DMV theaters take a knee and take a stand

Excerpts from actionable public statements in response to anti-Black violence, 2020.

Beyond mourning and outrage, these DC Metro performing arts institutions have gone on the record with commitments to make a difference and be accountable. (Last updated June 12, 2020, 3:30 pm.: added statement from NextStop Theatre.)

1st Stage

…I am fully aware that I enjoy the privilege of whiteness and that I lead a cultural institution in which the power is held predominately by white leaders. I am aware that the platform I have to speak from, is partially afforded to me by the luxury of being on the dominant side of a racist system.

At the same time I recognize that this platform and microphone can be used for the cause of justice. To all of the Black artists who call 1st Stage home, our microphone is available to you so that your voices can be amplified and your stories can be told….

For those of us who enjoy privilege and power because of a system based on white supremacy, we must not wait to be spurred into action by others. We must take action now to bring justice and human rights to our entire community….   —Alex Levy, Artistic Director

Constellation Theatre Company

Constellation Theatre Company believes, unequivocally, that #BlackLivesMatter. We demand justice in the wake of the killings and abuse of Black men and women across our country. We recognize the pervasiveness of racism in every facet of our society.

We vow to listen, learn, and make changes to our organization to better realize our belief that every person deserves dignity, kindness and respect.

Creative Cauldron

…We pledge to be allies in this quest for racial justice. We will make this a better space; by supporting all artists of color, providing a platform for Black artists, and to work tirelessly, through our artistic and professional practices, to be an anti-racist organization….

For a first step, we turn our spotlight to the efforts of the Social Justice Committee of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation[,] a network of community members, civic organizations and faith groups exploring how to create a local culture united in diversity…  [W]e will look to organizations like this to lead, as they have in the past, difficult but critical conversations about race and equality.

Dance Place

Dance Place stands with Black artists, Black creators, Black patrons of the arts, Black organizers, Black protestors, Black families, Black communities, Black people. We are committed to centering anti-racism in every facet of our organization. We are committed to amplifying Black voices. We are committed to using our platform to dismantle white supremacy….

Dance Place will:

• Investigate, address and undo ways we are complicit in systems that perpetuate these inequities.

• Create and hold space for our community to engage in the difficult discussions needed to make change.

• Move those conversations into creative, collaborative actions that help create a new future for our arts community.

• Leverage our position to help affect change in our Washington, DC metropolitan area, as well as for the arts community locally and nationally by advocating for more just policies and practices that disproportionately affect Black, Brown and Indigneous peoples.

Flying V

…As a company, Flying V has not been nearly as good as we could, should, or need to be at showcasing black voices and artists on our stage, staff, and board.

This is something we’ve been actively working to address and will continue to do so.

…Black Lives Matter and we, as people and a company, have more work to do to live up to our values.

Folger Shakespeare Library

Today we are in the midst of a reckoning — a reckoning around racial injustice and the long history of violence against people of color in our city and in our country….

Because the Folger presents the human experience in all of its complexity and aspiration, we must be part of undoing that legacy of hurt, racial injustice, and pain….

 In 1932, the Folger opened its doors to a world that saw segregation as normal and desirable. We have come a long way in 88 years, yet there is work still to be done. The Folger Shakespeare Library is in the process of becoming an even more public institution, which means telling the stories of all people in a setting of abundant welcome.

If we aspire to be that place of abundant welcome – that is, a truly inclusive institution – we must reckon with the forces that have eroded trust between public cultural institutions and communities of color. We can address that trust gap by demonstrating how our collections, programs, and research push back on the legacy of racism that led to this latest crisis. We must also acknowledge, in words and actions, that the fight against racial injustice is essential to what we do as an institution presenting the arts and humanities to the public. —Michael Witmore, Director

Mosaic Theater Company of DC

Joining sister organizations across the nation, today Mosaic Theater Company grieves for the public murder of another black man, this time George Floyd….

