Equity & Inclusion

“Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

— RABBI ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL

 

WCP ANTIRACISM STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

As our country reckons with current events, we at Westport Country Playhouse would like our community of artists and leaders in the theater and beyond to know that we have heard you and we are in full support of the systemic changes that are needed and well past due.

We resolve to place anti-racism at the center of our work. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable to short-and long-term goals, while realizing that this work has no endpoint and will evolve and change. We realize and acknowledge that this is an educational process for which we ourselves are responsible.

We have begun the process of discussions with artists, staff, community leaders, and board members. Those discussions will be ongoing, and more importantly, permanent. In addition we have also begun sensitivity training sessions for the Playhouse as a whole, which also will be ongoing.

Beginning in the summer of 2020, we have begun tracking our initiatives and action items concerning our new mission, our staffing, and our board focus and goals. We will share these with the greater community we serve on an ongoing basis.

We imagine a world where all bodies and voices are present, heard, and welcome.

The staff and leadership of the Playhouse are setting out to understand what role the Playhouse should hold in building that world — as individuals, as a prominent institution in the community, and as a theater.

  • In order to hold ourselves accountable to our community and ourselves, we’ve committed to publicly sharing organizational changes as they relate to EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) on a quarterly basis.
  • We plan to create an “in-progress” section for items that we are committed to but are still in progress.
  • The points below reflect the changes that have occurred between March 2020 and September 2021.

Complete

  • We have reviewed our ticket price structure to ensure a variety of affordable ticket options. These include discounts for seniors, students, military, first responders, and educators, as well as free tickets for Indigenous peoples. We also began offering pay-what-you-can tickets for certain performances in 2021 and will continue to do so in our 2022 season.
  • In support of TEAM Westport, the Playhouse signed onto the town of Westport’s Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity adopted in October, 2021.
  • We have added an accessibility widget to our website, allowing visitors to customize our web pages based on their specific individual needs.
  • To increase emphasis on transferable skills from all backgrounds in our job and internship listings, we have removed requirements related to college degrees and minimum years of experience.
  • At the end of the year, the staff completed an organizational inclusion assessment to assess the internal effectiveness of our EDI efforts and resources. This survey will be administered annually to check our progress and identify areas for attention and improvement.

In-progress

  • At the Playhouse, we believe that theater is not just a physical space. Theater can happen anywhere and should be accessible to all. The Mobile Unit (children’s tour), targeted to start in 2023, will give our surrounding communities access to an authentic theatrical experience in a familiar and trusted environment. The Mobile Unit is part of our new initiative to build a sustainable and lasting relationship with our surrounding communities and will act as a touch point for historically underserved audiences.
  • We are in the process of scheduling EDI workshops for our staff and trustees in the first half of 2022.

(above is covering work done October  – December 2021)

In progress

  • In May 2021, the Board of Trustees approved a Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion staff position. We plan to hire for this position in early 2022.
  • Our Front of House staff members are creating a handbook for all ushers and volunteers covering Playhouse EDI standards, antiracist policies, and bystander intervention techniques.
  • We have committed to hiring creative teams for all productions that are at least 50% BIPOC. Every guest director will be informed of this commitment as part of their hiring process.
  • We are working on updating and expanding the antiracism and EDI resources listed on this page.

