EQUITY & ANTI-RACISM COMMITMENTS
On-going Equity & Anti-Racism Commitments, Practices & Actions Statement
As of August 1, 2023
Hartford Stage acknowledges our history as a predominantly white and white-led institution in a city with a population that is majority Black, Brown, and Latiné and is implementing policies and structures that build greater equity and belonging at the theatre. The leadership team, staff, and board of Hartford Stage are committed to the ongoing practice of anti-racism and social justice to create a more welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable organization for all.
We recognize the ingrained biases within our institution and the short- and long-term actions needed to practice anti-racism and to achieve sustainable structural shifts. We are committed to transparently sharing our progress and maintaining accountability to ourselves and our community.
We aspire to a culture of reflection, commitment and re-commitment, practice, and continued growth, which we know will include mistakes, failures, and continued learning. We believe in a culture of feedback, conversation, and collaboration across departments and across hierarchies. This progress is a living and working compilation of activity, with contributions from our leadership team, staff, and board. This is not intended to be a checklist, but a way to keep the work transparent.
As we enter a new era for the organization and for the industry at large, we continue to envision into what it takes to create a sustainable, relevant, equitable, responsible, and welcoming regional theatre that speaks to and represents the vast diversity of our city and region. You can see our vision for that goal in our Strategic Plan (2023-2028), which highlights the mission, values, and priorities we are focused on over the next several years. In the plan, we explicitly name a core value of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging. We believe that for theater to be vital to civic and individual well-being, we must take an intentional approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in every facet of the organization. Below are some steps we are taking to activate that belief.
CREATING A CULTURE OF BELONGING & INCLUSION
We strive to create a place where all people feel a sense of belonging across the organization. We strive to create a culture where everyone sees themselves, their styles, their culture, and their humanity reflected and appreciated in all the work we do.
The following goals work towards a culture of belonging and inclusion:
Engaging more historically excluded artists, with a heightened focus on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists and community members
- With support from the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation & Joyce Willis, engaging a Black Artist for a two-year residency (2022-2024)
- Director Christopher Betts was named our Willis Artist for 2022-2024; Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress produced in May/June 2023; The Hot Wing King by Katori Hall slated for February/March 2024
- Engaged and hired members of CLASSIX, a group of artists interested in unveiling Black performance history and dramatic works by Black writers, to research Black theatre history in Hartford, consult on productions, and continue on-going partnership
- New American Play Festival focused on writers with Latiné and Hispanic roots (June, 2021)
- A recommitment to producing a season of plays that tell diverse stories and have writers and directors of diverse backgrounds.
- Commitment to the seasons’ creative teams being at least 50% BIPOC artists.
- Two bi-lingual (Spanish & English) events per season
- Further development of Radio Plays Project in collaboration with CT Public featuring BIPOC stories rooted in local history
- Recruitment priority of LGBTQ+, Black, Latina/o/x and/or Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking board members
- Creation of Board “Latinidades” Advocacy Group
- Opening participation from non-Board members to serve on committees
- Continuation of Stage One Young Professional Board program that invites emerging leaders into the Board room
- Appointed largest and most diverse class in organizations history for 23-24 season
- Anti-racism & Equity discussed and on agenda for all full board meeting
- Representative participated in the National Board Training with artEquity in 2022; continued recruitment of board members to participate moving forward.
- Revising Education curricula with anti-racist lens; updating text selections to ensure representation of diverse stories and storytellers
- Expanding performances open to Capital Community College students
- Hiring, building, and strengthening relationships with local teaching artists
- Continued scholarship funds available for all students in Studio program as needed
- Host gatherings designed to build relationships and networking opportunities for local artists and/or local community leaders
- Began Downtown Neighborhood Leaders quarterly gatherings in collaboration with our neighbor and partner, Christ Church Cathedral.
- Continued relationship building with local BIPOC & LGBTQIA+ communities, organizations, vendors, and individuals across the region through events, meetings, and open dialogue
- Inviting and curating BIPOC local vendors to sell goods in our lobby during performances
- Annual Community Night performance of our holiday show where we invite members of local not-for-profit community groups to see the performance for free and provide food and drink
- Annual Free Open House at theater with free activities, food, and performance; explicitly engaging local vendors and partners
- Continuation of partnership with Hartford Public Library providing free tickets to productions via library branches
- Support of local fundraisers, galas, and initiatives, by donating tickets to productions for specific groups
- Land Acknowledgement included in playbill, on website, and spoken at top of rehearsal process & select meetings & events
- Use of pronouns in email signatures
- Spanish language materials & captioning for events when possible
- Increased marketing and advertising spend with hyper-local media and Spanish-language media
- Identifying, disrupting, and directly addressing coded and uncoded racist language, images, conversations, and practices that arise at the organization and in our spaces.
