We believe that Stories Matter, and that BIPoC/LatinX Stories Matter
At Open Book Theatre we strive to be open, inclusive, and diverse. We acknowledge that we can do better, and that the work is an ongoing process.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the many before him, we acknowledged the need for deep and systemic change. We stand with our BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) friends and family against racism and intolerance. We commit ourselves to being part of the solution, providing a safe and equitable place to work and play. We commit ourselves to the work of giving voice to the stories of BIPoC/LatinX communities. We commit to being an anti-racist theatre.
We understand that there is need for work in many areas, and our goals and commitments to measurable areas are only a part of the work – actionable goals amidst the ongoing but less obvious work of listening, learning, and shifting of organizational culture.
In an effort to listen and learn as well as elevate Black voices in our community Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank and Director Sarah Hawkins Rusk worked with Dan Johnson and Ashley Lyle to organize and publicize the Black Queens on Stage Podcast: The Black Actor Conference, BLAQN Survey: For Michigan BIPoC/Latinx Theatre Professionals, and the resulting statement Toward an Anti-Racist Michigan Theatre.
The survey results and the statement were shared with the board of directors, and discussed at our July 2020 board meeting. In addition to ongoing work and discussion, we committed ourselves to several action items:
- We will develop and implement a yearly training/workshop for all staff, directors, and stage managers, to be held prior to each season. The event will include implicit bias/anti-racist training, as well as trainings in our safety and emergency plan, sexual harassment policy, chain of command, grievance process, company culture, and more. Full policies will be posted backstage and made available to all board, staff and independent contractors, and information will be included in all contracts and reviewed with cast and crew at our first production meeting/rehearsal. (update: our first annual training was held August 21, 2021)
- We commit to producing at least one play each season by a non-white playwright, elevating the stories of BIPOC/LatinX communities. Our mission is to promote connection through theatrical storytelling, and we believe that theatre is a powerful tool for creating understanding, empathy, community, and conversation. (update: 2 of our one to one virtual theatre shows were written by BIPOC playwrights. We had several BIPOC playwrights participate in our Weekend Wonders Online New Play Festival. Driveway Theatre shows, You Talk White (2021) and Dance with Me (2022), wer written by local BIPOC playwright Craig Ester. Too Heavy For Your Pocket (2021) was written, directed, and performed by BIPOC artists. Our 21-22 season includes Nollywood Dreams, written, directed, and performed by BIPOC artists.)
- We commit to hiring practices (onstage and off) that are fair and equitable, and that at the bare minimum our racial makeup will be as diverse as the community we serve. (update: 1/3 (33%), of our staff and artists in our 21-22 season were BIPOC)
- We recommit ourselves to the practice of race-transcendent and color-conscious casting: in plays where race is not dictated by the needs of the script artists of all race and ethnicity will continue to be considered for all roles. For plays where race is dictated by the script we will continue to be conscious of casting correctly. (Every play in our 21-22 season featured BIPOC artists on stage – and off)
- We acknowledge the lack of racial diversity on our board and commit ourselves to greater diversity. We are working on steps to do this, knowing that our board diversity needs to be more than tokenism. We are working to strengthen our relationships with BIPoC/LatinX community members. By our ongoing work to diversify our staff, artists, and art we hope that our audience and stake holders will also become more diverse, and we will be able to authentically diversify our board leadership. (update: our board continues to work on this issue. Our staff and board attended an anti-bias training in November 2021)
- We extend an open invitation to artists, audience, and community members to share with us their experiences at our theatre.
We acknowledge that race and ethnicity are not the only barriers to inclusion. The link above gives our full Non-Discrimination Policy and Diversity Philosophy, which we will be revisiting and updating.
Theatre reminds us that there is no one way to tell, hear, or see a story. We all come with our own histories and continue to grow and challenge our own narratives. While we work toward making this a safe space for everyone, it is not a space that was freely given.
As occupants on this land of the Anishinaabe people, we want to recognize the sovereignty of Michigan’s Indigenous nations and historic communities who live here now and those who were forcibly removed.
Would you like to continue your education with us? Check out some of these podcasts by Indigenous people:
All My Relations- https://www.allmyrelationspodcast.com/
Media Indigena- https://mediaindigena.com/podcast/