Anti-Racism & Accountability Update (6/30/22)

Since our last update on December 20, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.

Accountability Update Processes

The process for holding company meetings and publishing accountability updates has been updated, documented, and disseminated. In advance of the next update, expected in December 2022, we are planning a process that is more efficient while also being mindful of the appropriate amount of time that said process will need. We intend this process to allow for more communication and co-development among more teams, and be a step towards making accountability an active ongoing practice throughout the organization.

This update is more focused on accountability and less on programmatic activity. While programmatic updates are important, they are to be shared in different ways outside of this accountability update.

  Resident Artists
  • In order to create more transparency, the Resident Artist company opened up the selection process of new Resident Artists by creating a self submission format.
  • Candidates who applied went through an interview process and offers went out shortly after.
  • A total of five candidates applied with one applicant accepted.
  • All candidates can re-apply for the RA company on a season-to-season basis.
  • As the addition of new Resident Artists are considered, racial equity among this group (specifically over 50% BIPOC members) will be maintained.
Free Shakespeare in the Park
  • Casting and hiring were completed in the week just prior to this report. We look forward to giving a more detailed report of our hiring demographics in the next update. We also recognize that our past demographics did not represent all aspects of identity that are important to our community members, and we are actively seeking more thoughtful and inclusive ways to report demographics. We are also considering the tokenizing effect of quotas versus the benefit of having concrete goals to work toward when it comes to diverse representation.
  • During the casting process, SF Shakes did not consistently communicate with actors in a timely fashion. While this unacceptable situation was rectified, harm was done. At least two BIPOC artists withdrew from the audition process because of the inconsistency in the process. SF Shakes apologized and the actors ended up auditioning. Going forward, we will streamline the process of scheduling auditions and are looking into scheduling apps that can make this easier and less time-consuming and subject to human error.

    Additionally, some artists received a generic, impersonal invitation that didn’t value their existing relationships with SF Shakes. This stemmed from gaps in SF Shakes’ internal knowledge bases and processes. SF Shakes apologized, and going forward these important pre-existing relationships will be acknowledged in audition invitations and related email communication.
  • As was the case in 2021, we will not be meeting our hiring goals of hiring 60% of BIPOC designers & production staff for this program in 2022. The current shortage of local designers and other theater work force members is exacerbating this situation.
  • As was identified in our last accountability update, we are actively planning for how to care for the caregivers (ombudspeople and staff) when they are holding space and dealing with issues as they arise. A training will be held for staff and ombudspeople early in the summer to help build capacity for this work.
  • The Engagement team and Literary Intern are creating a Welcome Guide with resources for all company members, including accessibility information (transit, food, exercise/recreation options). Over time, this guide will offer additional resources as well, with a goal of addressing as many needs as possible before they arise, rather than putting the onus on individuals to make individual requests.
  • In response to health effects experienced by company members last year, we are revising our AQI/Heat policy to require KN95s outdoors during moderately smoky rehearsal days in order to preserve long-term health for company members.
Shakespeare on Tour
  • In the interest of ensuring that the Shakespeare On Tour program maintains its sustainability, pays actors equitable wages, and no longer burdens one or two individuals with the entire load of production support, a group of Resident Artists and past Shakespeare On Tour artists formed a team to examine best practices for the program in advance of its return to in-person performances.
  • The team looked at current Actors’ Equity Association’s “Theatre for Young Audiences” contract requirements and how they might be implemented both now and in the future; the team also vetted the budget, including a pricing structure for the next tour.
  • The team is concerned that by raising the price of the tour in order to pay equitable wages, we are pricing out under-resourced schools. We are exploring how to support a sustainable and affordable tour.
Education Workgroup
  • As SF Shakes transitions to in-person programming, the Education Workgroup (EW) is grappling with the role of earned income and its conflict with our educational values. As with Shakespeare on Tour, the EW is having de-siloed conversations with both the fundraising and engagement teams to explore additional contributed revenue sources, as well as resources that could be provided through additional education-based partnerships.
  • The EW is a majority white workgroup. We identify this as reflective of SF Shakes’ history of racial inaccessibility, and the need for this to change. We recognize the history of predominantly white institutions employing BIPOC (an insufficient term that we lack a replacement for) in order to appear diverse, while refusing to change structurally or culturally, thereby remaining hostile and inaccessible. We are in conversation about how to shift in an intentional way that does not tokenize, perpetuate harm, or virtue signal.

Engagement Team
The Engagement Team is lacking diverse racial and ethnic representation, and recognizes that in order to attract and retain diverse team members, we must first take a look at our internal culture. The Engagement Director is currently engaged in several strategic listening sessions, and will strengthen the team’s onboarding and recruiting process thereafter.

SF Shakes’s next strategic planning process will begin at the end of the calendar year. It will examine, among other things, the organization’s leadership structure and how best to rebalance capacity as it transitions from covid-related government subsidies. A pre-planning team is being formed, with representation from its board, staff, EW, and RAs.