- Bi-lingual (Spanish & English) signage for gender affirming restroom usage
- Shared public information on gender diversity: https://www.hartfordstage.org/plan/restroom/
- Single Stall restrooms available for use in office/rehearsal space, backstage, and at scene shop
- Installation of gender neutral/family friendly restroom availability for audiences (Summer of 2024)
- Non-gendered guest artist dressing rooms; flexibility in guest artist dressing room coordination and accommodation
- Baby changing table always available for use upon request internally or publicly
CONTINUED LEARNING & SKILLSET BUILDING
We strive to equip our staff, volunteers, and board with continued learning to strengthen and deepen their personal and collective understanding of the inequity and injustices within and outside of our organization. We strive to offer opportunities that help build skillsets that bring greater consciousness into every aspect of the organization, ultimately leading to greater equity.
The following goals work towards our continued learning and skillset building:
- We continue to seek leadership, guidance, support, and wisdom from internal and external partners, tools, and resources.
- Some organizations we have built partnerships with and offer trainings from, or have in the past, include the following: artEquity, CEIO (Co-Creating Effective & Inclusive Organization) – KALE (Keeping Accountable to Liberation & Equity) program completed December of 2021 with staff leadership; Thought Partner Solutions; Production on Deck; Grace Figueredo and Matt Luginbuhl, Hummingbird Humanity, Right To Be, Spring Talent
- Commitment to prioritizing and making accessible ongoing equity and anti-racism training as part of employee and volunteer professional development and expectation
- Annual artEquity Everyday Justice Training completion expected for all staff; secondary training Strategies for Change also offered for continued learning
- Annual Harassment Prevention Training, including sexual harassment with Jackson Lewis
- Right To Be “8 Ways to Mitigate Bias” and “Bystander Intervention in the Workplace/Public” made available and expected for all staff and volunteers
- Additional trainings and resources offered as available
- Dedicated budget line item for equity & anti-racism training and resources
- Monthly senior team dialogue and workshops on anti-racism (how it affects the organization, new practices, learnings, resources, activities)
- Bi-Monthly full staff dialogue/workshops on anti-racism and building equity mindsets and skillsets
- 1×1 conversations with members of staff and senior team member to discuss Action Plan and hear reflections and feedback from staff members
- Working towards a process of formalizing individual equity and anti-racism professional development plans for staff
- Creating an internal culture of regular sharing of articles, books, recordings, podcasts, etc focused on inclusion, equity and anti-racism, and a central location for housing resources
- Building support networks amongst ourselves and other arts and local organizations to support anti-racist practices and dialogues strengthening the work
EQUITABLE & SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS & PRACTICES
We strive to build an organization that recognizes the humanity of every member of our staff, board, volunteer, audience, and community member and the needs and necessities to live and thrive in the 21st century.
- $15 minimum wage across the organization
- Developing more expansive networking and outreach for open positions
- Continued commitment to recruiting diverse candidate pools and candidates with strong equity and anti-racism skills
- Re-defined hiring procedures, practices, language, and processes, including a shift to committee hiring to help eliminate bias (major shift completed in Fall of 2021; refinement and adjustment ongoing)
- Defined hiring competencies as Communication, Collaboration, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, Creativity, and specific role skillset
- Commitment to not relying on volunteer services for activity outside original scope of work
- Compensating freelance teaching artists for prep and planning time
- Relationship building and commitment to using local BIPOC vendors
- Budget transparency and explicit discussion of equity within the budget
- Mileage reimbursement at the standard IRS rate
- Anonymous feedback and reporting outlets always available
- Weekly communication to staff for on-going activity at organization; opportunity to uphold or shout-out good work of colleagues.
- Creation of annual job fair & networking session for production roles cross collaboratively with producing theatres in the state
- Re-envisioning apprentice and intern programs to build more equitable opportunities for early career professionals
- Commitment to paying all individual interns for their work at the organization
- Creating a more equitable and sustainable schedule and being in consistent dialogue with staff around time needs of each production, including the elimination of 10 out of 12s during tech week as standard.