Since our last update on January 31, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work. Please note that we originally committed to publishing this update on May 31, 2021, and acknowledge that this update is instead being published a week late on June 7, 2021.
From January 26th to April 29th, a group of Resident Artists, staff, and board members (Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Regina Morones, Carla Pantoja, Pratiksha Shah, and Maryssa Wanlass) engaged in an Anti-Racism Workshop led by Diedra Barber of Filament Consulting Group. This workshop was specifically geared towards helping arts organizations build capacity to co-create, co-imagine, and co-foster anti-racist multicultural work environments. Over the course of the three-month program, participants developed a shared language to discuss how white supremacy and patriarchy show up in the workplace, and the group practiced utilizing tools that would allow for more transparent and productive conversations.
Members of SF Shakes are participating in training through Theatre Bay Area, “Pathways to Belonging: Building Antiracist Practices” this May and June. Participants include two board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody), two Teaching Artists and Education Workgroup members (Joshua Waterstone, Ayelet Schrek), and three staff members (John Western, Edmund Campos, Meredith Eldred.) With this training, all year-round staff will have completed anti-racist training within the last year.
One element of Diedra Barber’s workshop centered around invoking collectivism with intentionality. The word “we” is used casually, often without clarity about who “we” refers to (We at SF Shakes...). Specificity is important, and a key element of transparency is acknowledging who is in the room for various conversations. Moving forward, the Accountability Committee (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja) hopes to be transparent and specific with who we are referring to.
With financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, SF Shakes has engaged accountants Metis Partners to develop a collaborative budgeting model that can be shared and updated by many different parties; the two goals of this model are to provide better transparency about sources and uses of resources and to empower more people to participate in strategic discussions. This will also be an opportunity to develop additional financial measures of accountability that are important towards charting our path towards becoming a more equitable organization. The project will begin in June, after the 2020 audit is completed.
SF Shakes has worked to make core areas of production and decision-making less hierarchical and more inclusive of the artists and staff that comprise the Festival. These areas include educational programming, and season planning and casting for Free Shakespeare in the Park.
EDUCATION WORKGROUP: The Education Workgroup was created to address inequities in our education programs. The challenges we faced in 2020 served as a true catalyst for actionable change to ensure our education programs meet the needs of our community in this moment and value our teaching artists through equitable practices. The need for actionable change was further heightened by the sudden resignation of the education manager followed by the resignation of the education director. The Festival has responded in part by increasing capacity and overall pay rates, involving teaching artists in the decision-making process, and exploring alternative management structures. Our response was to adopt a shared leadership structure to empower the education staff to make programming decisions.
Rebecca Ennals put out a call to all active Resident Artists and Teaching Artists to self-nominate to be a part of this new education workgroup with Amy Lizardo and Regina Morones in co- leadership positions. There was a strong response to Rebecca’s email which resulted in seven teaching artists signing on to the workgroup right away. The workgroup was then divided into two subgroups, Shakespeare summer camps and existing residency programs.
The Workgroup currently includes 10 active members: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.
Three members are BIPOC, 2 identify as Disabled, and 2 identify as LGBTQ+. Two out of the 3 team leaders are BIPOC, and the team is 60% female or non-binary. The workgroup is wrapping up its Spring 2021 phase and plans to include new members in the next phase, including a new member who is BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and has already self-nominated.
Camp Workgroup activities/achievements to date include: (Ed Workgroup Bulletin 2021)
● A virtual camp that is sustainable for both teachers and students that consists of 3 “cycles” of virtual camp sessions that are a duration of 3 weeks rather than the previous 2-week model. Each cycle of virtual camp includes younger players (ages 7-8), older players group (ages 9-12), and Upstart Crows (ages 13 - 18).
● New virtual camp schedule:
Players: 9am – 12pm On Camera Synchronous learning with one hour of asynchronous learning for a total of 4 hours per day.
Upstart Crows: 10am – 3pm Synchronous learning, an hour lunch, and 1-hour asynchronous learning for a total of 5 hours per day.
● Fully updated virtual curriculums for both Players & Upstart Crows
● Script adaptations for Pericles and Twelfth Night
● Updated Values, Ethics, and Aesthetics document
● Coordinating videos for asynchronous learning
● Upstart Crows session 1 and 2 are staffed, Managers for session 1 and 2 are staffed, Advanced Shakespeare Workshop is staffed, and Players session 2 is staffed
● Camp training is scheduled for June 2 - 5th
Residency Workgroup activities/achievements to date: (Ed Workgroup Bulletin 2021)
● Successful rollout of JLS Middle School Virtual Residency - Thur/Fri, May 6 - 21,
Joshua Waterstone (lead TA), Brittany Villars (TA), & Ryan Lee (TA)
● Completed our first in-person residency at the Bay School - Wed/Thur, May 28 - 29, Bidalia Albanese (lead TA), Evan Held (TA), and Brittany Villars (TA).
