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Image contains a statement from the leadership regarding the Stratford Festival's commitment to evolving our understanding of equity, inclusion and anti-racism.

INTRODUCTION

Click here to read the EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION UPDATE:  REPORT ON ANTI-RACISM INITIATIVES - July 2021 

This is a season unlike any other, in a world that is pushing against boundaries imposed not simply by the pandemic but by societal structures.

Here at the Festival, we are listening to calls for change and taking them o heart. What better way to emerge from the cocoon of pandemic than beautifully changed?

In May of 2020 the world was rocked by the murder of George Floyd. The protests that followed forced a reckoning across society. The conversation intensified in Canada with the death of Joyce Echaquan in a Quebec hospital in September of 2020.

Like other arts organizations and corporations, the Festival issued a statement condemning racism, and in it we acknowledged the role the Festival, as an institution, has played in upholding systemic racism.

They were bold words, and important, but not enough. Real change is what is required. And so we dug deeper into a course of self-examination that we had begun back in 2005, when, with the programming of D’Janet Sears’s Harlem Duet for the 2006 season, we realized the mountain of work that needed to be done to diversify the Festival, the acting company and our audience.

We didn’t do a good enough job in the years that followed that production. While our company grew more diverse, we didn’t change the way we worked. Micro and macro aggressions were common but overlooked. The needs and practices of IBPOC artists were not honoured, but rather disappeared into “our” way of doing things.

In 2019, we engaged an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion consultant, DiversiPro, to guide us in the development of a plan that would bring about true inclusion throughout the Festival. This was the same company hat had worked with us in 2005-06, so they were not only familiar with the Festival, but also fully aware of how we had succeeded with and where we had abandoned our past commitments to change. Earlier this year, DiversiPro prepared a report providing insight in to the Festival’s cultural competency together with a series of recommendations.

To better understand the experience of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Black and People of Colour within and outside the organization, the Festival asked a group of artists and staff to form an Anti-Racism Committee in he summer of 2020. Within a few short months, the ARC had written and presented us with a report detailing their lived experience. In October we began an in-depth analysis of that report with a small group of staff working in tandem with the ARC and with members of the leadership team. Their purpose was to work toward implementing the ARC’s feedback, and to prepare a summary report. We are grateful to the members of the ARC for their work and the spirit of generosity and care that they brought to it.

We’ve used the image of a sling shot before in speaking about how the events of the summer of 2020 accelerated our anti-racism efforts, and it is an accurate description. But it is vital to note that bringing about real change takes time and prolonged effort. There is not a single target that must be hit. Rather, we must come together to harmoniously change the way we work. We fully recognize that as leaders at the Festival over many years, we are both responsible and accountable for the failures that have transpired. We have had many months to examine and re-examine our actions and inactions. We apologize deeply for the harm we have caused and allowed to happen.

Our hearts are in this commitment to change. We know that it will enhance the quality of work for which we have gained renown. We hope that all of you will join us in committing to make the Stratford Festival a better place, ne in which each and every one of us feels welcome and truly able to bring our whole selves to our work and collegial relationships. We also understand that you may need some time to process this information and to adapt or come to terms with it.

Kindness and understanding are at the centre of where we want to be. There are going to be some bumpy paths to manoeuver along the way, some truths to be reckoned with. Those of you from non-marginalized communities may find some acknowledgments difficult; there may be changes you have trouble embracing immediately. And that’s OK. Self-examination is difficult, as is change. Please know that this process is not about blame or shame, but about taking responsibility for what has happened and ensuring we make every effort not to repeat past wrongs as we turn towards a better future. Those of you from marginalized communities may feel some things don’t go far enough. Our door is open to you to hear the change you feel is required. We want to provide all of you with the resources you need to thrive.

Below and attached you will find descriptions of the preliminary actions we are taking to set the course for the future. We hope you find our action plan heartening. If you have questions or concerns about any of this, lease feel free to reach out to your supervisor, to Human Resources, or to us. You will also have an opportunity to take part in a town hall and in anti-racism and inclusion training that will provide you with advice and support on this journey. We are here to support you all as we embark on this change.

And so to the excitement of the work!

ACTION PLAN

In the near term, we have placed a priority on implementing improvements designed to support the creation of the 2021 season and to begin to lay the foundation for the future. In making these initial changes, we are committing to changing our culture and creating an environment where staff and artists can do their very best work, and where we are engaged in an ongoing process of listening and shifting our practices based on the feedback we receive. These initial steps will set the course for the entire Festival community serving as a catalyst to inspire continued evolution. We are moving ahead with a number of tactics that will shape the framework for the future and support the work in the forthcoming months. These actions will ultimately expand the Festival, broadening opportunities and building in transparency and accountability.

With the theme Metamorphosis, the 2021 season playbill sets the stage for change. The productions will embody our hope for a transition from lockdown to a new beginning, imbued with much needed social and political change. They examine souls kept apart by social convention, family feuds or racism. Souls that yearn for community, understanding and the union of love. Souls that emerge transformed from their trials into a brave new world of freedom.

GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP

Board of Governors

The Festival’s Board has prioritized EDI and anti-racism, supporting the leadership team in these efforts and ensuring resources are dedicated to building a long-term plan and initiating action steps. In addition to committing to anti-racism and anti-oppression training, the Festival’s Board has taken steps to diversify its composition, making it a priority of the Nominating Committee. The latest additions to the Board bring exceptional experience and broad perspectives to the governance of the Festival.

EDI Department

The Festival is establishing an EDI department which will be led by a Director of EDI together with support staff. Recruitment for this department is underway.

Anti-Racism Committee

The Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) has been contracted through to the end of September to advise on the development of the EDI and anti-racism plan and provide leadership and support in the implementation of some f the key action items. The EDI Director will assemble a permanent Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-racism (IDEA) Council in the fall to build on the work of the ARC.

Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Training

In an effort to increase cultural competency across the organization, anti-racism and anti-oppression training will be delivered to all Festival staff and artists in the spring and summer of 2021. Artist and social justice educator Rania El Mugammar will facilitate the training. Last
summer, more than 100 staff members participated in Robin Lacambra’s Sharing Privilege course. At the same time, we are exploring how cultural competency training will be embedded in administrative and artistic practices going forward.

Artistic Perspectives

To expand the perspectives contributing to the selection of plays, artists and new works, the Festival has deepened its resources within the Directors Office. In addition to ted witzel who serves as Artistic Associate, Research & Development, Esther Jun has joined the Festival as an Artistic Associate, Planning. The Festival has hired four Associates to expand the circle of artistic perspectives: Carmen Aguirre, Mũkonzi Mũsyoki and Kamana Ntibarikure in New Play Development, and Marcel Stewart in Casting.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Advisory Circle

The Festival is supporting the creation of a First Nation, Inuit and Métis Advisory Circle. The Circle will advise the Festival’s artistic leadership on developing and producing Indigenous-led work, and will help to build and strengthen the Festival’s relationship with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Turtle Island. Consulting Elder Liz Stevens (of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation) has been engaged to aid the work of the Circle and provide advice and guidance to the Festival.

Artist Development

Formal training and development are essential to the Festival and are delivered through the Birmingham Conservatory and Langham Directors’ Workshop. Stephen Ouimette led the Birmingham Conservatory from 2016 to 2021 stewarding the development of its participants. Now Janine Pearson will guide the Birmingham Conservatory, drawing on the participating artists’ talent, commitment and creativity and ultimately shaping the future of theatre at the Festival. Janine who served as Head f Coaching at the Festival for 25 years, brings her vast experience to this role. Janine has brought together a circle of advisors and associates, including senior artists and mentors from equity-seeking groups, to reconceive the development of artists and storytellers.

Artistic Associate Esther Jun has taken over as leader of the Langham Workshop, replacing Martha Henry who led the Workshop from 2017 to 2020. Esther was herself a participant in the Workshop in 2016. Under Esther’s leadership, the Workshop’s ambition is to seek the most promising directing talent and provide them with fertile ground to explore, play and hone their craft. It will prioritize building the capacity of early and mid-career directors from equity-seeking groups and theatre makers hose talent, energy, commitment and creativity will shape the future of theatre, both at the Festival and across the globe.

