Dear friends and colleagues,
I hope this finds you well! I am in my first few months as Artistic Director, and while I’m still getting to know you, I’d like to begin a conversation with you that is essential to McCarter’s next chapter.
Over the last few months, McCarter staff has formed a committee around equity, eschewing hierarchy and traditional leadership structure in an effort to lift consensus and teamwork. Meeting weekly, the committee is actively working to address challenges in the workplace, as well as the demands released by the We See You, White American Theater movement earlier this summer. I appreciate and want to honor the non-hierarchical ethos of the committee, while also balancing my public-facing role as an artistic leader, as I am having conversations on a regular basis about McCarter’s process and commitment to this work.
McCarter Theatre Center needs to do the work internally before officially announcing action steps around the We See You, White American Theater demands and the organization-wide commitment to centering anti-racism. We believe we could unintentionally cause more harm as a predominately white institution if we rush to respond without deep understanding and acknowledgment of the ways our culture and systems have impacted the Black, Indigenous, and people of color on our staff, stages, and in our audiences. And at the same time, we feel a deep urgency to respond to the We See You, White American Theater movement to say: Thank you for this labor, and the gift of this document. We are in process. We will be transparent about the process. We are holding ourselves accountable, and ask our local and national communities to hold us accountable as well.
As part of that commitment to accountability, I recently offered our staff committee a draft statement that we could reflect on together. Something that we could use to frame where we are currently, where we have been, and where we hope to grow together. In that spirit, the staff has refined and endorsed the statement below; much of their work is reflected here. We look forward to engaging with you, updating you on our commitments around this work, and continuing conversations that will keep us accountable.
McCarter Staff Framing Statement
McCarter Theatre Center is a predominantly white institution, which has long held Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility as core values; diversity being most consciously and actively expressed through the art presented on our stages.
We have both explicitly and implicitly upheld and supported structures of systemic racism. We acknowledge the long history of this culture in our organization and are working to create an infrastructure that reduces, disrupts, and ultimately alleviates this harm in the future.
In this moment, our stages and theaters are empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. While this is a deep challenge for our organization in many ways, it also offers a crucial opportunity to acknowledge how we as an organization have upheld white supremacy. We must take this moment to engage in the work of changing our culture, systems, and strategic plans to become the anti-racist organization we aspire to be. We know we cannot go back to the old ways of working.
We are also in the midst of another major change, as we are a few months into new artistic leadership.
We feel a great urgency to take action around building an anti-racist culture. We also feel a deep responsibility to listen to BIPOC voices on our staff, acknowledge the harm that has occurred in our theater both past and present, attend to that harm, and move forward in an informed and sustainable way.
We are holding ourselves responsible to do the work. We desire to be transparent with you and will continue to ask you to hold us responsible as well.
At this point, we would like to share the following actions:
❖ Our committee meets on a weekly basis, now actively participated in by the majority of our staff. Within that group, we are engaged in an in-depth, departmentally-intersectional review and discussion of the demands of the We See You, White American Theatre movement. This process helps us identify the problematic structures and practices at McCarter's foundation and gives us a framework for how we want to address problems proactively.
❖ We are in the process of hiring anti-racism consultants for mandatory training for staff, visiting staff, and board members. In the meantime, the staff has committed to attending anti-racism training sessions through artEquity.
❖ We are compensating staff for the anti-racist training they are individually participating in.
❖ A BIPOC staff affiliate group has formed in the last few months to provide a space for BIPOC staff to discuss their experiences.
❖ Conversations continue with the new McCarter leadership and Board about centering values of anti-racism in all strategic planning moving forward.
❖ We are engaging in a conscious effort to include diverse representation in all forms of our programming.
❖ We commit to publicly sharing our response to the We See You, White American Theater demands, in addition to our action steps as an organization.
❖ We aspire to be an essential creative partner to our communities. We invite conversation, feedback, and your thoughts as we proceed. We know we are imperfect in this work, but we are committed to creating a culture of respect, grace, and learning.
❖ We also humbly share that we aspire to find joy in this work. Stories have the power to bring us together in the communal creation of art. Stories can celebrate our differences, and highlight our shared humanity. We seek to create processes, stories, and spaces that are welcoming to all and foster a deep, shared sense of belonging.