Chautauqua Theater Company’s 2020 Letter to We See You, White American Theater
To We See You White American Theater and the Theater Community at large,
Chautauqua Institution is dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life through a program that explores the important religious, social, and political issues of our times; stimulates provocative, thoughtful involvement in creative response to such issues; and promotes excellence and creativity in the appreciation, performance, and teaching of the arts. Chautauqua Theater Company (CTC) is the theatrical arm of the Chautauqua Institution and as such, we are an extension of the Institution’s mission to create work and conversations through the Arts with and for the Chautauqua community. The Institution has historically attracted white patrons and we recognize our complacency in not combatting a system of white supremacy. The Institution continues to open doors, open thought, and provide space for non-white and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) to feel welcome in our physical spaces and to participate equitably in our programming. We acknowledge that in many ways our reality does not match our ideal of being a welcoming and accessible community. Simply put, we recognize and are motivated by a central question: “How can we engage in the important conversations of the day, if not everyone is equitably part of the conversation?” In order to help our community answer that question, the Institution is actively searching for an inaugural Chief Diversity Officer to steward this work throughout the organization, anticipating a start prior to next summer’s season.
In the last few months, we at Chautauqua Theater Company have conducted an audit of our policies and practices and though committed to anti-racism, we have on many points found ourselves wanting. It is with these next but not final steps that we intend to embed anti-racist policies and systems into our strategic plans, our mission, and our operations.
We honor the BIPOC artists who have for years been creating and fighting against racism.
As a seasonal theater, below is a list of our primary and most immediate steps to continue the fight:
It is important to understand the longstanding history of the tribal land that we occupy and the Native peoples who have lived and continue to live on that land. We commit to learning our place within that history and to advocating that Chautauqua Institution create a land acknowledgment that will honor the land, the people, and their traditions, past, present, and future.
We will expand the representation of BIPOC artists and artisans throughout the theatre company, from senior leadership to entry-level positions. Within the next 3 years, we commit to a 50% BIPOC company and the prioritizing of hiring those people with prior IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) training.
Our Chautauqua Commission of new plays, beginning its inaugural year in 2021, targets a collection of 10 plays in 10 years. We commit to a minimum of 70% BIPOC writers for those 10 plays.
We understand the importance of anti-racism training for all staff and artists coming to work at CTC. We are advocating that CI implement organization-wide anti-racism training and that it be implemented prior to the start of the summer 2021 assembly. We will also advocate that this includes separate training for BIPOC members.
We believe a dedicated IDEA Team is necessary for the health of our company and commit to advocating to the Institution’s inaugural CDO (hiring expected prior to 2021 summer season) that company/department level IDEA teams be prioritized as a first imperative.
We commit to partnering and working in close conjunction with the Institution’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility efforts of Chautauqua Institution in the coming years. We promise to continue to add our voices and actions to dismantling oppressive systems and eradicating racist ideas within our art form and company in this necessary movement towards creating “a truly sustainable, anti-racist theatrical ecosystem.”
Andrew Borba, Artistic Director
Sarah Clare Corporandy, Managing Director
Stori Ayers, Associate Artistic Director
Chautauqua Theater Company