Release Date: January 5, 2022
Dear Studio Community,
Last January, Studio Theatre published a statement reflecting on the demands for equity issued by We See You, White American Theater, a collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre artists, and committing ourselves to a series of actions aimed at making Studio a more inclusive, equitable, and vibrant organization. Over the past year, regular and ongoing conversations have continued, at our staff Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee and our board Equity and Inclusion committee, at a series of working groups, at the departmental level, and among our full staff and board.
Some of our original commitments have now taken more concrete shape, and we have made new ones. We’re sharing this update to keep our community in the loop and to hold ourselves accountable. We acknowledge that the progress we’ve made is just a beginning, and that being an anti-racist organization means going on a journey that is never complete.
For their efforts, thoughtfulness, frankness, and recommendations about possible paths toward positive and systemic change, we would like to thank Studio staff, our board, artists, and other stakeholders who have shared their thoughts with us, as well as our field, which is full of insights from which we draw inspiration.
We have published a Land, Labor, and Legacy Acknowledgement, and will inscribe it on the wall of our newly renovated lobby that will welcome back audiences as we reopen the building. Given the particular history of our neighborhood and city, our statement focuses on both Native peoples and on the contributions of Black Washingtonians to building and enriching our city and neighborhood. The statement was created with input from members of both the Native and Black communities.
Recognizing that equitable and livable compensation for all is a key principle in a commitment to anti-racism, we have changed our pay structures as follows:
Set across-the-board rates for all Equity actors, directors, and designers at what used to be our top rates, eliminating our former tiered system and disparities of pay between different programming series.
Raised the salary floor for full-time staff above the living wage for Washington, DC, based on the MIT Living Wage calculator.
Increased compensation for overhire production crew and understudies.
Launched an internal pay transparency system that classifies all full-time positions into pay bands based on responsibility level to ensure that staff are paid fairly for their position and that there is transparency around salaries.
To further our commitment to creating a space that makes BIPOC theatre-makers central to our work and nurtures their processes, we have:
Announced an upcoming season that includes BIPOC artists on every production and in which roughly half of our visiting artists are BIPOC.
Met our goal of having 50% of plays actively considered for production authored by BIPOC writers.
Hired a Resident Intimacy Consultant for all productions in our 2021-2022 season to ensure that the rehearsal room is a safe space for artists.
Studio made a commitment to ensuring that all members of our community have participated in learning around anti-racism and allyship. To that end:
Studio partnered with the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, who led a two-part Allyship Training for all full-time staff and Board and are designing customized sessions for Studio’s Front of House Staff and for all artists/production teams at the start of each rehearsal process.
Studio’s full-time staff participated in a full-day workshop with Equity Quotient and had the encouragement, access, and funds to attend other learning and training sessions through the year.
Front of House staff and full-time staff will take a Bystander Intervention Workshop led by DC Peace Team.
All Studio volunteer ushers are now required to participate in anti-bias and inclusivity training, which is being offered in coordination with several DC theatres.
Studio focused on updating our policies and procedures to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace, including:
Rewriting On Working Together—our code of conduct that is shared with all staff, board, and artists, to introduce them to our organizational culture—to reflect our commitment to anti-racism and set expectations about power sharing, preventing harm, and respecting boundaries.
Updating Studio’s staff handbook based on recommendations from the EDI committee with expanded anti-harassment and disability policies, increased paid time off, additional eligibility for late night transportation, and more equitable cancelled work, attendance, and appearance policies.
Establishing a new annual evaluation process for full-time employees that eliminates quantitative assessments to encourage open and productive conversation, and provides a system for employees to share feedback about their supervisors.
Creating a new guide to pronoun usage at Studio to make individuals of all gender identities feel welcome.
Instituting a new hiring process to ensure a more transparent and equitable search process for applicants, with the intention of reaching a more diverse talent pool to foster a more diverse staff.
Hiring Production on Deck, a search company that specializes in identifying diverse candidates for production positions, to help with our Director of Production and Technical Director searches.
The Board created an Equity and Inclusion Committee, which identified three areas of focus: membership, governance, and learning and leadership. Over the past year, the Committee recommended the following actions, which the full Board then approved:
Removing the set minimum amount for annual Board giving to help diversify our Board and eliminate barriers to participation.
Expanding the annual evaluation of Executive Leadership to include an assessment of their work around equity, diversity and inclusion, and implementing a system to solicit feedback from the entire staff about Studio’s leaders.
Participating in the two-part Allyship Training led by the Alliance Theatre.
Building reciprocal relationships with an array of professional organizations to create new pathways to Board membership and connect with new audiences.
As we reopen to audiences following the pandemic, we are taking the following actions to welcome and build an audience that better reflects the population of the DC-metro area and the work on our stages:
Establishing a new partnership with the DC Public Library to offer $10 tickets across the DC-metro area to all productions, in addition to new discounts on tickets for all students, educators, members of the theatre industry, and first responders.
Expanding the volunteer usher pool through our partnerships with community organizations to create a more diverse and welcoming usher cohort.
Issuing an Invitation to Participate to our audiences to ensure that all members of the audience, and especially new members, feel comfortable in our spaces.
Collaborating with theatre artist Psalmayene 24 to plan a series of in-person “Psalm’s Salons” featuring Black artists and creators, that expands on the online series we hosted this past year.
We believe that these actions and goals are meaningful steps toward shifting our organization in permanent and impactful ways. We also acknowledge that they are early steps in a years-long effort, and that some changes remain aspirational for us.
In the coming year, we intend to continue the work of assessing and changing our processes, policies, practices, and culture. A few of the things we’ve identified to focus on include rewriting the language we use in all our public communications to better express the values of the institution, creating a plan to work with and invest in more BIPOC-owned businesses, creating a system to track and analyze the make-up of our constituencies to better understand who we are and who we are serving, and regrowing resources to continue to invest in our full and part-time staff, artists, and apprentices.
These updates will be regular and recurring, and we look forward to sharing our ongoing planning, learning, and growth with you. We also hope that institutional change begins to become self-evident to you, as you experience the vitality and diversity of our art and feel welcomed into our building and community.
We invite you to share any thoughts or concerns with us as this work unfolds. We would love to hear from you. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Ende Lichtenberg