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An Update on Our Anti-Racism Commitments & Actions

June 2021:

At HVSF, inclusion is one of our core values. And yet, as a predominantly white institution, we acknowledge that our actions and procedures have often upheld established systems of white supremacy that are directly opposed to this core value. We are committed to dismantling these practices, and advancing the work of anti-racism throughout our entire organization. We know the eradication of these systems will not happen overnight, and we recognize that the update we share today represents a small step in a comprehensive and ongoing process. We approach the work of shifting our practices and culture with humility, and we acknowledge that this evolution is long overdue.

A year ago, we shared the foundational commitments which will guide our work. We also promised to share more specific updates biannually – in November and March – to let you know the steps we are taking. Our November 2020 update can be found here. Today, we must acknowledge that we are two months late in providing the March update, and we are continually grateful to our audience, artists, and employees for holding us accountable. 

We share today’s update with our community in the spirit of full transparency. This is not a list of completed actions, but a description of work that is continually ongoing, and only just begun at HVSF. 

CULTURAL COMPETENCY

  • The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival operates on the unceded territory of the Lenape, Munsee, and Wappinger people, what is colonially known as Philipstown, New York. We gratefully acknowledge their stewardship of this land in the past and present. This acknowledgment will be shared at first rehearsals and other public events, printed in our digital season program, and in signage at the tent theater. 
  • We have begun a longer process of developing a living land acknowledgment for our future home, in collaboration with representatives from Indigenous communities and a landscape architect.
  • We have brought in an outside facilitator to lead bi-weekly 90-minute Anti-Racism sessions with year-round staff. We have used these sessions to develop an organizational Code of Community, which is a living document, intended to be adapted and changed in concert with session agreements developed by each cohort of working artists.
  • We are launching each production with session-agreements led by a professional facilitator to establish shared understandings that include anti-oppression and harm reduction principles from the start of the process. This facilitator will return to update these agreements as the show moves from the rehearsal room into the theater, and new collaborators join the daily cohort.   
  • We have engaged a counselor with experience in trauma and race, to be available as a resource to the artists working in the rehearsal room for THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON.
  • We will be providing bystander intervention, de-escalation, and conflict resolution training to all front-of-house staff through ihollaback.org.  
  • Our costume shop manager and wardrobe supervisor have participated in training regarding hair and makeup for Black actors. We have engaged a wig and hair designer specializing in design and styling for actors of color to join the creative team for THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON.
  • We have engaged a dramaturg for the season with experience leading public conversations around questions of racial and social justice. We have shifted post-show talkbacks to Zoom sessions held throughout the run, and brought in professional facilitation to assist in guiding and framing those conversations. 

 

ARTISTIC AND CURATORIAL PRACTICES

  • We will continue our commitment to commission, develop, and produce work created and led by BIPOC artists. For more information about the productions that make up our 2021 Season, click here.
  • We will continue to engage creative teams that represent and reflect the diversity of the Hudson Valley community. Complete information about the artists working backstage and onstage at HVSF this season will be available on our website in coming weeks. 
  • We have eliminated “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals in our 2021 production calendar. 

 

TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND GOVERNANCE

  • In 2020, HVSF added four new Board Members, 50% of whom identify as BIPOC, and each of whom bring new perspectives to our Board Room – in geography, age, skill set, and professional backgrounds. 
  • Our Board EDI Committee has been established and has begun discussions regarding HVSF’s policies and procedures. We will be engaging an outside consultant to lead Anti-Racism and implicit bias training for all Board members.  
  • We are beginning Board level discussions around the intersectionality of race, equity, and climate action and HVSF’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. 
  • We have published updated, transparent bios for all of our Board Members here

 

HIRING

  • We will continue to widen our hiring pool for front-of-house seasonal staff by broadening our outreach to community partners as well as local schools and colleges, especially those with significant BIPOC student populations.
  • All 2021 seasonal and year-round positions include transparent salary ranges and have eliminated any narrow requirements that often exclude some applicants. 

 

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMS

  • The weekly compensation for Conservatory Company for the 2021 season has been increased by 75%, in addition to including private lodging for the season.
  • We have eliminated production internships for the 2021 Season. We will continue to re-evaluate the structure of our technical crew and internship program going forward.

This is a living document, intended to grow and evolve as this work continues. We will publish further updates and additional steps to be taken in November. 

If you are interested in learning more about or connecting with the partners or resources that have been foundational in our work, please follow the links below: 

Kirya Traber

Luis Castro

Nicole Brewer

Moraya Seeger Degeare

Sustainable Production Toolkit

iHollaback!

Bridging The Gap

ActTRESSES/Nikiya Mathis

Martine Kei Green-Rogers 


November 2020:

An Update on Our Anti-Racism Commitments & Actions

At HVSF, inclusion is one of our core values. And yet, as a predominantly white institution, we acknowledge that our actions and procedures have often upheld established systems of white supremacy that are directly opposed to this core value. This must change. We are committed to dismantling these practices and advancing the work of anti-racism throughout our entire organization.