At the same time, a training program for designers is in development and we plan to pilot a virtual experience in the fall of 2021.

ARTISTIC PROCESS

Pre-Rehearsal Orientation

As we welcome artists back this season, we do so with a new program called Pre-Rehearsal Orientation (PRO) – a multi-day orientation session prior to the start of rehearsals for each production. In addition to delivering anti-racism and anti-oppression training and an overview of the Festival’s policies and procedures, the orientation session allows time for the teams to get to know one another and to take part in developing a community agreement that will shape the work plan through the rehearsal period. The teams will also participate in a post-rehearsal feedback session once productions have opened. For artists and staff who are not directly involved in the rehearsal process, we will be conducting a half-day orientation session.

Company Handbook

The Company Handbook, an introductory guide for staff and artists, has been overhauled based on feedback from artists and the ARC, with elements of the orientation session being incorporated into the Handbook, which is now available in digital form.

Casting by Consent

In the Festival’s large-cast repertory model, there have often been roles (known as “as cast”) that are unassigned until the rehearsal process begins, which has also been the point at which actors learn about the director’s specific concepts for the production. The former “as cast” system has been replaced by a “casting by consent” approach in order to increase agency, transparency and dialogue among artists. The Festival and Canadian Actors’ Equity Association have committed to ongoing discussions to support this evolution.

Modified Rehearsal Week

In 2021, we are piloting a modified rehearsal week with the six plays we are producing, reducing the work-week from six days to five and a half days to support artist health and well-being.

Cultural Competency

While we have curated a season of plays and cabarets that explore the human condition, the key to the universal is always in the particular. The content and setting of the stories we are sharing may provoke the need for a particular cultural competency. With the help of the artistic associates, and inspired by the ARC, we are building a process for our creative and production teams to consider production elements through the lens of cultural competency and harm reduction, beginning with this season’s plays. Cultural consultants and other resources will be made available as needed.

The Laboratory and New Play Development

Our commitments to culture change must be grounded in the work on our stages in the coming years. The Lab and New Play Development teams have commissioned more than 10 new large-scale projects by BPOC artists, as well as supporting several more smaller-scale digital explorations led by equity-seeking artists. The Lab is committed to continuing its work of looking “Beyond the Western Canon” begun in 2019. Another round of explorations is planned for Fall-Winter 2021 to identify large-scale works from outside the Eurocentric
tradition. We’ve continued our relationships with many of the projects and artists surfaced in the first of these explorations.

The Lab remains a vital space for us to build competencies and explore new ways of working. Projects that require cultural adaptations by the Festival will be supported with developmental workshops to generate learning outside of the pressures of a production process, including provisions for cultural consultation and accessibility support.

Affinity Groups

Informal affinity groups have formed in recent years including A Coming Together and the Queer-Straight Alliance. The Festival commits to supporting these groups and exploring other affinity groups.

AUDIENCE AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Box Office / Patron Experience

Recognizing that seating capacity is extremely limited in 2021, the Festival is taking action to encourage accessibility of the theatregoing experience. The Festival has introduced a “pay what you will” pricing scheme allowing ticket buyers to select the price within a specified range. At the same time, accessibility to the productions will be greatly enhanced with productions being filmed and streamed through Stratfest@Home.We have set aside tickets at each performance of R+J for patrons who are blind or have low vision and we have designated two performances of The Rez Sisters and two performances of Serving Elizabeth for outreach to Indigenous and Black communities respectively.

To support audiences attending The Rez Sisters, a healing room will be made available following each performance.

Education

We know that our work in supporting learning and engagement for people of all ages with a particular focus on young people is fundamental to the success of EDI work. Work to transform our educational processes nd programs will be ongoing, but in 2021, we have made a number of changes. We are providing “pay what you will” pricing schemes and other financial access programs to our events and programs. We have been developing new partnerships with organizations that focus on supporting youth from equity-seeking groups, which will include a free-of-charge virtual program for youth delivered in collaboration with DAREarts this July. We have also established a new Teaching Artist Advisory Committee to work alongside our Student and Teacher Advisory Committees to ensure the pedagogy and curricula we employ are relevant and dynamic to all communities.

STAFF, PARTNERS AND COLLABORATORS

Unions and Collectives

We know that the labour unions and collectives – International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, Associated Designers of Canada and the Toronto Musicians’ Association– value equity, diversity and inclusion. We have started discussions with the unions and collectives to reinforce our commitments and ensure our collective agreements uphold these shared values.

Recruitment

In an effort to heighten awareness about employment opportunities, the Festival has updated the language in its job postings and broadened its recruitment efforts to encourage candidates from equity-seeking groups. Salary ranges will be included in all job postings.

Management Objectives

For management staff, EDI objectives have been incorporated into performance goals and assessments.

HR Policies

HR policies are being reviewed, with a particular focus on the discrimination and harassment policy.

Contract Templates

Contract templates are being revised to emphasize anti-racism and anti-oppression as core elements of the Festival’s commitment to a safe workplace for everyone.

Mental Health Support

The Festival uses the services of an employee assistance program (EAP) providing mental health support to eligible staff. We have requested IBPOC councillors be made available through this service. We have also assembled a list of mental health resources to augment the employee assistance program and to support those who are not eligible for EAP.

Holidays

Eligible staff have access to three float days that were traditionally made available in late December. Going forward these float days can be used at any time of year to celebrate cultural or religious holidays.

External Suppliers and Partners

The Festival engages with a number of external suppliers and partners. The Festival is starting to broaden its list of suppliers in an effort to encourage opportunity for those from equity-seeking groups. For partners responding to requests for proposals, they are required to include their commitment to EDI and anti-racism.

SOME BACKGROUND ON THE REPORTS

The DiversiPro Report

In 2019 and 2020, DiversiPro undertook a course of research to assess the culture of the Festival through an equity, diversity and inclusion lens. It included: an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Survey with staff, artists, managers and board members; interviews and focus groups; policy and procedure reviews; a baseline assessment of leaders, managers and staff; and evidence-based research. It was an important step towards developing an equity, diversity and inclusivity strategy that would bring bout transformative change for the organization. With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in June of 2020, the Festival asked DiversiPro to re-focus its work on systemic racism and its impact, including an in-depth review of discrimination and harassment policies. In its report, DiversiPro presented 25 recommendations in the key areas of Leadership, Human Capital, Workplace Culture, Stakeholder Connections, Marketing and Programs/Services – all with an aim of changing the organizational culture for the better.

The ARC Final Report

In June of 2020 the Festival hired a group of 14 staff and artists to form an Anti-Racism Committee to examine life at the Festival from a nonwhite perspective. Their paid work was conducted via interviews, as they examined seven of the Festival’s departments – Human Resources, the Acting Company, the Directors’ Office, Stage Management, Production & Design, Marketing & Publicity, and Education. Their work was very much conducted in response to the DiversiPro report, as a less corporate, personal snapshot of the workplace. It doesn’t include metrics and studies; but rather is a candid, personal account intended to provide the rationale for change as we move forward. An initial report was presented to us in the fall of 2020 and we formed a group we informally called the Parallel ARC to read the findings. This group came together with the ARC as the Mega ARC to examine the report line by line and put in place actions to allow us to improve the way we work. The attached summary is written by the Mega ARC. The content may be triggering to those from marginalized communities and we have resources available to support you. Those not from marginalized communities may find the content upsetting. The ARC asks that you sit with your discomfort and we urge you to examine your reactions with an open heart. Our goal is to move forward in creating a healthy atmosphere for all of us to work in: inclusion is about everyone. Change is already underway and is being met with positive response. If you need help in processing the information, feel free to use our EAP resources, or to reach out to HR or your supervisor.

INTERIM ARC SUMMARY REPORT

INTRODUCTION TO THE SUMMARY REPORT

This summary report is an invitation to all who work with the Stratford Festival to gain detailed insight into the anti-racism work that was undertaken at the Festival in the summer of 2020, and that continues through the summer of 2021 and beyond. It summarizes the 78-page
report generated by the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) and the subsequent learning and discussions from that process. It has been condensed for streamlined consumption and is intended as a tool for ongoing learning and action.

