Social Accountability Update
Since our inception Vineyard Theatre has aspired to live our core values of integrity, creative risk taking, and nurturing a diverse community. Three years ago we took stock of the work needed from within our organization to fully live those values. In September 2018 we created our first anti-racism action plan as part of our strategic planning process. This past year, the devastating ongoing racial violence against Black Americans, including the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, led to an outpouring of demands for broad systemic change in our nation. We heard that call, at a time when the pandemic shutdown gave us a deeper opportunity to look at every aspect of our mission and how we create. We recognized that as an organization, we must use our unique power as theatre makers not just to reflect the world we live in, but to fight for the world we want to live in.
In July, a group of more than 300 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre artists, as We See You White American Theatre, released a series of demands to create “a truly sustainable, anti-racist theatrical ecosystem.” We are grateful to them and other BIPOC leaders in our field for making explicit the ways inequity, bias and racism show up in the American theatre. Their calls to action amplified the urgency for true systemic change, and made it clear that we must take concrete action to be a fully anti-racist organization.
In June, our Board of Directors created an anti-racism action committee, and in July our leadership and staff began weekly anti-racism meetings. Together we have created a first series of action steps, which we share below and will continue to update regarding our progress and further actions. We aim to continue building an equitable and just foundation for ongoing work, and an organizational culture that creates a truly safe space for all artists, staff, and audiences; a space that is vibrant with creative possibility and opportunity for BIPOC artists to collaborate and rejoice in all that theatre can be and do.
To create a more secure foundation for an anti-racist culture to flourish we have made the following commitments immediately:
Native American Land Acknowledgment
● In our lobby and in our programs, and at the first rehearsal of every workshop and production, we will name and acknowledge the indigenous lands upon which we gather as well as the indigenous peoples who have lived or currently live there. We honor tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
● We will continue to prioritize ambitious projects for development and production that are generated by BIPOC artists and that employ a large number of BIPOC artists. We will fully invest in the visions of BIPOC artists, including offering production budgets that make space for DREAMING and allow for multi-disciplinary forms.
● We will actively seek out and build new relationships with both emerging and established BIPOC generative artists, and continue to invest in meaningful, long-term relationships with BIPOC artists.
● We will continue the expansion of our residency programs to create more paid support for the generative process, including time with designers and other creative team members.
● We will expand our artistic team with the addition of a senior-level staff member who shares our commitment to producing and prioritizing the work of BIPOC artists, and who will play an integral role in programming. This position will be part time in 2021 with the goal of being full time by 2023.
● We commit to bringing more BIPOC voices into our artistic and programming process by formalizing a compensated, majority BIPOC artistic council in 2021
● We will hire an EDI professional for each production to conduct anti-racism training with our creative teams and casts and to provide active and ongoing support for all artists and personnel. We commit to hiring culturally competent intimacy and fight directors.
● We will work ardently to build meaningful relationships with both emerging and established BIPOC designers, stage managers, and creative collaborators and to connect them with all of our directors and playwrights as we build our creative teams.
● We will expand our existing policy of hiring diverse creative teams, to significantly increase the number of BIPOC collaborators on all our shows. We will track our hiring demographics through voluntary self-reported surveys of all season creative teams and share those numbers publicly in our annual report.
● As our creative team members are hired, we will make them aware of other artists on the project, to provide transparency and allow for BIPOC artists to better assess their working environment.
● We are eliminating ”10 out of 12” tech rehearsals and will develop a new rehearsal standard with input from our artistic council and community.
● We will offer at least one paid mentorship opportunity for emerging BIPOC designers and/or stage managers on each live production starting in 2021. The mentor and mentee will receive compensation for this work.
Board and Staff Culture
● We have created a line item in the annual budget for anti-racism training with an outside consultant for all Board, full-time, part-time and front of house staff, with opportunities for additional training and learning. This will include de-escalation and conflict resolution training.
● We will actively recruit BIPOC board members to significantly increase representation. We will track our board demographics through voluntary self-reported surveys and share those numbers publicly in our annual report.
● We will establish an anti-racism action committee to include members of our Board, staff and artists. We will share the goals identified by the committee later this season.
● We commit to continuing honest examination of our work culture with our full staff, and to making changes that foster trust and a healthy work environment.
● We commit to creating an environment which allows for regular examination of biases and blind spots, including non-hierarchical 360 degree staff feedback and review processes.
Access to the Field and Paid Entry-Level Experiences
● We seek to undo the expectation that unpaid internships are a necessary step to gaining full-time entry-level work in our organization and in the field. We will create paid stipends in our Literary and Production departments for at least two interns beginning this winter and summer, respectively. We aim to further expand our paid internship opportunities in 2022. We will also align more of our internship opportunities with colleges, including community colleges, that offer college credit for internship opportunities.
● As part of our 40th Anniversary Campaign, we are expanding our Fellowship program to create more paid positions to serve as a bridge between college and careers in the theatre field. This program has been piloted in our Development department for three seasons and we intend to expand this program by 2024 to include 4 additional Fellowships in Finance, Marketing, Artistic and Production departments. These roles will be paid full-time salaries and provide full benefits including health insurance.
● For internships and Fellowships, we will actively recruit early-career BIPOC artists and administrators and prioritize candidates who share our commitment to anti-racism and the work of BIPOC artists.
● We commit to hiring temporary staff support during all transitions to allow time to recruit the most diverse pool of candidates possible. Our hiring process for all positions will prioritize proactively recruiting BIPOC candidates.
● We commit to an evaluation of our vendor relationships in order to identify increased opportunities to support BIPOC owned and run businesses.
● We commit to completing and sharing on our website a revised hiring practices policy by the end of February 2021.
Equitable Access for BIPOC Audience Members
● In our effort to have an audience as diverse as the work on our stage, we will expand our current practice of employing BIPOC audience development and marketing consultants to work on all productions.
● We will invest in and foster reciprocal relationships in BIPOC communities and with BIPOC-led organizations with intentional focus on long-term BIPOC audience development.
● We will expand opportunities for access to our theatre through our Good Neighbor Program and free Under 35 and Artist Membership Programs, and ensure that more than 5,000 free or affordable tickets are reserved annually for our community through these programs.
We affirm our commitment to these actions, and to working thoughtfully and consistently to create meaningful change in our company. The dictionary defines the word ‘Vineyard’ in part as “a sphere of activity, a place of action and labor.” As a sphere of activity for theatre artists and audiences, we recognize our responsibility as artists and citizens to truly be a place ‘of action and labor’ to create the field we want to work in, too. We share these commitments in order to foster transparency and accountability, and will update on our progress and with further actions.