We are grateful to the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) members of our community who have generously provided us with resources and courageously shared their experiences. We’ve looked to these calls for change and equity from We See You White American Theatre and the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, among other sources, to guide us in this work. We know the eradication of these systems will not happen overnight, and we recognize that the actions we share today are only the first step in a comprehensive and ongoing process. We approach the work of shifting our practices and culture with humility, and we acknowledge that this evolution is long overdue. 

In June, we shared the foundational commitments which will guide our work. We also promised to share more specific updates biannually – in November and March – to let you know the steps we are taking. Today, we commit to the following actions, with detailed updates on progress and further steps to be shared in March, as we approach production for the summer season. 

We are continually grateful to our audience, artists, and employees for speaking up and holding us accountable.  



November 2020

Anti-Racism Commitments & Actions:

CULTURAL COMPETENCY

  • We will draft a formal acknowledgment of our location on the unceded homeland of the Lenape, Munsee, and Wappinger people, past and present. This acknowledgment will be shared publicly at every first rehearsal, published in our season program and on our website, and prominently displayed at the Tent during performances.
  • We will develop an Anti-Racist Code of Conduct, with transparent and available channels of reporting and accountability, to be shared publicly at every first rehearsal, as well as all other onboarding moments, to establish shared expectations and responsibilities for the entire HVSF community.
  • The HVSF year-round administrative staff participated in an anti-racism training in the summer of 2020. To build on this work with our leadership, staff, and Board, we will bring in an outside anti-racism consultant, and an annual budget line will be created for ongoing Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work at the organizational level.
  • We will ensure that each rehearsal room will have an outside EDI representative as an anti-racist leader/resource, with training in multi-cultural competency.
  • We will continue to hold a regular 90-minute Anti-Racism Accountability Check-In for all year-round staff, and we will adjust rehearsal schedules to ensure that seasonal artists are free to join and participate.
  • We will provide anti-racism training, including bystander intervention, de-escalation, and conflict resolution training, to all front-of-house staff, in order to provide the necessary tools to address racism and harm when it happens.
  • We will require anti-racism training for all directors, designers, stage managers, intimacy directors and fight choreographers.
  • We will provide multi-cultural competency and anti-racism training for wardrobe and costume staff, especially regarding proficiency in styling of Black hair and makeup when working with Black actors.
  • We will hire culturally appropriate facilitators for all post-show talkbacks, especially those involving BIPOC stories.

ARTISTIC AND CURATORIAL PRACTICES

  • We will produce work on our mainstage that centers BIPOC stories and BIPOC voices. We will work to expand the definition of classical theater beyond the Western canon, while creating productions of Shakespeare that reflect our contemporary American moment in all of its complexity and diversity.
  • We will ensure representation of BIPOC artists on all creative teams, and empower those artists to lead in rehearsal rooms, as directors, designers, stage managers, and playwrights.
  • We will grow our network of design talent by establishing relationships with BIPOC designers who have not previously worked at HVSF.
  • We will ensure that only BIPOC artists will direct BIPOC stories (but not exclusively BIPOC stories) and budget additional resources for any cultural consultants required to honor these stories.
  • We will continue the Tent Pole Commissioning program, and commit to at least half of these commissions going to BIPOC artists, as a reflection of our commitment to realize a more inclusive idea of what is “classical” theater.
  • Beginning in 2021, we will begin to phase out the use of “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals, to make the production schedule more sustainable for both artists and staff.

TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND GOVERNANCE

  • We will establish a dedicated Board EDI Committee, with members representing each of the other Board committees, to facilitate the Board’s support of HVSF’s commitment to anti-racism in all areas of its operations.
  • We will publish updated bios for all HVSF Board Members on our website.
  • We do not require mandatory minimum gifts for board membership, and we will honor cultural competency, relationship building, and lived experience in continuing to build a diverse and inclusive Board.
  • We will post a publicly available version of HVSF’s Annual Budget on our website in March along with the most recently filed Form 990 tax return.
  • We will continue to expand the number of Board members who identify as BIPOC, with the goal of Board representation that reflects the populations of the Hudson Valley region we are most immediately called to serve — Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster counties, which are more than 30% BIPOC.

HIRING

  • We will widen our hiring pool for front-of-house seasonal staff by broadening our outreach to community partners as well as local schools and colleges, especially those with significant BIPOC student populations.
  • We will continue our established practice to include a transparent salary range for all job postings, and eliminate narrow requirements that may discourage BIPOC candidates from applying.
  • We will end the practice of internal hiring or promotion and we will widely publish any opportunities for new or open positions on our staff.

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMS

  • We will reimagine our Conservatory Company program in order to make it financially viable for all participants, by increasing compensation to reflect the work on a non-union performance contract.
  • We will hire additional professional staff backstage, instead of relying on technical/production interns. We will use this opportunity to reevaluate the technical training we offer and determine a way to create equitable opportunities focused on learning and training.

PRESS, MARKETING, AND ADVERTISING

  • We will invest in advertising with independent media.
  • We will welcome all media at our shows and will not restrict the number of tickets allocated for press.

This is a living document, intended to grow and evolve as this work continues. We will publish updates on progress and additional steps to be taken in March, as we approach production for the summer season.