In the following summary report, we have highlighted some of the key issues identified through this process with the aim of providing a point of reference for the Festival community as to where we are now.

This work remains unfinished in part because it requires everyone working with the Stratford Festival to prioritize, engage and participate in it together with a tireless commitment to learn and take action as a collective. While it is still in process, we are sharing this summary at this point because we want to keep the Festival accountable and continue this work together with you all. We hope you read this report in full and talk about it with each other - we want it to incite further conversations and deeper dialogue.

Acknowledging that for some, there will be a lot of new or unfamiliar terms, we’ve included an appendix at the end titled “Notes and Definitions” to help guide you through this report.

Below is an overview of some of the key issues and overarching recommendations identified by the ARC. These issues are widespread across the Festival. We have clustered them by theme.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

FESTIVAL STRUCTURE AND DIVERSIFICATION

  • The Festival is hierarchical and deeply top-heavy. This makes it difficult for decision-makers to be held accountable when harm is caused.

  • A lack of racial and cultural diversity is a pervasive issue felt across every area of the Festival and is essential to making change. The Company should be diversified with a particular focus on ensuring racialized individuals hold positions of leadership and Management including within the Board of Governors.

– Placing higher value in long-term service prevents new and particularly IBPOC individuals from joining and growing as leaders at the Festival. There is a sense that many white Company embers feel threatened by the desire to change this. These changes in structure and hiring should prioritize and celebrate the values and perspectives of new, racialized people; it must not be tokenism.

– We must also examine the tension between those who are saddened by the thought of losing a sense of tradition within the theatre and the need to abolish certain traditions altogether, because of the harm they cause. Upholding tradition cannot be an excuse for upholding racism, cultural harassment or other systems of oppression.

– In Canada, there is a low level of per capita arts investment which makes philanthropy and sponsorship within the cultural sector fraught. Furthermore, the language and culture of volunteerism diminishes the Board Members’ responsibilities when they hold ultimate power.

  • Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (EDI&AR) must be foundational to the Festival as we move forward.

– The Festival must establish a permanent EDI&AR Team or Department in order to have an active and available resource for all.

– The Festival should also engage a permanent Anti-Racism Committee as an additional safety channel.

– In addition to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make it a priority to retain IBPOC Counsellors and Therapists to support all racialized individuals who work with the Festival particularly during this time of change.

– Other EDI&AR initiatives prior to 2021 (e.g. the work of DiversiPro, etc.) have focused heavily on the Festival’s administration; a greater focus is required on the unique issues inherent to creative and production processes as well as a stronger bridge between the administrative and artistic work which are currently disconnected.

– It will be helpful for the Festival to have statistics and data to track and communicate progress on EDI&AR initiatives as we move forward.

– Existing training and mentorship programs must be reconstructed to become a way in which racialized candidates can obtain safe and meaningful training. These include the Assistant Designer program, the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction Langham), and The Birmingham Conservatory (The Conservatory).

POLICIES AND PROCESSES

  • Racism and cultural harassment are health and safety hazards in the workplace. Implementing the Pathways to Cultural Belonging (PATH) which applies the usual Health and Safety Risk Assessments with a focus on race and culture in all artistic works could help mitigate potentially harmful issues that may arise in the creative or rehearsal process.

  • The Festival should develop a clear charter of values, rights and responsibilities for the Company.

  • The Festival needs to acknowledge that racialized Artists cannot be expected to double as cultural consultants without this being jointly agreed upon prior to the start of the creative process, as part of their contract, and with additional compensation for this particular work.

  • HR policies are written and conveyed in an overly corporate way and feel inaccessible. They must be revised and offered in clear language and via multiple platforms. The Festival should also make it clear that everyone working with the company has a responsibility to read, understand and abide by these policies.

  • The first day of rehearsal and the initial parts of the creative process must transform with the aim of making room for safe and healthy processes that consider everyone in order for Artists to bring their full selves to work and to the art they are making.

STRATFORD CULTURE - CITY AND FESTIVAL

  • There is an emphasis on chain-of-command, perceptions of inaccessible leadership and a palpable atmosphere of fear at the Festival (e.g. fear of not being invited back, fear of rocking the boat, fear of deviating from tradition, fear of confrontation, etc.). Changing
    this is a precursor to any equity work.

  • Returning to the workplace for IBPOC Company Members after the global events regarding systemic racism in 2020 will be challenging.

–  Everyone needs access to education regarding EDI&AR and we must agree on what values will be important to us as a Company going forward.

–  All Company Members must be held accountable for perpetuating past harm well before being re-engaged. Moving forward and maintaining better practices with respect include acknowledging past harm, taking responsibility and recourse and intervention from Senior Leadership.

  • There is a culture of insular elitism that creates an environment where fewer risks are taken on newer talent, devaluing the experience people working here have outside of Stratford. People who are new to the Festival or who have shorter histories with the organization report that their ideas are dismissed and that they are treated as if their prior experience is invaluable.

  • There is an empirical risk in being a racialized or marginalized person living in Stratford. These risks include microaggressions and othering, harassment, violence and hate crimes. The Festival must be conscious of these and actively mitigate them when bringing marginalized and/or equity-seeking individuals into the Company.

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Reimagining, articulating and sharing the mission, vision and new core values of the Festival with EDI&AR as the foundation

  • Reviewing and redeveloping recruitment strategies with the aim of diversifying the Company including Senior Leadership (Administrative and Artistic), Staff, Artists and the Board of Governors

  • Hiring a Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

  • Establishing a permanent EDI&AR Committee

  • Providing clear and consistent EDI&AR training for the Company

  • Overhauling HR policies and how they are shared

  • Reshaping rehearsal and creative processes


PROCESS

THE INITIATION AND WORK OF THE ARC

The ARC and the reports it produced came about because of the public exposure of the Festival’s predominantly white legacy and history in a climate of Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous racism and cultural harassment all over Turtle Island. The Festival acknowledged its upholding of white supremacy and made a commitment to work to dismantle inequities that impact racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking Company Members in this community.

The Festival’s Artistic and Executive Directors, Antoni Cimolino and Anita Gaffney, invited 14 BIPOC individuals to form an interim committee to identify issues of systemic racism and cultural harassment with the aim of developing recommendations to eliminate this and help the Festival work towards a better understanding and responsibility to be an anti-racist institution. The ARC Members were financially compensated for this work, but it should be noted that their commitment to and engagement in this work came at a personal cost. We did not all know each other. It was not easy. At times we moved faster than the speed of trust because time was not on our side, and we caused harm to each other in this process. Many of these harms are still yet to be resolved.

The ARC’s particular strength is rooted in the breadth and depth of personal experiences with the Festival over the years, as well as the value of our lived experiences as racialized individuals. In addition to this, he ARC incorporated theoretical, activist and social justice frameworks related to anti-racism, anti-oppression and intercultural collaboration to support our analysis and recommendations. We also brought the following values to reflect both in our process and product: Creative Collaboration, transparency and Accountability, Thoughtful Questioning, Integrity and Respect, Impatience and Patience.

The ARC first met on July 15, 2020, with seven weeks to provide our findings to the Festival Leadership. We met weekly as a collective and divided into sub-committees to help tackle the many conversations we all wanted to be a part of, understanding we all couldn’t contribute to every sub-committee. We met with invited Consultants, Lawyers, and other Company Members to help in our investigation. Given the breadth and depth of the work, we requested an extension in order to further these findings. In sharing our report in October 2020, we emphasized the following:

  • The report highlighted glaring issues of systemic racism and cultural harassment, but not all areas of the Festival were examined due to constraints of time.

  • Some issues had clear solutions; others will take longer to unearth and may evolve over time.

  • All issues of systemic racism and cultural harassment must be addressed or this harm will continue, so should the Festival decide it does not have the time, resources, and drive needed to commit to this work, they should announce this publicly.

  • The intention of the ARC in highlighting these issues is not to admonish or blame, but to help create a more equitable work environment which will, in turn, result in the creation of better art.