With deepest sadness and outrage, we add the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to the list of the thousands murdered, lynched, tazed, shot, strangled, and terrorized.

We recommit ourselves to raising awareness through our art and public conversations to America’s racist violence.  Emmett Till is our common focus; anti-racism is our stance.

Next Stop Theatre

Statement June 12, 2020: 

…As we begin the process of building an environment of better understanding and representation, we know that actions matter. Therefore we will take the following initial steps immediately:
• NextStop board and leadership will begin with meaningful introspection and self-education around EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion).
• NextStop commits to engaging with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, patrons, and EDI professionals to guide us and illuminate our bias.
• NextStop will create a detailed strategic plan that embraces diversity, dismantles bias, and creates a culture of anti-racism in our organization.
• NextStop will start by bringing no fewer than three new BIPOC voices onto our board in the next year.
• NextStop will uplift BIPOC voices as we grow our staff and leadership.
• NextStop is committed to working with at least 50% BIPOC artists annually….
—Evan Hoffmann, Producing Artistic Director; Abigail Fine, Managing Director; The NextStop Board of Directors

Statement June 1, 2020: 

…Despite any efforts and claims we have made over the years, to serve and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in our organization and our community, we must acknowledge and recognize that NextStop Theatre has been and is today a predominantly white theater company; in our staff, artists, and the stories we have chosen to tell. We must do and be better….

We acknowledge and apologize for all the ways and times we have failed to use our work and platform to reflect the full spectrum of humanity.

We re-commit ourselves today to be better as individuals, as a company, and as stewards for our entire community….

We recognize that we must and will be accountable for following them up with action. Our work lies clearly before us. —Evan Hoffmann, Producing Artistic Director; Abigail Fine, Managing Director

Olney Theatre Center

Olney Theatre Center reaffirms its commitment to an anti-racist way of working and acting in the world, and to the unique power it has as an arts institution to speak, change and heal.

Round House Theatre

…We know that art, equity, and justice go hand in hand. We support and applaud our vibrant community of Black artists, staff, teachers, supporters, audiences, and students who have made Round House a space where people gather to better understand our world…. As a predominantly white theatre, Round House promises to serve as an ally to communities of color. We vow to use our positional power to fulfill our stated organizational value of Theatre for Everyone: to amplify voices that have been historically under-represented and under-resourced by the theatre field and to incorporate anti-racist practices and anti-sexist practices across all aspects of our work. We pledge to model the America that we can be rather than the America that is sadly visible today. —Ryan Rilette, Artistic Director; Ed Zakreski, Managing Director

Signature Theatre

…Signature is reflecting on the role our theater plays in our community, and on how we can do more to be anti-racist – as people and as a company. We want to do more. We must do more.

We know that we must educate ourselves and listen to our artists, staff, audiences, and members of the community whose voices have been marginalized for far too long, especially people of color… —Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director; Maggie Boland, Managing Director

Synetic Theater 

…As an organization founded by immigrants fleeing state-sponsored violence, resisting the status quo and paving a new path forward is in our DNA—as is being a home for an internationally diverse staff and company of artists….

We know we can do better in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our organizational culture and our programmatic work, particularly for historically oppressed American minorities….

Today and for the foreseeable future, we will take breaks from our regularly scheduled work to further reflect internally, listen to each other and our constituencies, and take anti-racist/anti-oppressive action to make our organization and the communities we live in and serve safe for all.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre

…In our work to be an anti-racist organization, Woolly makes the following commitments:

– To uplift and amplify the voices of Black leaders, artists, and activists

– To take action by dismantling white supremacy and systems of oppression in our organization and in our culture

– To continually educate ourselves on how we can combat racism locally and nationally

– To move towards our values of equity and inclusion with unrelenting determination

– To call on white friends and colleagues to examine the ways they can display genuine ally-ship in this moment, and in the rest of their lives

– To provide and care for our Black family members including staff, audiences, and artists


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