A Red Orchid Theatre's Response to
We See You White American Theatre
A Red Orchid Theatre is a company committed to honoring the unrelinquishing human spirit and we feel it is crucial to practice what we preach about social compassion and honesty. For this reason, it is imperative for us to confront our long history as a predominantly white institution, to re-examine our previous complacency and commit to lasting and authentic change.
It is not lost on us that in the 27 years we have been in operation our company has been predominantly white. Currently our organization includes 10.2% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) representation. While we have discussed and set goals for equity, diversity, and inclusion for many years, we acknowledge that movement has been slow and not agency wide. This is not a time to make excuses for our implicit biases and participation in upholding racist norms in theatre. It is a time to evolve and forge ahead, relentlessly striving to be a company whose infrastructure and storytelling reflects the world in which we live.
Over these last five months we have been delving deep and reflecting as an organization on who we have been and who we want to be. It is not unlike the work we are known for onstage: intimate, rigorous, compassionate. Sometimes brutal. Sometimes uncomfortable. Always honest.
On June 1st of this year we released a statement of condemnation and solidarity in response to the murder of George Floyd. We stated that we are all complicit in sustaining a patriarchal society steeped in centuries of white supremacy. We stand by that. Soon after, a collective of over 300 BIPOC theatre makers known as We See You White American Theatre released its own statement regarding the harmful and exclusionary practices of our industry and followed up with a list of demands calling for “long overdue change.” These demands were a call to action for theatre institutions across the country, including academic and professional training programs, the press and unions, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatres.
With enormous gratitude to the We See You White American Theatre collective, we have begun to use the document they provided as a foundation to guide our growth and accountability as an organization. The document of demands was required reading for everyone currently working with A Red Orchid in any capacity. We pledge the following commitments as a step toward becoming a more inclusive, open, transparent, and anti-racist organization.
- A Red Orchid Theatre commits to a dedicated budget line item for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and anti-racism work. Our first company wide training with a hired consultant was completed in July and all senior staff have participated in more extensive anti-racism training. We are now in the process of formulating plans and schedules for this ongoing work.
- A Red Orchid Theatre commits to allotting time and space for in-depth discussions surrounding anti-racism work. Currently this has taken the form of a monthly anti-racism book club featuring the work of well regarded authors on the subject while providing a space for shared learning within our organization.
- A Red Orchid Theatre has formed an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Accountability Committee whose work is centered around developing objectives that address our history as a predominantly white institution and supporting us in becoming a truly anti-racist organization. Long-term goals include elevating BIPOC voices within both artistic and administrative settings, developing an explicit code of conduct that includes anti-racism clauses, and addressing the need to increase racial diversity company-wide.
- A Red Orchid Theatre is committed to reducing barriers to artistic participation. First steps include formalizing our current practice of five-day workweeks and the elimination of 10 out of 12 tech days.
- A Red Orchid Theatre is committed to increasing BIPOC representation both on stage and off. While BIPOC artistic representation had previously hovered around 22%, we ended our 26th season at 29% and stood at 45% in our 27th season. We commit to this continued growth in pursuit of having at least 50% BIPOC representation on all productions.
- A Red Orchid Theatre is committed to centering BIPOC artists in new work, season planning and production both onstage and off. First steps include the creation of a new paid staff position focused primarily on increasing BIPOC representation in our literary and casting departments.
- A Red Orchid Theatre commits to transparency, compensation and accountability in the following ways: We acknowledge that while it has not always been this way, the board is currently 100% white. We commit to putting a recruitment diversity plan into place that will increase BIPOC representation on the board over the next 2 years. Per our bylaws we will continue to have artist representation on the Board of Directors. We will publish board member affiliations on our website. We will provide a chain of command and communication cascade to everyone working with us. We will implement a 360-degree review process of executive staff as well as an annual salary assessment related to these reviews. We will commit to dismantling our unpaid internship program.
- A Red Orchid Theatre commits to establishing a community connections and partnerships program with an emphasis on long-term mutually beneficial relationships. The foundation of these partnerships will be based in a commitment to social justice, inclusion, and anti-racism work. We will work to ensure these relationships are equitable and free from tokenism. We believe theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit and we commit to using the power of art to foster and strengthen these relationships.
- A Red Orchid Theatre commits to centering local BIPOC owned and operated businesses and will work to create a preferred vendor list for each department of the organization.
- A Red Orchid Theatre recognizes that our theatre sits on land stolen from Indigenous tribes including the Council of the Three Fires–comprised of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations–and many others such as the Miami, Fox, Kickapoo, and Sac Nations. We commit to actively nurturing relationships with the indigenous communities of Chicago by providing a space for visibility and alignment with native artists and organizations.
While this is a start, we acknowledge that it is the minimum. Our work will and must continue. Through our complacency and ignorance we find ourselves behind in creating an equitable workplace. This evolution towards a more inclusive culture has just started within our organization and will require an enormous amount of work. We are committed to examining ourselves, our culture, our policies and making anti-racism a central core value.
We define diversity, equity, and inclusion as reaching beyond ourselves to create art that reflects society. This line of thinking is instrumental in carrying out our administrative and artistic goals, welcoming new artists and audiences into the room, and in particular, working toward racial equity. This is a time for accountability and evolution and we are here to do that work.
This statement was written by Kirsten Fitzgerald, Travis Knight, Abigail Madden, and Steve Haggard with input and support from the entire A Red Orchid company.