The ARC met with the HR Committee of the Board of Governors at the beginning of September 2020 to share our thoughts and concerns in this work and to begin much-needed dialogue with the perceived power t the top. It would be dishonest to say that we reported to the Board of Governors about our progress and recommendations. Instead, it was a meeting where much transparent, emotional and electric discussion was had and, in the end, one of the Board Members was able to clearly articulate what was needed, “We aren’t ready to make decisions, because we haven’t had the dialogue.” The ARC has not met again with the Board of Governors since September, but we look forward to further dialogue and action from this group.

BLACK LEADERS, CAUCUSES AND AFFINITY GROUPS

As the ARC struck out to outline the extent of the systemic institutional racism existing across the organization, the Black Members present felt it important to develop a picture of the effects of specifically anti-lack racism therein. Anti-Black racism does not always receive specific acknowledgement within the execution of this type of work, and many Black Company Members spoke of specific moments of trauma experienced over the years during the Black Like Me social media takeover and subsequent panel discussion livestream, as well as through the #InTheDressingRoom callout over social media in June of 2020.

The Black Members of the ARC decided to form a sub-committee to ascertain and catalogue those experiences in order to identify unifying systemic practices at the root of such harms. We began to examine specific anti-Black bias within the administration, casting, outreach,
engagement and interaction between Black Employees with those in positions of authority. We invited several Company Members to speak with us regarding their experiences through their work at the Festival. Many examples of anti-Black racism became apparent. There have been no Black Artists in leadership positions in Administration or as Department Heads. There has been only one Black IATSE Member within the Festival’s ranks and never, as far as we can tell, in the Scene Shop, Lighting Crew, Sound, or Running Crews. In the last 10 years, there has never been a play by a Black Playwright and there have been only two Black-identifying Directors as part of the Festival’s season of plays.

For several reasons, two Black Members pulled back from their involvement with the work. As the representation on the ARC diminished and in the face of increasing workloads for the remaining Members within other sub-committees, the Black Leaders sub-committee was ultimately abandoned in favour of focusing on other work. The dissolution of the sub-committee must be in no way interpreted as a suggestion that there is little to no anti-Black bias or harm within the Festival’s practices or culture. As the anti-racist work at the Festival continues, the challenges specifically faced by Black Company Members must be considered and the work of the Black Leaders sub-committee reignited. Furthermore, we suggest that other BIPOC caucuses or affinity groups be established to look at specific issues faced by these groups and to come together to do this work collaboratively.

It is worth noting here that at the time of compiling the summary report, there remain a few Affinity Groups that include members of the ARC and the Parallel-ARC, but these groups were not in focus or created alongside he ARC like the Black Leaders group was which is why we do not discuss them in this report.

THE CREATION OF THE PARALLEL-ARC AND COLLABORATION WITH THE ARC

The ARC report was shared with the Senior Leadership (Michael Adams, Dave Auster, Anne Kircos, Simon Marsden, Rachel Smith-Spencer, Darryl Huras, Shelley Stevenson, Anita Gaffney and Antoni Cimolino). They recommended the formation of a working group - the Parallel-ARC - to review the report and respond to it. The Members of the Parallel-ARC received and read the ARC reports in October 2020. The Parallel-ARC took the reports and tried to break them down by sub-committee and by issue, making notes on particular questions and areas requiring greater clarity from the ARC as well as a proposed plan of action for each issue. With the original reports and these new documents, the ARC and the Parallel-ARC met virtually multiple times and for many hours a week throughout November and December with the aim of more deeply understanding the ARC report and collaboratively transforming the issues and recommendations identified into an action plan. Sometimes we met as a full group and other times we met in smaller sub-sections. This process was difficult for all involved. It was at times uncomfortable, frustrating and confusing. The goals were not clear to everyone at the outset and we did not spend enough time at the beginning to map out a working process and shared values together. We ultimately began to o this: we spent time getting to know each other, creating a community agreement and articulating goals and, in doing so, began to engender greater trust and shared goals.

At the time of writing this summary, we have yet to complete discussions of the full ARC report. This process, however, has provided greater clarity on the core issues facing the Festival as well as some clear next steps which we are excited to share with the Company.

WHERE WE ARE NOW AND NEXT STEPS

To say that this work has been and continues to be messy and painful sounds both cliché and insufficient in describing the experience of those involved, but it bears repeating. There are certain challenges in doing this work at a PWI with the Festival’s particular history, structure and profile. Undertaking this during a pandemic has also meant that we have almost exclusively had to do this work collaboratively, but at a distance. In some ways, the pandemic has also provided more time for this work and a clear interruption of the “way things used to be”, one of the greatest challenges in changing systems of inequity.

In the following summary, you will read about key issues, recommendations and next steps (both short and long-term) currently being undertaken by the Festival. Some of these are already underway and others will be initiated later on in 2021 and into 2022. This work is very much in process.

SUB-COMMITTEE REPORT SUMMARIES

Below is a list of the key sub-committee reports the ARC created:

  • Policies and Human Resources (HR)
  • The Acting Company
  • The Directors' Office
  • Stage Management
  • Production and Design
  • Marketing and Publicity (M&P)
  • Education

The ARC did not have time to fully explore the following due to time constraints, but recommends the Festival undertake similar work in each area in 2021 so changes can be implemented in a fulsome and coordinated manner.  These areas are each of vital importance to the Festival.

  • Accommodations/Housing (which falls under the umbrella of HR)
  • Advancement
  • Audience Development (including Front-of-House, Call Centre, Retail, and Cafés and Catering)
  • Board of Governors
  • Facilities
  • Finance
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Pay Equity (which falls under the umbrella of HR)
  • Volunteers (including the Friends of the Festival)

There are some issues that are addressed in multiple reports. In the interest of time, we have housed these under one sub-report summary rather than in all of the ones in which they appear (e.g. issues and recommendations regarding Wigs & Make-Up that appeared in the HR, Acting Company and Production & Design reports are included in the Production & Design summary.)

POLICIES AND HUMAN RESOURCES (HR)

This report included an analysis of current HR documents, policies and processes, and their accessibility (e.g. format, language, definitions, etc.) and application.

KEY ISSUES:

  • Harassment: For years, racial, cultural, sexual, and workplace harassment has occurred at the Festival to varying degrees. In recent years, we have seen more reporting and action taken to combat harassment, but when it comes to racism and cultural harassment specifically, reporting or action has been uncommon despite the prevalence of this harm.

– A lack of trust within the Festival persists; this is partly because some people who have perpetrated harm continue to be re-engaged without recourse or intervention from Festival Leadership. This devalues the trauma repeatedly experienced by racialized Company Members and continues a cycle of unsafe working conditions.

  • “Company”: The term “Company” as it is currently used pertains only to the Actors which creates exclusion and a greater sense of division among the Festival community. The identification of “Staff” vs. “Employee” and how HR policies pertain to Artists who are self-employed is unclear.

  • Unions and Associations: How Union and Association agreements intersect with the application of Festival values and policies including hiring, seniority, and EDI&AR is also unclear and contributes to preventing the diversification of the Festival.

  • Complaints Process: There is confusion about how Health and Safety and HR reporting processes (including the whistleblower hotline) function at the Festival and, in particular, how these intersect with “Not in Our Space” from Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (CAEA).

– Reporting processes can be long and often take place after a production has closed when, in fact, a resolution is required more quickly.

– It is sometimes unclear whether HR has taken any action on behalf of those who have brought forth complaints.

– Racism and cultural harassment require particular experience and expertise from those mediating a complaint in order to prevent further harm.

  • HR Documents: The HR policy documents are cumbersome and inaccessible. They are not made clearly available to all. This means people don’t read or fully understand them.

– There are also no clear definitions for cultural harassment, insensitivity or microaggressions, so it’s possible this harm continues because those who perpetrate it are unclear on what is acceptable under the current HR policy. Perhaps they do not now when they have offended due to unconscious and conscious biases or a lack of training, or their actions are deliberate.

  • Young Artists at the Festival: Young people engaging with the Festival as program participants and Artists are often exposed to harm and marginalization due to age in addition to other factors.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Acknowledgement and Accountability: Festival Leadership must acknowledge their complicity in the ongoing culture of harassment and should be involved in making change in order to ensure a consistent application of values and policies. Unclear policies contribute to creating an environment where this harm can take place.

– The Artistic and Executive Directors need to be engaged in the general wellness of all departments and each rehearsal process so that instances of racism and cultural harassment are not surprises, and can be addressed in real-time versus after a production has closed.