Fall 2021 Quarterly Update

  • We have written and publicly shared an anti-racism statement of purpose on our website (above).
  • We have added an accountability form at the bottom of this page for our community to easily provide honest feedback on our EDI work and share relevant resources with us.
  • We have incorporated a land acknowledgment practice into our work in recognition of the Indigenous peoples on whose land all Playhouse activity happens. This acknowledgement is given at Playhouse events, including productions, rehearsals, and meetings, and it can also be read in our lobby and on our website.
  • We have made contact with the local Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe, and have begun to explore ways we can deepen our relationship with the Indigenous peoples and nations that stewarded the land and waterways of the place now known as Westport, Connecticut.
  • We held bi-weekly EDI meetings with our entire staff from summer 2020 – summer 2021 to engage in dialogue about the BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre. Many of the changes listed on this page were made in response to these demands. As of August 2021, this work is being continued in bi-weekly meetings of a smaller staff committee, although all staff members are welcome and sometimes requested to attend.
  • Our Board of Trustees has formed an active EDI Committee that meets regularly to focus on institutional changes at the Playhouse. Additionally, trustees and staff participate jointly in an EDI Book Club and trainings with outside consultants.
  • To be more inclusive and welcome for all audience members, the restroom on the main level of the theater is now an all-gender restroom. Additionally, there are two accessible single-occupancy all-gender restrooms inside the Lucille Lortel White Barn.
  • To expand the accessibility of our digital offerings, all video content with dialogue is now being captioned in English and subtitled in Spanish.
  • To ensure fair compensation for all artists, the Playhouse pays honoraria for any work that falls outside of the bounds of their contracts (e.g. audience talkbacks or donor events). Additionally, the Playhouse continues to pay honoraria to outside groups or individuals who participate in Playhouse events (e.g. the Sunday Symposium or education programs).
  • We provide the necessary hair and makeup products, barbers, and/or hairdressers when working with Black artists in order to ensure equitable access to hair and skin care.
  • We have eliminated 12-hour rehearsal days for actors from current and future production calendars and limited all rehearsal days to 8 hours in order to provide an accessible schedule for all artists, particularly those with families. We are also working towards a standard 8-hour day for all staff positions working on production.
  • In 2021, we restructured our hiring process to increase equitability by creating hiring panels for each role that consist of staff members from both inside and outside the department, helping us to address potential bias in the hiring process.
  • To increase transparency and encourage equitable wage practices, we include clear salary information with all job listings.
  • We have eliminated the Board membership requirement of a minimum annual financial contribution in order to deprioritize financial influence and place greater value on individual voices, skills, relationship-building, and experience

After the death of George Floyd, the entire staff began to meet weekly for an on-going dialogue about the racial reckoning our nation is undergoing. We examine our history, our present, and our future as it relates to our position of privilege as a white institution and its inherent supremacy.

Separately, we meet weekly to review the BIPOC Demands for White American Theater. Item by item, we are examining what each demand asks of us, we are assessing our progress in achieving those demands, and we are acknowledging our responsibilities.

Toward empathy and growth as individuals, we started a book group, and to date have read and discussed Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie Glaude, Jr. and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Our group includes both Playhouse staff and trustees.

With the partnership of an outside consultant to guide us, we have begun a series of facilitated, educational workshops on anti-racism, so that we will be in a position to identify and declare institutional goals alongside a specific, verifiable action plan for the theater. Most important, we want to be held accountable for our declared goals, for the actions we take, and the impact we make as a result.

These past months, our nation has experienced fear, anger, grief, periods of reflection and learning, maybe some glimmers of hope, and has been jolted into self-examination on systemic racism. As a theater, our work can embrace art and artists to enrich, activate, and enliven our community. We want the Playhouse to continue being a platform for theatrical storytelling, especially for those stories that wake us up to see our own experiences in new ways and those stories that have been ignored or have yet to be told. We believe it is essential for our hearts, our souls, and our shared future on this earth.

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We welcome your support and feedback as we hold ourselves accountable for making our theater community a much more equitable and inclusive environment.

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Resources

We’d like to share with you some of the research, resources and organizations our staff has turned to for wisdom and for action:

Towards an Inclusive History of America

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration & The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
The Amistad Center for Arts & Culture (Juneteenth celebration)
National Museum of African American History & Culture (Juneteenth celebration)
Westport Museum of History and Culture Virtual Exhibit | Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport

Towards an Engaged Citizenry

Judicial Districts and State’s Attorneys
Find your elected officials
Voting Information

In Support of our Trans Community

The Next Generation Project | @wearetngproject Instagram
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute
The Black Trans Fund
The Okra Project
Black Visions Collective
The Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective | @bftacollective  Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Toward Racial Justice

Equal Justice Initiative
Guide for Protestors
Connecticut Bail Fund
National Bail Fund Network

Purchase books at Black-owned bookstores

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