Anti-Racism & Accountability Update 12/20/21

Since our last update on June 7th, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.

Free Shakespeare in the Park 2021

Hiring breakdown
• Intern Company: 85% BIPOC; 100% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Acting Company: 75% BIPOC; 55% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Designers and Directors: 40% BIPOC; 80% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Production team (stage management team and the crew): 44% BIPOC; 72% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying

We didn't meet our 60% BIPOC goal in the hiring of the designers and crew. We are actively seeking to foster relationships with BIPOC artists through Facebook groups and other affinity spaces. We partnered with SF Youth Theatre to identify and welcome BIPOC interns.

Our demographics lack information about Disabled company members. We did invite folks to share access needs each day as a regular practice. We plan to address this in the future.

In 2021, SF Shakes offered paid internships for the first time, which led to greater access and inclusion. We were able to hire a total of 7 interns over the course of the production.

Because of the virtual aspect of our hybrid Pericles, we received over 400 audition submissions from across the country. This year, our acting company zoomed in from New York, Texas, New Hampshire, Oregon, and here in California. Each actor received a tech kit to be used during the entirety of the virtual performances.

For audiences unable to join us live in person, we filmed the last episode and ran all four episodes on YouTube for free until November 1, 2021. All recordings included closed-captioning for additional access.

Equitable practices
As is our practice, Company Culture training was held in the first week of virtual rehearsal in June, for all involved in Pericles. Company Culture training introduces the group to SF Shakes’ values, norms, policies, and establishes agreements for going forward in rehearsal. Part of the training is also going over conflict resolution and reporting structures. An anonymous feedback form was available to the entire company for the duration of Pericles, reviewed by two ombudspeople - one in cast, one outside of cast.

Additional Company Culture training was done in August as we transitioned from virtual to in-person rehearsals and performances, including in-person agreements, Covid safety, intimacy training, and a presentation by a mental health expert.

A Review & Reflect process happened in October, including an anonymous survey & open Zoom meetings. The survey had solid participation but meetings were lightly attended.

Despite our intentions to do so, we did NOT do a midpoint survey; this is a goal for 2022.

Some of our learnings from the Review & Reflect process included:

• The addition of full-time paid understudies was enormously valuable and we will likely do this sooner and more extensively in the future.

• The decision to hire 3 sound crew instead of 1 for the in-person performances added capacity, reduced burnout, and led to success.

• The span of the day during virtual and in person rehearsals/performances was reduced, with a 8-hour maximum for crew and no 10 out of 12s. We continue to refine our humane scheduling practices to fewer hours per day and fewer days per week, acknowledging that if the cast is working 8 hours per day, the creative and production teams are still working 10 or 12.

• The smaller set and pared down storage required less strain on the production team and less of a footprint in local parks. Each actor had their own private dressing room built into the backstage area, which reduced the need for site services and increased equitable privacy for all cast members.

• The AQI/Heat policy wasn’t sufficient for coping with multiple consecutive days of moderate/unhealthy for sensitive groups AQI. In the future we need stronger mandates about all wearing N-95 masks on smoky days. On the plus side, we let go of the “show must go on” mentality and delayed opening in favor of caring for actors’ health.

• In the future, we need to look at how to care for the caregivers (ombudsfolk & staff) when they are holding space and dealing with crises.

Education Workgroup

Since our last update in June, the Education Workgroup further developed its non-hierarchical structure, with the Leadership sphere of Education being more representative of available time to manage projects. Most spheres overlap, but consist of Education, Leadership, Residencies, Camps & Classes, and Outreach. Meeting time management was evaluated by the whole of the workgroup with the conclusion that taking time and allowing for additional space fostered a creative and productive environment. The group was given a paid week off November 22 - 26 for both salaried and hourly members of the group.

The workgroup currently has 11 active members with varying amounts of time commitment: Rebecca Ennals, Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held, Regina Morones, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, Marie Morley, Brittany Villars, Charlie Lavaroni, Michaela Stewart, and Rainier Pearl-Styles.

• Virtual Summer Camps continued successfully through July and August. A Review & Reflect process was held to see what aspects of the camp process can be improved. We received uniformly positive feedback from the few families that responded, as well as from our teaching artists, who found the shorter days and longer sessions conducive to effective teaching with less burn out.

• An education menu was developed to further engage with schools as they transitioned to in-person learning and provide a more consistent means to communicate our educational offerings. A postcard was sent out to teachers and schools featuring commissioned artwork from student Nina Mccambridge. A collaboration between Education Workgroup members and Marketing reached out to schools to engage directly with educators, including John Western, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, and Brittany Villars.

• The outreach team surveyed schools regarding readiness for in-person Shakespeare on Tour performances. Based on their input, there is a solid plan to return in Fall 2022. A cross-functional team was established with inclusion across the Education, Artistic, and Engagement spheres; the team will examine past work practices and reimagine what tour could be, upholding organizational practice to consciously interrupt assumptions and not assume we should return to what was. The team currently consists of Akaina Gosh, Ayelet Schrek, Carla Pantoja, Evan Held, Maryssa Wanlass, and Robyn Grahn.

• Residency partnership expectations and agreements were documented along with a form for residency requests and intake. Curriculum is currently in development for these residencies. A Romeo and Juliet specific residency was developed in response to community interest in core curriculum.

• The Shakespeare’s Heartbeat program (developed from the works of Kelly Hunter to support students on the Autism Spectrum) has expanded to the College of Adaptive Arts, with a full Heartbeat class coming in the new year. This class offers the opportunity to train new teaching artists on the curriculum.

During the development of this accountability update, the Company Culture Committee (Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Craig Moody, David Moore, Kem Ozbek, Ray Kutz, Rebecca Ennals, Regina Morones, Toby Leavitt) attempted to integrate two members of the Education Leadership Sphere (Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held) into the writing of this update to speak more directly to the Education Workgroup’s (EW) accountability. However, since they were brought in later in the process, they did not have adequate time to engage the entire EW in the process, to collaborate with members of the CCC, and to ensure the update is representative of the organization’s efforts. We encountered a distinction between an update about programmatic activity and an accountability update, and are working to clarify the difference, and explore the role a program update might have internal and external to the organization. We will investigate these process- and content-related issues further in the coming months, prior to the June accountability update.