  • Training: The Festival should develop and implement a training process that includes racism and cultural harassment as well as particular processes designed for the artistic process and the rehearsal hall.

– Make it a requirement that all current Artists participate in EDI&AR training, in some form, prior to returning to the rehearsal hall.

– Allot time within the rehearsal process for deeper conversations and working agreements related to EDI&AR and particular personal and cultural issues.

– Build in processes to ensure that everyone involved understands the function of the Health and Safety, HR reporting processes (including the Whistleblower Hotline) and, in particular, how these intersect with “Not in Our Space” (CAEA).

– Dissemination and communication must consider that if someone has experienced harm, reporting may be further traumatizing.

– When complaints are brought forward, consider how to provide quicker resolutions and temporary safety measures until the complaint has been resolved.

  • Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Hire a permanent EDI&AR Director outside of HR whose responsibilities include a focus on training and reporting and acting as a liaison and mediator for EDI&ARissues including cultural harassment.

  • Redefine “Company”: include all those working with the Festival.

  • Update HR Policy Documents: Provide clear and consistent language in all HR policies and associated documents to support greater accountability and shared responsibility.

– Include a definition of cultural harassment along with clear examples. Self-employed Artists should be included when Staff and Employees are mentioned.

– How Union and Association agreements intersect with the application of Festival values and policies including hiring, seniority and EDI&AR should be made clearer.

– HR documents should be revised and provided via multiple platforms and learning modalities (e.g. video modules, reading, etc.).

– A link should be included in every contract and the Festival must also reiterate the Employee’s responsibility to review and understand these documents annually.

  • Orientation at the Festival: A robust and thorough welcoming process including a mentorship component should be developed not only for new people, but for those who are returning after some time.

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Recruiting and orienting a Director of EDI&AR

  • Revamping all policies to create relatable content and clear paths to resolution of workplace concerns

– New platforms for interactive training and delivery of policy information will be explored and initiated over 2021 and 2022.

– Cultural Harassment will be included in the policy and training content.

– Safeguarding policies including training for Staff responsible (e.g. Childminders) for young people will be revised in collaboration with the Directors’ Office and Education.

  • Updating orientation and training programs to incorporate new policies and processes with an emphasis on introducing people to the culture of the Festival, and promoting the new Code of Conduct, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression values.

  • Including in the IATSE Joint Union-Management (JUM) meetings ongoing EDI&AR discussions to identify areas of collaboration on key recommendations brought forward.

THE ACTING COMPANY

This report included an analysis of the personal experiences and ideas specifically around racialized Performing Artist engagement at the Festival with the aim of providing a safe, meaningful work experience that is equitable and free from racial harm.

Due to time constraints, the following issues were not fully explored and require further analysis:

  • Festival Union Crews and problematic power structures

  • The ways in which current coaching and intimacy practices inherently perpetuate system racism

  • "Cast by Consent" (which has been undertaken outside of the work of the ARC, but with its support)

  • Nepotism and the history of hiring and celebrating couples in a way that has disproportionately favoured white families

  • Cultural values that can be hard to negotiate within the current system such as childcare and family

  • The Conservatory in relation to the program being used as a tool for casting rather than training as well as the level of entitlement that the program can often engender in young, white men

  KEY ISSUES

  • Casting and Artist Retention: Many IBPOC Actors are not given the same opportunities to develop professionally over time due to the lack of continuous support and investment from the Festival in the evolution of their artistic processes. This has led to feeling undervalued, marginalized, and tokenized by the Festival. White Artists seem to be granted much longer-term opportunities for cultivation and professional development, season after season.

  • Directors: The Director holds hierarchical power and therefore sets the tenor and expectations for the work and creative process. The current rehearsal and production structures and timelines do not allow time for a Director to build genuine trust with an Actor because he value is on the work, rather than on the ensemble of people making the work.

  • The Start of Rehearsals: Currently, the first day can be overwhelming by the sheer number of people observing the room, underwhelming because of the immediate focus on the script, and intimidating because of having to quickly get to know the group of strangers with whom you’re about to work.

–  This process can also inadvertently alienate racialized Artists that are engaged for a production. The dynamics within the ensemble on the first day are the first encounter many have with the Festival’s hierarchy.

–  There’s an overall sense that time is precious and that it is being wasted unless “we” get right down to work. There is often no space, there is often no air. (This issue and subsequent recommendations were echoed in The Directors’ Office, Stage Management, and Production and Design reports.)

  • Culturally-Specific Work and Cultural Harm: Racism, harassment and harm endured by Performing Artists engaged in culturally specific work must stop, especially as programming is further diversified. There is a lack of cultural understanding and cultural competency that is pervasive throughout Senior Leadership and Management at the Festival. (This issue and subsequent recommendations were echoed in The Directors’ Office, Stage Management, Production and Design, and M&P sub-reports.)

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Amplify Racialized Actors: Cast lead roles with priority given to BIPOC Artists; seek opportunities to engage them in M&P initiatives to build familiarity with the Festival audience; make timely offers to secure BIPOC Artists when contracting; ensure racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking Artists are not isolated to The Lab's programming.

  • Season Planning: Consult with current racialized Artists in season planning to signify the value they bring to the work; provide them with an early and integral voice particularly inside of productions that are driven by a singular directorial concept to ensure safe thematic interpretation of sociological, economic, and ethical perspectives.

  • Learn From and Continue to Build Relationships with Racialized Artists: Interview those who have worked at the Festival, but not returned or who have rejected offers, to identify barriers for retaining IBPOC Artists.

– The Festival currently attracts Artists trained in colonial ways of working, so a shift in programming in what stories are created and how they are shared will uphold Artists with diverse training and a broader range of racial, cultural and artistic values.

  • Value of Ensemble: Shift the value to the ensemble so that the work can happen in a safe and healthy way, especially for racialized Performing Artists. Provide mindful resources that ensure suitable understudies for all IBPOC Artists to support this, especially when these Artists are working on culturally-specific works, or those in which their race, language, cultural or sacred practices are being presented on stage. If the priority is to make more work with cultural specificity, then the framework for Actors to work within needs to support them the same way we support “classics” (e.g. If you’re doing a show with a specific language besides English, make sure there is an understudy in place who can also speak this language.)

– Make it a requirement that all current Staff and Artists participate in anti-racism training, in some form, prior to returning to the rehearsal hall.

– Have Directors undergo performance reviews and ensure that HR policies are equitably applied to them as well.

– Ensure that Directors are equipped to create a safe and healthy work environment through the creation of room agreements for each production which address: diverse values; conflict management; working with sensitive or triggering content; approaches to intimacy; building safety, trust, and respect between all Members of the Cast and Creative Teams; and an acknowledgment that hierarchies can and do exist and how the Director intends to negotiate this through an equal valuation of all participants in the creative process and rehearsal hall.

– Cultural competency and an openness to new ways of working is a must. The Festival must also consider that unique support (e.g. mentorship, allyship, etc.) and the interruption in traditional hierarchies will be required to support new, racialized, trans, nonbinary, and women Directors in particular.

  • Re-imagine the Beginning of the Rehearsal Process: Shift the focus of the first day of rehearsal from getting familiar with the text to getting familiar with each other.

– Spend time creating a room agreement for the process.

– Put the focus first on the people directly connected to each production, and introduce the entire Staff of the Festival at a later date.

– Find an alternate time and way to learn about HR policies and procedures.

– Implement a longer orientation and ensemble-building process for new people and each production’s Cast and Creative Members prior to the official start of rehearsals.

  • Culturally-Specific Work and Cultural Harm: The content of these productions is sensitive, sacred in some cases, or asks for Artists to re-engage with trauma. These unique qualities should be reflected in production preparation timelines, schedules and budgets, as well as creative processes.

