Abolishing Racism And Oppression in the Workplace – Update 2

Greetings Theatre Washington Community,

I wanted to give you a second update on Theatre Washington’s ongoing process to examine our workplace values, evaluate how our institution has operated to support structural racism and how we’re working with partner theatre organizations to create a more anti-racist and anti-oppressive community.

AROW – Abolishing Racism And Oppression in the Workplace, the consulting program of Young Playwrights’ Theatre, led by Jessica Wisser, Jared Shamberger, Brigitte Winter, and Farah Lawal Harris, are actively working with Theatre Washington as the convener for local theatre institutions to examine structural racism. The Community of Practice program is composed of 35 theatres meeting together as one group and as four cohorts in smaller breakout groups. We are guided by these principles: structure informs policy, policy informs practice, and practice informs culture.

April’s session, led by Brigitte, focused on guidance for creating values. We discussed the need to hold intentional conversations about values, connect them to abolishing racism and oppression within the organization, and frame them as both for the present day as well as aspirational as we move on the journey to evolve as fully inclusive transformed institutions. Our conversation included how institutional budgets reflect values. As Brigitte stated, “If you can’t afford to produce theater and also dismantle white supremacy within your organization, then you are not a fiscally healthy organization, no matter what your books say.” For the final part of the session the smaller group cohorts brainstormed about what values we will need to hold as a DMV theatre community to evolve an antiracist and anti-oppressive community of practice.

Theatre Washington has been working on our own organizational values and is further developing them with a small working group of members of the Advisory Committee. We have made progress in identifying them and we will go further in creating deeper connections to how we can hold ourselves accountable as an anti-racist organization.

In the next session, Farah Lawal Harris will lead a conversation on how to reduce the harm of oppression within rehearsal rooms and in productions.

Some of you have asked about who is participating in the cohorts. Here is a list of the participating organizations and the cohort breakout groups:  

Cohort 1, Facilitated by Jessica Wisser 

  • Arena Stage
  • Arts on the Horizon
  • Creative Cauldron
  • Educational Theatre Company
  • Expats Theatre
  • Olney Theatre Center
  • Perisphere Theater
  • Pointless Theatre
  • Roundhouse Theatre
  • Keegan Theatre

Cohort 2, Facilitated by Jared Shamberger 

  • Adventure Theatre MTC
  • Constellation Theatre Company
  • Ford’s Theatre
  • Mosaic Theater Company
  • NextStop Theatre Company
  • Nu Sass Productions
  • Synetic Theater
  • Theater J
  • Washington Improv Theater

Cohort 3, Facilitated by Brigitte Winter 

  • Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • Open Circle Theatre
  • Rep Stage
  • Rorschach Theatre
  • Studio Theatre
  • Theatre Washington
  • Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
  • Theatre Lab

Cohort 4, Facilitated by Farah Lawal Harris 

  • 1st Stage
  • Flying V
  • Faction of Fools
  • GALA Hispanic Theatre
  • Imagination Stage
  • Prologue Theatre
  • Shakespeare Theatre Company
  • Signature Theatre
  • Studio Acting Conservatory

In the meantime, I welcome you to share your thoughts, feedback, and questions with me. I can be reached at aaustin@theatrewashington.org.

In deep appreciation for theatre makers in the DMV,

Amy Austin
President & CEO
Theatre Washington