● Monthly TA training sessions every other Wednesday from 1:30 - 3 pm on Zoom kicking off on May 12th with a Virtual Playshop training led by Bidalia Albanese.
● A new residency menu offering is in the works - will have a breakdown of residencies by duration (1-3 days, 1 week, & 2-3 weeks) rather than generic “tailor made residencies.”
● Working on a document that outlines residency partnership expectations and agreements along with a google form for residency requests and intake.
● Created a new daily report google doc for residencies
● Will be working with the marketing team to streamline an intake form for residency requests.
● Creating a spreadsheet that captures the specific skill sets and expertise of our Teaching Artists to streamline hiring for residencies.
● Successful Virtual Playshop with Contra Costa Jewish Day School on Wed, May 26th coordinated by Regina Morones and led by Evan Held and Charlie Lavaroni.
● Upcoming Virtual Playshop with the Town of Danville on July 16th is fully staffed and will be led by Joshua Waterstone and Ryan Lee.
● Working on creating base curriculum specifically for residency programs based on duration of residency (1-3 days, 1 week, & 2-3 weeks).
● Currently working on expanding Shakespeare’s Heartbeat program with the College of Adaptive Arts and SFUSD
● Shakespeare’s Heartbeat Teaching Artist (TA) training coming up on June 5th. All TA’s who were interested received a free copy of Kelly Hunter’s book Shakespeare’s Heartbeat: Drama Games for Children with Autism.
SEASON PLANNING:This year, the selection of the title and planning for Free Shakespeare in the Park was less hierarchical than ever before. Building upon last year’s consensus-based season selection process, this year’s process invited more voices to the table. The Season Planning Committee included Free Shakes artists and teaching artists alongside Resident Artists, staff and artistic director. SF Shakes continued the practice of taking suggestions from committee members on play selection. In addition to conventional Shakespeare play texts, the Committee also considered adaptations (such as La Comedia of Errors adapted by Bill Rauch and Lydia Garcia) and modern verse translations of Shakespeare rendered by professional playwrights (such as this year’s selection of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre.)
Suggestions were also taken from the committee on how the play would be presented, what format(s) said presentation would take, and who might helm the project. For instance, calls for self-nomination were employed to make these decisions as well. The selection of one Director of Vision (Carla Pantoja) and three additional directors (Rebecca Ennals, Elizabeth Carter, Carolina Morones) is indicative of the responsibility shared in the process as a whole.
CASTING: Also for the first time this year, SF Shakes re-imagined its casting process by inviting Resident Artist, David Everett Moore to review audition submissions. In this process, David and Rebecca Ennals shared the duties of initially reviewing the video submissions and selecting which to pass on to directors for review.
SF Shakes is continuing to work on improving internal communication to de-silo information. After surveying its constituents, SF Shakes has adopted a regular practice of bi-annual all-company meetings; the most recent was held on March 16, 2021. Slack has also been added as a communication tool, and a company Google-drive will be added next.
Education Workgroup: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.
Season Planning Team: Wrapped up work in February 2021, having achieved its purpose of selecting a title for 2021 Free Shakes. However, the team identified a need to have its work be ongoing, and we expect its function will likely be a major function of the Resident Artist Company going forward (pending more work by that team). Membership: Rebecca Ennals, Pratiksha Shah, Edmund Campos, Neal Ormond (staff); Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Regina Morones, Maryssa Wanlass, David Moore, Sydney Schwindt (Resident Artists); Carolina Morones, Elizabeth Carter, Karen Schleifer (Guest Artists)
Engagement Team: Maryssa Wanlass (lead), Carolina Morones (project lead), Edmund Campos, Pratiksha Shah, Rebecca Ennals. (Robyn Grahn on maternity leave)
Accountability Committee: Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja
Resident Artist Company: Current membership includes Amy Lizardo, Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Ella Ruth Francis, Regina Morones, David Moore, Maryssa Wanlass, Robyn Grahn, Sydney Schwindt, Phil Wong. The current company was able to meet once in the spring, with next steps to be to further define the company’s purpose, then decide how new members will be invited and/or self-nominate.
SF Shakes plans to publish another update by November 30, 2021 to include reflections and takeaways from Free Shakespeare in the Park and the summer season of education programming.
It has been one year since SF Shakes has intensified its efforts at creating a culture of accountability within the organization and begun posting public progress reports. We hope these updates convey a sense of the work that has been done. We believe this work to be essential and ongoing. We invite comments, questions, or suggestions regarding these efforts at firstname.lastname@example.org