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Hiring IBPOC Staff to date, this has included a Casting Associate, New Play Development (NPD) Associates and a Planning Associate, with a focus on artistic leadership, casting, dramaturgy, training and season planning

  • Prioritizing casting IBPOC Artists

  • Overhauling The Conservatory

  • Implementing an orientation process before rehearsals begin (Pre-Rehearsal Orientation): a multi-day process for all Cast and Creative Teams

  • As per the "living Guideline to Production Processes" (see the Production & Design summary for details), entering into meaningful discussion of culturally-specific work in all Departments well before Actors enter the room

  • Review the pay scale to ensure fairness of compensation

  • Providing medication on past harm

THE DIRECTORS' OFFICE

The Directors' Office is a spaghetti-monster with a myriad of tentacles making it, in practice and concept, hard to assess comprehensively.

Issues, recommendation and key next steps related to the city of Stratford are captured in this sub-report because that's where the Artistic and Executive Directors are situated, but we recognize that this issue is much more broad-reaching than that.   

KEY ISSUES:

  • Making Change from Inside: Racialized Staff are often "the only ones" in their respective Departments and are not in positions of leadership. It is also, in some ways, harder to advocate for a revolution within one's own space or to disrupt an ecosystem populated with individuals they have bonded with despite their heretofore-steadfast attachment to the status quo.

  • The Machine: The Festival is not very nimble or adaptive in its structure and processes.

  • Artistic Planning: The season planning process is insular, white and opaque. Directors and Designers are not given clarity on timelines and how marketing and other initiatives will intersect with their creative processes.

  • Directors: The hierarchy embedded in traditional theatrical practices favours toxic personalities.

– Stop the cycle of re-engaging individuals who present difficult, toxic and/or troubling behaviours and attitudes especially in repeated offense. This choice devalues the traumas that those individuals have caused, whether that be by way of racism, cultural harassment, sexual harassment, enacting prejudice, bullying or creating a toxic work environment.

– Re-hiring these Artists sends a dismissive and dangerous signal to those who have reported violations of safety and sends the message that those who make complaints and offer up their lived traumas are not to be taken seriously.

– The signals that there are no consequences for inappropriate and problematic actions for some and continues a cycle of unsafe working environments.

– If these Artists are being rehired, the community deserves transparency about how the history of complaints have been addressed, and how the Festival will ensure everyone's safety while working with them.

  • Behind-the-Scenes: White hires as Creative Artists or behind-the-scenes are disproportionately high in comparison to IBPOC Artists. At the beginning of the ARC's work, the Festival was simultaneously dealing with the pandemic and our new digital reality seemed to be, again, predominantly white. This was flagged by Artists in some of these digital projects and the Festival swiftly instituted processes to begin to level the playing field. 

  • Fostering New Talent and New Work: Young Playwrights are not always supported through development with a rush to commission or produce new work before it is ready. In diversifying work, the Festival must also beware of trauma plays and torture porn.

  • Langham and The Conservatory: the pedagogical aspects of both programs need to be reconsidered with a focus on investing in new talent, engaging diverse practices and values, and more deeply connecting these to the work on our stages.

  • The Studio: The perception that this is where BIPOC and non-European plays are relegated bears truth and should be addressed.

  • Nepotism: Despite it not being an official policy, "couples hiring" disproportionately benefits white families.

  • Lateral Harm: The ARC received confidential testimony of lateral harm which points to complex and multifold causes and suggests the institution's history and culture of white supremacy might inadvertently be promoting that harm.

  • Funding: The Festival's reliance on ticket-buyers and donations rather than government funding makes it risk-averse.

  • The City: We need to eradicate racism, cultural harassment and anti-2SLGBTQ+ incidents in town.

– We need to improve relationship with the city of Stratford community.

– We need to improve the quality of life for urbanites and racialized, marginalized and other equity-seeking individuals who come to live and work in Stratford.

– The current political climate and what is perceived as the Festival's reluctance to engage with the city of Stratford are two of several components at play.

– The loss of economic power and slow decentralization of whiteness along with the false perception that our municipal government functions at the whims of the Festival further contribute to these issues.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Making Change from the Inside: EDI&AR initiatives cannot be relegated to specific Departments (e.g. The Lab) or fall on the shoulders of the few BIPOC Company Members working with the Festival. Leadership and Staff must be diversified across the organization with EDI&AR as the foundation for every Department.

  • The Machine: The Festival must become more nimble and adaptive particularly as it undertakes a greater commitment to culturally-specific work and the flexibility and uniqueness that will be required of each project.

  • Leadership Accessibility: The Senior Leadership should explore new processes for accessibility, transparency and relationship-building such as weekly open office hours.

  • Artistic Planning: This process must include racialized voices. Marketing initiative should not come at the expense of the creative process; flexibility is key in giving Artists a clear sense of timelines from the beginning of the process.

  • Scheduling and Resources: Schedule more time and devote more resources for culturally-specific shows.

  • Behind-the-Scenes: New mechanisms for planning, recruitment, hiring and engagement must be implemented immediately and continue to be refined to diversify those working behind-the-scenes. The process needs to be ongoing; we cannot wait for it to be "complete" before implementing it.

  • Fostering New Talent and New Work: Provide deep mentorship to BIPOC Artists new to directing and writing; widen the scope when commissioning to engage new Writers.

  • Langham: The Festival must invest in new talent in the long-term; the program should also be a direct conduit for finding Directors for the Festival; recommendations from the Acting Company report can be applied to this program as well.

  • The Conservatory: BIPOC Leaders are needed to ensure different practices and values are included; recommendations from the Acting Company report can be applied to this program as well.

  • The Studio: This theatre is best for intimate work.

– More BIPOC or culturally-specific productions should be produced on the Festival's larger stages. Audiences will have the joy of seeing work they have never been exposed to before and it will provide those from racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking groups an opportunity to see work that reflects who they are.

– The Studio tends to sell out and creates a frustrating scenario of using that house for BIPOC or culturally-specific shows when that populations is, on average, less economically advantaged that the white population.

  • Nepotism: The Festival must consider how to better support racialized Artists and families in making their work and home in Stratford.

  • Lateral Harm: Lateral harm perpetrated by racialized Company Members must be discussed, but doing so can be uniquely retraumatizing. The scarcity of racially and culturally-diverse representation at a PWI sustains isolation. Abuse engenders further abuse, so we must discuss this in order to break the cycle.

  • Funding: The Festival should seek out an increase in government funding to support us in making change and taking greater risks on our own terms
    .
  • The City: The Festival should be more involved in the city of Stratford by initiating community partnerships, providing greater access to residents to see our work, and by extending care beyond their work particularly for BIPOC Artists and Staff.


KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Adding specificity to the posting of job opportunities to broaden the field of candidates

  • Hiring BIPOC Staff which to date have included a: Casting Associate, New Play Development (NPD) Associate(s), and a Planning Associate, with a focus on artistic leadership, training and season planning (with Langham and The Conservatory training programs under their purview)

  • Overhauling Langham:

 – To be used as a vetting system to familiarize the Festival with Directors before hiring them for Festival shows

 – With longer-term and more personalize mentorship led by an Artistic Leader from a racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking groups 

  • Commissioning more BIPOC Artists in NPD and the Meighen Forum with the specific goal of producing these projects here or around Canada 

  • Implementing a Pathways to Cultural Belonging (PATH) for each production in 2021 

  • As per the "Living Guideline to Production Processes" (see the Production & Design summary for details), entering into careful discussion of culturally-specific work in all Departments well before Actors enter the room

  • Hiring Cultural Consultants to support the productions in 2021 as needed

  • Making EDI&AR training mandatory for all Directors

  • Conducting reviews on Director complaints/feedback after the show

  • Implementing "Cast by Consent" to increase communication in the creative planning process 

STAGE MANAGEMENT

This report focused on gaining an understanding of the current role of the Stage Manager and identifying a better model. The aim is to create better systems of support for more diversified Stage Management Teams. 

KEY ISSUES:

  • Diversify Stage Management: There is an obvious lack of racial diversity in Stage Management. Having a more diverse Stage Management Team will help inspire trusting relationships and grow capacity for diverse Casts and Creative Teams. 

  • Create Safe and Inclusive Working Environments: Stage Management is constantly trying to foresee issues and solve them before they become tangible or harmful. However, the absence of cultural awareness and cultural competency training prevents this from happening particularly with regard to racism and cultural harassment.

