humanity. We also know that Shakespeare’s texts contain implicit bias and have been used to promote a culture of white supremacy. We will work to recognize and learn from all these aspects of Shakespeare’s works, while also welcoming and uplifting BIPOC voices and authors.
- We will increase BIPOC presence, voices, and ideas in our work, to provide a rich diversity of perspectives, share our resources more equitably, and gain cross-cultural understanding. We commit to attracting and hiring more BIPOC in every area of our operations, and providing leadership opportunities for BIPOC individuals. Through our hiring, training, and personnel practices we will seek to repair damage to BIPOC in the theatre community.
- Our education programs will build deeper and more meaningful relationships with community partners, particularly those serving our BIPOC communities, seeking to understand their goals and priorities so that our resources and tools may better support their needs. We grieve the tragedy of the school to prison pipeline, and believe that theater can help liberate and empower young minds. To that end, we will align our curricula and pedagogy to support teaching an accurate history of the world, this nation, and our community.
- As a theater company with robust Social Justice programs, we will work to bring attention to and support the elimination of mass incarceration, penal slavery sanctioned by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and institutionalized racism and violence against BIPOC. We will support the just call for Reparations to American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS).
- We acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, and will create and carry out an ongoing plan to learn from the wisdom of others and educate our staff, board, artists, and teaching artists about racism and anti-racism, committing to cultural competency training and self-reflection, led by different people using different styles of engagement and meeting structure, so that there is a diversity of approaches within this area of growth.
- We acknowledge that the work to support and advance BIPOC is intersectional, and we commit to making Marin Shakespeare Company a place that welcomes all people regardless of race, gender, origin, beliefs, abilities, age, or sexual orientation.
- We acknowledge that American theater has been complicit in the tokenization and exploitation of BIPOC voices, bodies, and stories. We reject tokenization and exploitation and will examine our practices and communications to work to eliminate them in our organization.
- We are in the process of building a Center for Performing Arts, Education, and Social Justice at 514 Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael. We commit to filling this venue with performances, gatherings, and education programs that help to recognize and dismantle racism.
- We commit to ensuring that our performance venues, classrooms, and offices are welcoming, safe environments for BIPOC artists, students, and audiences. We commit to creating mechanisms for staff, artists, audiences, and students to voice their concerns. We will establish clear procedures for acknowledging, repairing, and learning from community concerns. We envision creating rich, creative, joyful environments to share, learn, and grow.
Art and creative expression are human rights. We’re listening. We’re working. We will follow these words with actions, and we are excited to rise to the challenge set before us. For all of our sakes, and for future generations to come, we can and will do better.
We will be posting updates about our progress on our website. Thank you for keeping us accountable.
Action Plan and Accountability Reports
We are also working on a comprehensive Action Plan, which will be ongoing and evolving. We anticipate making quarterly updates here. Our work in progress is ongoing. It will become increasingly comprehensive. We will report regularly on our progress. We welcome feedback from the community. Please email Personnel Manager Tina Rutsch at email@example.com or Managing Director Lesley Currier at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns.
August 5, 2020
Action Items we have already begun or plan to implement in the next three months.
- The MSC Board has created an Anti-Racism Committee. This committee will bring anti-racist content and/or training to every board meeting.
- The MSC Board Nominating Committee is actively seeking to build relationships with and recruit Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) for board membership, and will remove barriers to participation. We welcome recommendations and self-nominations from the community.
- We will create a BIPOC Alliance Committee of theatre artists, Teaching Artists, Returned Citizens and community members, which reports to the Board of Directors, with the recommendation that this Committee have at least two voting seats on the MSC Board.
- We will be sharing a Letter of Commitment, as well as an updated Values Statement.
- We will educate ourselves and our community about the indigenous history of the land on which our theatres sit, traditional home of the Coastal Miwok, and post information on our website.
- 38% of our full-time staff self-identify as BIPOC. We will actively seek BIPOC for staff positions that become available.
- We will create a comprehensive plan for cultural competency and anti-racist training for staff, board, artistic and production company, front of house staff, Teaching Artists in Schools, and Teaching Artists for Shakespeare for Social Justice.
- We will create a No Tolerance Policy for harassment or discrimination towards black and brown artists, students, audience, and others participating in Marin Shakespeare Company programs.
- We will continue to share annual Financial Reports publicly on our website.
- Given that theatres are dark for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, we will use this time to plan for including more BIPOC in upcoming artistic endeavors. Recognizing that BIPOC have traditionally been underrepresented in artistic work at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, we will create policies that ensure change.
- We will convene Returned Citizens to advise how they would like to see this program develop and support them.
- We are conducting an audit of the teaching materials we use in the schools and will ensure these materials are anti-racist and richly representative of our community.
- We will explore alternative ways to structure our Intern Program.
- We are reaching out to our BIPOC community partners to better understand their goals and priorities and how our tools and resources can best support them.
- We will continue to work to bring public awareness to the tragedy caused by poor policy that has made San Quentin State Prison a COVID-19 hotspot.
- We will continue to provide Alternative Programming and other resources to 13 California State prisons and Alameda Juvenile Hall.
- We will seek advice from formerly incarcerated actors about how to strengthen and improve our programming in carceral institutions.