September 18, 2020
Dear Festival Community,
We are the members of the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC). We are here at the invitation of the leadership of the Stratford Festival to address issues of systemic racism that are endemic to the institution. Our differences are as binding as our similarities, and it is these qualities that allow us to gather as a collective of IBPOC artists, artisans, and administrators from a wide range of racial and cultural backgrounds. We represent ourselves, our lived experiences within the Stratford Festival, and our collective experiences elsewhere as theatre practitioners.
Our mandate is to identify the institutional practices & systems which produce damaging or oppressive effects towards First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Black, and People of Colour within and outside the organization. Identifying these problems will be used to develop recommendations for the Festival to combat such practices. We have been presented with the opportunity to be critical of the Festival's current standards of practice, in order to provide opportunities for our IBPOC communities to practice and share their chosen craft with safety, care, and agency. We first met as a collective on July 15, 2020 and have been given an initial seven weeks to offer recommendations and guidance. Since then, we determined more time was necessary, and we will be presenting our findings in October. We are being compensated for our time, skill set, and experience .
We take this responsibility seriously. The Stratford Festival has been in consultation with the IBPOC community for a very long time, and previous recommendations have not been implemented, or have hit many roadblocks. In the wake of the many protests, uprisings, and shootings on Turtle Island, including the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, the Stratford Festival has issued statements of solidarity, and we intend to be insistent in demanding that resolute action be taken past their words. The difference NOW is that in the Stratford Festival's acknowledgement regarding some of their history, we intend to make this productive by holding them accountable.
We have dedicated ourselves to this committee and know we are not alone. We know that there have been many before us pleading for change. Their voices were not heard or honoured. The issues are painful. The issues are not new. The issues have been dismissed. Today, this changes. We recognize that this work is messy. This work is not easy. This work is emotionally and mentally exhausting. We recognize that we are doing this work in isolation (as a collective) during a pandemic of epic proportions. We are trying to stay forward moving despite the challenges that have come up, including the departure of committee member Erica Croft, who resigned her position in the face of continuing harm. Despite these challenges, we are dedicated to this work and hope to be positive agents of change.
As we proceed, we will be working in concert and consultation with other initiatives currently underway at the Festival. Our strength and efficacy is rooted in our experience within the company. We will apply both personal anecdotal experiences, as well as elements of critical race theory and cross-cultural collaborative frameworks to our analysis and recommendations. We bring the following values to our work: Creative Collaboration, Transparency and Accountability, Thoughtful Questioning, Integrity and Respect, Impatience and Patience.
Our theatre community is made up of diverse cultures with varied backgrounds and experiences. It is our intention that our recommendations not only service IBPOC artists, artisans, and administrators, but the entire theatre community and its audiences, to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all. This has never been the case, and we are here to begin to cultivate a culture that nourishes a new perspective.
Today, we change.
The Stratford Festival ARC
C.J. Astronomo, Associate Technical Director & Lighting Designer
Sadie Berlin, Metcalf Foundation Dramaturgy Intern, The Lab
Miali Buscemi, Actor
Jessica Carmichael, Director, Dramaturg, Actor, Creator, Educator
Alice Ferreyra, Stage Manager
Esther Jun, Director
Qasim Khan, Actor
Samantha McCue, Designer
Jani Lauzon, Actor, Director, Artist Educator, MD of Paper Canoe Projects
Thomas Olajide, Actor
Nitasha Rajoo, Interim Director of Education