  • Work Culture and Hierarchical Power: As evidenced in other reports, the Director sets the culture for a creative process. This hierarchical structure can be problematic because it can mean that no one feels safe to speak up when harm is perpetrated. There appears to be instances of cultural harassment and oppression between Directors and Stage Managers and between Stage Managers and Actors.

– Historically at the Festival, the Stage Manager has been thought of as a facilitator for coordination of the room and the Director's vision with the understanding that they should not have an opinion. However, in actuality the Stage Manager is another Artist in the room with valuable knowledge; not only of the production in question and the technical aspects of the theatre, but also about how to support Artist's' safety in the room. In many cases, they are an untapped resource due to having been taught silence as appropriate conduct for their role.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Diversity Stage Management: Hire more BIPOC Production Assistants, Stage Managers, Apprentice Stage Managers and Assistant Stage Managers and provide mentorship by current Stage Managers while encouraging the reception and implementation of new ideas and perspectives from these new hires.

– Provide growth opportunities for new hires to become Stage Mangers if they wish.

– Create a welcoming and robust Festival mentorship program for new graduates in partnership with theatre schools and training programs.

  • Create Safe and Inclusive Working Environments:

–  Provide EDI&AR training for all Stage Managers and Department Heads to foster greater equity, diversity and inclusion.

– Provide ongoing EDI&AR training (e.g. unconscious and conscious bias, allyship, conflict management, etc.) to ensure everyone is working together with the same vocabulary, new values and toward shared goals.

– Provide accessible educational materials for quick-reference particularly for those who find it more challenging to adapt (e.g. Language guides to support discontinuing the binary, exclusive uses of "Ladies and Gentlemen" with "Everybody" instead).

  • Work Culture and Hierarchy: Dismantle the hierarchy and focus on the value of the ensemble, respecting and valuing the unique roles and responsibilities each person holds.

– Continue to disrupt the hierarchical structure of the rehearsal hall to ensure Stage Managers are empowered with the resources and support to help advocate when there are issues related to power imbalance with Directors.

– Consider how to implement EDI&AR consultation and medication within the creative process to ensure that all spaces (including rehearsal halls, fitting rooms, dressing rooms and backstage areas) remain safe for all throughout the rehearsal and performance process. 

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Creating EDI&AR training specific for Stage Management Staff to be implemented in 2021 which will include a multi-level training plan for ongoing implementation in subsequent years

  • Posting all Stage Management positions publicly which includes posting them more widely and recognizing the value that diversity and inclusion brings

  • Engaging in ongoing conversations regarding a more robust mentorship program for anyone interested in pursuing Stage Management as a profession (e.g. partnerships with high schools, theatre school and other training programs, etc.)

  • Looking for opportunities to achieve EDI&AR goals within Pre-Rehearsal Orientation

  • Utilizing opportunities such as the Directors' Workshops as a growth opportunity for Assistant Stage Managers

  • Establishing regular check-ins with the Director of EDI&AR when they are hired to reinforce work on unconscious and conscious bias, allyship and hierarchical structures

  • Implementing the Pathways to Cultural Belonging (PATH) process for each production

  • For weekly and daily schedules, prioritizing culturally-specific aspects (e.g. smudging, etc.) of a production in scheduling and with appropriate resources, eventually using the PATH framework

  • Creating a transparent and respectful system to support BIPOC Actors with regard to scheduling wig fitting and haircuts

  • Holding debriefs on productions: one when the show opens and one when the show closes

PRODUCTION AND DESIGN

The focus of this report was on the Production and Design processes and Departments at the Festival including Designers, Assistant Designers, Directors and Stage Managers, Crafts People, Technicians, Managers, and a variety of Unions and Associations. This sub-committee also generated a "Living Guideline for Production Processes", to start the ball rolling for creating upcoming, new or culturally-specific work at the Festival.

KEY ISSUES:

Culture of Fear: There is a particular culture and atmosphere within Production that can be othering, unwelcoming and sometimes unsafe for racialized members of our theatre community.

Currently, it maintains the standard that BIPOC Artists are not part of the system, and there is minimal mindful consideration of bringing our full cultural and racial identities to the spaces we work in.

There is a hierarchy and resistance to new ideas particularly in certain departments. The relationship and interactions with various Members of IATSE Locals 357 and 828 as well as the Props, Sewers, and Crafts associations. felt by various members in the racialized communities at the Festival, is one that reinforces problematic work practices and a culture of fear and cultural harassment and harm.

Lack of Diversity: There is an obvious lack of racial diversity in Production Staff, Union and Association Members, and among Designers, Directors and Stage Managers. With the erroneous lens that white people are viewed a "neutral", this results in harmful productions and work practices.

Production Processes: The current production structure encourages and promotes a place filled with communication gaps and processes that happen in silos. Implement structures for greater collaboration, diverse ways of knowing and working and flexibility.

Cultural Competency: There are concerns about further protocol and understanding amongst Production Staff and Creatives regarding intellectual property, public domain in the colonial structure and that of culturally-specific groups. Developing a deep understanding of what has cultural significance for certain communities is paramount.

Assistant Designers and Training the Future: The Assistant Designers are an integral part of the production process. The Assistant Designers and Training the Future: The Assistant Designers are an integral part of the production process. The Assistant Designer Program is unique, but currently offers no orientation or training plan for participants, does not prioritize fostering relationships with emerging BIPOC Designers and does not support Assistant Designers in becoming Designers if they wish.

Wigs and Make-Up: This Department continues to fail many racialized Actors. Wigs that are specific to Black Actors remain a critical issue and cultural harassment manifests itself prevalently in this Department. BIPOC and primarily Black Actors are continuously required to "make do" which, for some, can result in deep internal conflict with issues of personal responsibility, representation, and identity. This leads to re-engagement with historical inequities and a direct reconnection with generational trauma. 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS: 

 An Environment that Welcomes: The Festival must work toward creating theatre in an environment that welcomes people from racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking communities to bring their full selves to this work.  

– Provide ongoing training for all and build in supports such as an EDI&AR Team or Department. 

– Give particular consideration for more intimate settings such as fitting rooms.

– Learn from and continue to build relationships with BIPOC Artist: in order to identify barriers for retain these Artists, interview those who have worked at the Festival, but not returned as well as those who have rejected offers.

– As the Festival currently attracts Artists trained in colonial ways of working, a shift in programming in what stories are created and how they are shared will uphold IBPOC Artists with diverse training and a broader range of artistic values.

Make Production and Design Less Homogenous: Without a wide range of perspectives and lived experiences, a diverse creative culture cannot be sustained. It is especially problematic when a Department as large as this one holds extensive creative responsibility. Encourage more diversity in the Department by implementing new hiring practices and prioritizing mentorship with BIPOC individuals, particularity if they are new to the Festival.

Foster a Robust Racialized Design Community: Review and restructure the Assistant Designer Program whereby all design disciplines and methods of practice and ways of knowing are shared in order to prioritize a thoughtful approach to design education for racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking communities. Create opportunities for emerging BIPOC Designers to design on Festival stages.

Provide Training and Change Creative Processes: Provide ongoing, specific and mandatory EDI&AR training for IATSE Locals 357 and 828, as well as the Props, Sewers, and Crafts Associations.

– The Festival should engage with IATSE Locals to determine how to include this in collective bargaining agreements and how the costs for this training will be shared.

– Integrate IATSE Technical Department Heads into the production process earlier so they can collaborate with Actors, Designers, Directors and Stage Managers. The investment of time, collaboration in storytelling and trust-building will only aid in creating an environment where people can feel safe and free to create more fully.

Provide Education in Cultural Competency: To address this, when programming and season planning occurs, consider how to move toward decolonizing theatre design and production practices by engaging in a new process of core considerations for the entire process: from when the play is chosen to opening night. This process will demand more: more time, more resources, more considerations and dialogue. Implement Pathways to Cultural Belonging (PATH) and debriefs for each production process for every show.

Wigs and Make-Up: The Festival must invest in the tools to support BIPOC Artists including robust training and diversifying those working in these departments. This department must know how to style, cut, and create wigs for people from all backgrounds, which means mandatory hiring of Wigs and Make-up Artists who know how to work with specificity and care for BIPOC Actors and who want to be trained to do so. Expand your stock and prioritize materials budget to create wigs for racialized bodies. Put the money where the need is. This is how equity is achieved.

