Anti-Racism and Accountability Update
August 1, 2022
Seattle Rep has taken several concrete actions to achieve our goal of becoming an anti-racist organization over the past eight seasons, but there is still much to do. To anyone who has not felt seen, heard, or included, or has experienced harm within Seattle Rep’s spaces, we are deeply sorry. We seek to do better and be better moving forward, though we acknowledge that we are not perfect and will continue to make mistakes along the way. We are grateful to our audiences, artists, staff, Trustees, volunteers, and community partners for joining us on this journey and for holding us accountable to our mission, vision, and values and to the principles of racial equity and anti-racist work. Thank you.
Mission Alignment and Commitment
Seattle Rep’s mission is to, “Collaborate with extraordinary artists to create productions and programs that reflect and elevate the diverse cultures, perspectives, and life experiences of our region.” We can only achieve this ambition by committing to the work of creating a more just and equitable space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, staff, and community members. The first step is to acknowledge the history of racial inequities that have existed within our country, our industry, and our organization. We must also build anti-racist practices into every aspect of our work, from hiring policies to rehearsal protocols, from governance and leadership to strategic planning. This work will result in a more powerful and fulfilling pursuit of our mission and our vision, which is to position “Theater at the heart of public life.”
Seattle Rep’s work to become a more diverse and inclusive organization dates to our earliest diversity conversations in the 1990s, but we renewed this commitment upon the appointment of new Artistic and Managing Directors in summer 2014. Our initial steps included developing an equity charge statement; revising our core mission, vision, and values language; and diversifying our artistic programming, including the launch of the Public Works program.
2017 Equity Plan
This work picked up further steam in 2016 when we hired outside racial equity consultants to launch a series of all-staff equity trainings, while another consultant helped us develop an “Organizational Framework for Equity” plan, which we adopted in spring 2017 (you can read the plan here). This plan included nearly 100 recommendations related to power, policies, people, programs, and culture at Seattle Rep. We have made progress on a number of these recommendations, though, of course, the work is ongoing. Some highlights include:
- Artistic Programming – Plays created by BIPOC artists and/or which center BIPOC stories and protagonists have powered our mainstage season in recent years, among them signature Seattle Rep productions like Lizard Boy, Vietgone, Here Lies Love, Nina Simone: Four Women, In the Heights, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Shout Sister Shout!, Fannie, Selling Kabul, and more. This commitment has also been woven through our other artistic programs, including Public Works, The Other Season, 20x30, and New Directions.
- Training and Discussion – We have hosted mandatory, bi-annual trainings for all staff since 2016 (though these were paused during the pandemic; we will resume them in fall 2022). In addition, we hold monthly white anti-racism and BIPOC affinity groups for staff, Board, and artists, as well as bi-weekly Anti-Racist Accountability Change Team (ARACT) meetings.
- Hiring Processes – We have revamped our recruitment and hiring processes with a goal of attracting more diverse candidates and removing bias from the process. This includes revisiting our job descriptions and minimum qualifications required; utilizing hiring panels; and employing standardized interview questions, and including equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) questions for all candidates for all positions.
- Staff Leadership – In 2017, our Senior Leadership team was 100% white. Since then, the Senior Leadership team has been as much as 50% BIPOC (Nov. 2019 – Oct. 2022), though, as of July 2022, it was 27% BIPOC (3 of the 11 members). We aim to continue increasing this percentage moving forward.
- Community Engagement – In January 2019, we created a new Director of Arts Engagement position who now works to engage our diverse community and increase access and connection to our artistic work, including by maintaining and expanding our long-standing youth engagement programs.
- Equity Manager – In July 2022, we hired our very first Equity Manager, who will help manage and support EDI initiatives across the organization moving forward.
- Trustee Recruitment – In 2017, our Board was 3% BIPOC and our Advisory Council was 0% BIPOC. In November 2019, the Board directed the Trustee Recruitment Committee to prioritize the achievement, within 3 to 5 years, of a Board that reflects the racial diversity of our region (i.e., 33% persons of color). As of July 2022, our Board was 39% BIPOC (18 of 46 members) and our Advisory Council was 21% BIPOC (5 of 24 members). We aim to continue increasing these percentages moving forward.
- Give and Get Commitment – In 2017, there was a suggested minimum $5,000 annual financial commitment for all Seattle Rep Trustees. Recognizing that this limited the pool of potential Trustees, the Board of Trustees eliminated this requirement in February 2021, changing the suggested commitment to a “meaningful gift.”
While we are proud of the progress described above, there are other areas of the 2017 plan we have not been successful in achieving. These include:
- Data Collection – While we now gather self-identified demographic data annually from Trustees and staff, we have struggled to collect data on our artists and audiences due to the complexity of this task.
- Vendors/Contractors – We have been developing (but have not completed) a vendor survey designed to canvass the businesses we work with. In the meantime, some departments are regularly asking prospective vendors about their EDI practices before awarding contracts. While this is not the sole deciding factor on who we work with, it has become an important consideration. This has certainly helped us identify and employ more minority vendors and vendors with like-minded EDI values, but there is a more organized and thorough process to be implemented here.
- Communications – We have struggled to communicate the goals, successes, and failures of our EDI work with our broader community in our lobby, programs, and online. This Anti-Racism and Accountability Update will hopefully serve as one step with more to come.
- Group Conversations – There were numerous recommendations throughout the plan related to assembling small group conversations with subscribers, donors, artists, Trustees, community members, and others to share the Rep’s EDI ambitions and get their buy-in, support, and increased commitment. These have not happened.
We See You, White American Theater
The murder of George Floyd in spring 2020 and the broad calls for racial justice that followed underlined just how much more work there is for Seattle Rep to do. We were grateful to the BIPOC artists who published the ”We See You, White American Theater” demands in 2020, which provided many ideas for further institutional progress and growth and introduced us to many of the ways we inadvertently disappointed and pained our BIPOC staff, artists, and community members that were not addressed in our 2017 EDI plan. Among the recommendations we have since adopted include:
- Access for BIPOC Audiences – We have continued to build upon our existing audience development and access initiatives through our Mobile Box Office and Pay What You Choose programs, and by launching an initiative to offer free tickets to the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish people.
- Land Acknowledgments – We have adopted a land acknowledgment at Seattle Rep. We have also gone further in supporting our local indigenous community by paying Real Rent to the Duwamish Tribe, launching a Native Artist-In-Residence program, and offering our facility free of charge to Native organizations.
- Equitable Working Conditions – We no longer schedule more than 8 hours of rehearsal on any given day; we have dropped from a 6-day rehearsal week to a 5-day rehearsal week; and we have begun to employ understudies on every show.
- No Homogenous Design Teams – We have committed to including BIPOC artists on design teams for every show at Seattle Rep.
- Apprenticeships– Recognizing that our apprenticeship program functions as a vital doorway to employment at Seattle Rep, we altered our processes to prioritize the hire of BIPOC apprentices. Another important step has been to transition all stipend-paid internships to minimum-wage paid apprenticeships; we have also been able to offer some housing support.
As of July 2022, we are working to develop a new multi-year EDI plan for Seattle Rep, which we intend to finalize prior to the end of calendar year 2022.
We will continue to update this page with our achievements and shortcomings in the future. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com.