several days at the Stratford Festival have been important ones in which our
Black colleagues have told us painful truths. They have pointed out how a
traditional power structure that largely excludes the young and marginalized
has made honest discussion – the honest exchange of ideas – very difficult, if
not impossible. I have been a part of this. And it must change. We must change.
of acute, painful revelation of the inhumanity of our society provokes us to go
beyond the tradition of revering classical theatre as “high art.” We’ve got to
go back to the origins of storytelling. To do so will require that honesty and
humanity permeate not just our rehearsal halls but every area of our
organization: behind the scenes, front of house, administrative offices – and
our audiences. What hope do we have to change the world for the better through
art if we cannot change ourselves?
and I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all our Black colleagues who spoke
up with courage and at great emotional cost to help us over the last few days.
We deeply appreciate their trust, and they have our commitment that their
actions will lead to positive change.
We will use
this time of pandemic shutdown to look more deeply at the actions we need to
take. This work will be an ongoing process of reflection and improvement.
immediate concrete measure, we have increased support and funding for Black and
Indigenous artists as part of our Lab.
further committed to raising the voices of marginalized artists through
commissions from playwrights and creators from the BIPOC community. Some works
currently in progress include Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman; Reneltta Arluk’s Pawâkan Macbeth; Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn
Riordan’s 1939; Corey Payette’s Monarch; Rosa Laborde’s Trouble; and Marcus Youssef and Veda
Hille’s Brave New World. The
commissioning of more works will be a priority.
We also are
committed to changing the As Cast contract, but note that until respect, listening and cooperative creation are
made central to our work the legal specifics of any contract will be made
general work to embed anti-racism at the Stratford Festival is underway,
including working with Hamlin Grange of DiversiPro on a major revision to our
anti-racism and inclusion plan, including the updating of policies and
protocols. As part of this process, we are re-launching the internal research
that we had begun in January, as we believe staff and artists may now be more comfortable
identifying racist behaviour. We are also compiling and integrating
feedback and ideas garnered during the social media takeover and Black Like Me
We will be
supporting the amplification of the voices of our Indigenous artists by giving
them our social channels later this month. They will host a live-streamed panel
discussion on June 20, the day before National Indigenous Peoples Day.
implementing sensitivity training for staff, and will roll this out more widely
when the Festival opens operations again.
committed to actively working to diversify our Board, staff, company and
Stratford Festival aspires to be a source of joy, understanding and beauty for
our world. While talent and hard work will always be critical to achieving that
goal, they will not succeed if they share space with racism. We must
acknowledge racist behaviours within ourselves and unlearn them.
work that must take place in the hearts and minds of everyone in the Festival
community but also in our policies and systems. Together we must envision a
better way forward. And then, as one, we must put it into action.
is essential. It is about art. But it is also about justice. It is about
honouring, valuing and celebrating Black artists, Indigenous artists, and all
other artists who experience marginalization, who come to the Stratford
Festival to share their talents and stories.