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Creating EDI&AR training specific for Production Staff to be implemented in 2021 which will include a multi-level training plan for ongoing implementation in subsequent years.

  • Employing a new recruitment strategy for Designers and Assistant Designers which includes posting all positions, posting them more widely and recognizing the value that diversity and inclusion brings.

  • Implementing the "Living Guideline to Production Processes" which includes:

– sharing this with all Production Staff starting with Managers in the Department

– honouring the desire for it to be a changing, evolving tool

– using this Guideline during the season planning process in regards to scheduling and budgeting

  • Re-imagining of the Assistant Designers Program which includes:

– ongoing conversations with a Design Consultant to structure a five-year progressive learning experience that centres learning about designing in repertory at the Festival

– leveraging our internal training programs (The Langham Directors' Workshop and The Birmingham Conservatory) to create more design opportunities

  • Looking for opportunities within the Pre-Rehearsal Orientation to include more Production Staff in specific training, room agreements and discussions about shows and their cultural aspects

  • Establishing regular check-ins with the Director of ED&I when they are hired to reinforce work on unconscious and conscious bias, allyship and hierarchical structures

  • Implementing the Pathways to Cultural Belonging (PATH) process for each production

  • Initiating conversations with various Unions and Associations to discuss partnering on EDI&AR initiatives (e.g. a Diversity Joint Union-Management Meeting, etc.)

  • Holding debriefs on productions: have one when the show opens and one when the show closed

  • Through training, improving the cultural competency of the Managers in the Production Department

– In the short term, this will focus on improving our understanding of the concept of intellectual property rights in relation to culturally-diverse background and culturally-specific shows

  • Creating a transparent and respectful system to support BIPOC Actors with regard to all aspects of the Wigs & Make-Up process

MARKETING AND PUBLICITY (M&P)

The focus of this report was how the unconscious and conscious bias of those working in the M&P Departments have inflicted harm on racialized individuals due to the systems and processes that have been enforced at the Festival. M&P is the face of the institution. It says, "this is who we are", and, by default, sets the culture and vision of the Festival, internally and externally.

KEY ISSUES:

  • Departmental Culture and Composition: The structure of these Departments is problematic: it is very hierarchical with little diversity.

– It can be challenging to work in a PWI as a racialized person. Many Company Members have been at the Festival for a multitude of years making it hard to try new things and meaning the culture is one of conservatism rather than progress. This has contributed to a lack of retention of BIPOC M&P Staff.

– Due to budget targets, scheduling pressures, and resource constraints, there is a tendency not to try new initiatives to broaden and diversify audiences. There is an emphasis on marketing and publicizing the "big shows" which historically have not included new shows of BIPOC Artists as lead.

– There are currently no existing EDI&AR policies concerning M&P.

  • Representation: There is often a lack of racial and cultural representation in marketing materials as well as limited discussion about cultural authenticity and problematic portrayals of racialized individuals.

– The dynamics of billing and promoting shows with an almost exclusive focus on "Stratford stars" favours white Artists, which leaves little room for sensitive choices regarding BIPOC Artists who do get represented, and very often leads to tokenism.

– In M&P materials such as the Visitors Guide, there are concerns about tokenism, harmful racial representation, and prioritizing white Artists or those who are better known to current Festival audiences rather than consistently promoting BIPOC Artists.

– The schedule for marketing shows and the tight turnaround time for media request engenders stress among M&P Staff and Festival Artists. It has also meant that Creative Team Members are often required to approve marketing concepts well before the production's vision has been fully realized.

  • New Audience Stewardship and Barriers to Access: The Festival is not reaching new people who might want to come.

– M&P is not supporting cultural differences as meaningful and valuable to the Festival's brand and ecology.

– Tickets are often expensive, particularly for racialized, marginalized and/or equity-seeking communities.

– There is a lack of racial and cultural diversity amongst the Festival's audiences, Front-of-House and Box Office Staff as well as the Festival Volunteers. Due to time constraints, these work areas were not fully examined by the ARC, but it is worth noting that while these individuals typically demonstrate a high-level of commitment to and familiarity with the Festival, this sometimes leads to behaviours of entitlement, discomfort with change and possessiveness which can make others, and particularly BIPOC individuals, feel unwelcome. 

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Implement EDI&AR Training and Policies:

– Provide training to M&P Staff regarding EDI&AR with a focus on cultural-specificity and racial diversity and inclusion.

– Develop and implement a policy with respect to the M&P process for culturally-specific shows.

Diversify M&P Staff, Culture and Processes:

– Diversify the M&P Departments' full-time Staff and include them in planning, implementing their new and valuable perspectives.

– Demonstrate a valuation of cultural difference among the leadership of M&P.

– Hire Photographers and Videographers who know how to represent people with different skin tones.

– Implement a slower, more thoughtful process to engage Artists and audiences with an emphasis on welcoming new people, authentic and caring representation of BIPOC Artists, and implementing a more collaborative process within the Festival.

  • Engage Cultural Consultants as needed.
  • Be transparent with Artist abut schedules and timelines.
  • Collaborate early with Directors, Designers and other Artists for their input on M&P aesthetics, Photographers and Videographers.

– Consider how to promote racialized Artists and EDI&AR initiatives without tokenizing; consider diverse media outlets, sponsors' employee databases, community organizations, international interest, and influential racialized individuals for support; expand media connections.

Prioritize New and Racialized Audiences:

– Prioritize engaging new and diverse audiences (e.g. BIPOC, youth, arts workers, low-income, etc.) through diverse media platforms, ongoing relationship-building with these communities and an emphasis on subsidized and free ticket models (e.g. Pay-What-You-Will, covering transportation costs, etc.)  

– Consider translation of marketing material into different languages and hiring Front-of House Staff, Box Office Staff, and Festival Volunteers who can engage with audiences in multiple languages.

– Engage in partnership-building annually with local community and BIPOC communities, offer community performances dedicated for culturally-specific groups, and other models such as touring and filming to ensure greater access to Festival productions. Fostering these relationships should not be solely based on one particular show during one particular season.

– Include consumer products from BIPOC Artists and businesses at the Festival stores and engage in careful consideration to ensure that the merchandise sold does not cause cultural harm.

KEY NEXT STEPS UNDERWAY IN 2021:

  • Adding EDI&AR goals into all full-time Staff performance plans

  • Reviewing our processes for hiring and awarding contracts to third party providers, in consultation with HR, to facilitate diversification as roles in these Departments become available

  • Adding EDI&AR goals to the plan for the audience work area that guides the externally focused initiatives for the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic 

  • Allocating money in the overall budget for an "Innovation Fund" to support outreach initiatives.

  • Initiating marketing efforts to shine a light on a broader range of Artists who contribute their artistry to the Festival as a means of building audiences following them

  • Arranging meetings with Directors for key Company Members to be briefed on creative direction earlier in the marketing process

  • Identifying works in the season that require cultural consultation prior to developing marketing assets

  • Working on a branding campaign to communicate our artistic vision that will feature a broad range of Artists

  • Providing EDI&AR training for people in Marketing, Audience Development (Front of House, Call Centre, Retail and Cafes and Catering) and Communications Teams

  • Piloting a Pay-What You-Will model for the season (both for in-person and digital)


CONCLUSION

We compel every individual who is part of the Festival community to continue to learn and take action to ensure the Festival is not only free from racism and cultural harassment, but is, in fact, anti-racist. Making his summary report public is just one step we hope will aid all of us in holding the Festival accountable and taking collective responsibility. Working toward anti-racism cannot be undertaken solely by the racialized individuals in our community; it takes allies and accomplices. We invite you to seek out resources for further education and to help each other in this work - it will be ongoing and it is a process.

We acknowledge that this document is dense, but hope you continue to reflect on what has been shared by honouring these key elements: Creative Collaboration, Transparency and Accountability, Thoughtful Questioning, Integrity and Respect, Impatience and Patience. If you have any immediate questions about this summary report, please contact: antiracism@stratfordfestival.ca. Please note that currently Members of both the ARC and the Parallel-ARC have access to this account and as those committees change so too will those who have access to this shared account.