Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Writers Theatre
At Writers Theatre (WT), we stand together against racism, and for justice and equality. We are committed to listening and learning and are invested in the work critical to change, in order to ensure an equitable society for all, especially for those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
We hold ourselves accountable. We are dedicated to a continuous in-depth, organization-wide assessment of our policies and ways of working that involves the staff, board and community members. Together, we are working to improve existing policies and implement new practices that reaffirm that racism, harassment and discrimination have no place at WT.
The following actions are designed to improve and amplify our commitment to more diverse perspectives on-stage and off-stage, from the rehearsal room to the boardroom, for and with our community partners. Our path forward is inclusive and collaborative.
As part of this journey, WT's staff and board continue to review the We See You, White American Theater document and have been guiding many conversations towards organizational examination and change. Many of the steps we share below have been inspired by and guided by this important document.
- WT’s Code of Conduct, published in 2018, includes our equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) values and our affirmation to make artistic, administrative and interpersonal decisions that are firmly rooted in EDI best practices. The Code of Conduct is a living document and will be reviewed and refined as part of our assessment process to ensure it fully reflects the anti-racist stance of WT. For the full Code of Conduct shared on our website, click here.
- WT will continue to invest in the creation and production of BIPOC stories from BIPOC storytellers with a heightened focus on the casting and play selection process, commissions and creative teams.
- We will focus on greater representation from BIPOC and other under-represented communities across all departments by focusing on recruitment and hiring of staff, especially our leadership team, and our board of trustees.
- We will expand upon our anti-racism training with more internal, in-depth instruction and defined, consistent and measurable institution-wide EDI and anti-racism goals and initiatives.
- We will continue to actively engage with our internal Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) for the further advancement of WT’s EDI work. The ARWG was created in May 2020 and includes members of WT’s staff with representation from each department.
- Through the ARWG, we have developed an internal resource guide for staff to access research and share resources regarding anti-racism work.
- We will continue to support and strengthen our engagement with WT’s BIPOC Cohort, created in 2019, and expand efforts for additional affinity groups. The BIPOC Cohort’s mission is to provide “a place for BIPOC staff and artists to come discuss their experience working at Writers Theatre, where we have a space to share observations and reflect on how the institution can fulfill its value of being a non-racist institution.” Artists and staff are invited to join the bi-weekly meetings on site, and online while working remotely.
- Before the pandemic, staff was also in the process of creating two new cohorts: one for the LGBTQIA staff and Women Working in Theatre. Those mission statements have been created, and work to re-engage these two groups is in process.
- We have created monthly discussion groups, where staff can share personal experiences, observations and thoughts through curated programs about racial injustice, with opportunities to solicit feedback about ways in which we can do more and do better.
- We are active participants of the Village of Glencoe’s Community Relations Forum, which is charged with community engagement initiatives on racism, social equity and community building and healing.
- WT has engaged The Walker Thomas Group to provide EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), De-escalation and Anti-Racism training which began in May 2021.
- WT is working to update and improve the standardization of hiring practices and onboarding materials.
- In the interest of transparency, WT commits to informing prospective guest artists of who else is currently contracted on a project when making offers by updating our reference checking policy and implementing a communication procedure to prospective guest artists.
- Since WT began operating two performance spaces in 2003, we have regarded both venues as mainstages. This means that all artists who work in those venues are compensated equally. It is our belief that house size should not determine the size of a paycheck. WT will continue to invest in and support both the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre and The Gillian Theatre as equal mainstages.
- WT will offer a 5-day rehearsal week for all productions. We will continue to avoid the use of "10 out of 12s" during technical rehearsals, which we eliminated in 2007.
- In conjunction with our work with The Walker Thomas Group, WT will be revamping our Post-Show Discussion programs with new EDI training and more BIPOC staffing.
- WT will be incorporating Land Acknowledgements, guided by our partnership with members of the Chicago greater metropolitan area's Native American Community. We will be investing in creating work centering around the narratives of Native Americans.
- WT recently completely revamped its board recruitment process, including new access points, to improve the diversity of the board and amplify more voices.
- WT commits to a conversation with the playwright, director and lead creatives on the intended audience of each production that will inform each marketing campaign.
- To complement WT's open-captioned performances for in-person productions, all streamed performances have closed-captioning available. Additionally, we have begun offering audio-described performances.
We look forward to the continual reassessment and development of our plans in the coming months and to being engaged with our stakeholders during this time. As policies and practices evolve, we will update them on our website.
Updated June, 2021