Antiracism Update (1/31/2021)

Since our last update on September 30, 2020, here is a summary of our continuing work:

Land acknowledgment has been added to our website, using the guidance offered by the Ramaytush Ohlone people at
We have continued the practice of land acknowledgment at rehearsals, workshops, and project meetings, and begun to include it in staff and board meetings.

Company Culture training is held at the beginning of ALL programs. This includes discussion of the characteristics of White Supremacy Culture and how they show up in the theatre industry and at SF Shakes, as well our responsibility as a Shakespeare theatre to address the harm Shakespeare's dominance in the Anglo-American canon and culture has done. This training also includes conflict resolution guidance and resources for addressing grievances, including naming internal ombudspeople and external HR resources.
At these trainings, and subsequently, leadership is also committed to naming current harmful habits and specific challenges in our company culture, such as scarcity mindset, sense of urgency, and either/or thinking. We are sharing how the company is currently addressing these issues, and our attempts to repair and change our habits, with transparency and responsiveness.
Our Company Values have been added to our website, including a new Value addressing sense of urgency and scarcity mindset. We consider these values foundational - we share them as part of our Company Culture training in order to provide a compass at the beginning of every process.

We are committed to paying interns in 2021, with a commitment to hiring at least 60% local Bay Area BIPOC and/or low-income candidates. We are collaborating with fellow arts and community organizations to identify candidates.

After Free Shakes 2020, we abolished the “post mortem” process in which feedback is given at the end of a process and filed away, and re-imagined it as “Review and Reflect.” As part of this process, in every program we are committed to the idea of “feeding forward” our learnings directly into the next program, addressing and repairing harm as quickly as possible, and offering mid-point anonymous surveys and suggestion forms as well as access to ombudspeople and external HR resources to address grievances. Participants are paid to participate in Review & Reflect meetings and gathered with sensitivity to positional power dynamics in each department. This process is a work in progress and we expect it to evolve over time to better address employees’ needs.


We have created a transparent rate sheet for all seasonal and educational positions, which we will continue to refine in conversation with our staff and artists. You can find that here.
We have begun working with an attorney who specializes in local labor law and human resources. They have begun reviewing contracts and policies, starting with a new hiring agreement developed in consultation with Resident and Teaching Artists. This consultant, in conjunction with our EDI consultant, provides expertise, experience, and perspective to support the structural changes necessary in becoming a more antiracist organization.

Financial updates have been posted to website.
The Accountability Committee, which organized the August, 2020 Company Meeting and reviews these antiracism updates, will be expanding its membership in February to include three additional Resident Artists (Akaina Ghosh, David Moore, and Regina Morones), in addition to the existing membership of one resident artist (Carla Pantoja), three staff (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Toby Leavitt), and three board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody, Gorkem Ozbek).

Takes on Shakes, our new educational video series, offers “takes” on plays in the core curriculum that interrogate the text with an eye to social justice approaches in performance. The accompanying curriculum provides context around the 400-year history of Shakespeare performance, encourages critical thinking, and directly addresses assumptions about the ways the plays have and “should” be performed.
A group of staff and artists are currently engaged in a shared season planning process for Free Shakespeare 2021, examining diverse texts, including non-Shakespeare texts and Shakespeare adaptations and translations by women and BIPOC playwrights. The goal is to expand what we think of as “the canon” and celebrate Shakespeare’s ability to adapt to our ever-changing world.

In Fall 2020, Takes on Shakes employed more than 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists, including the writer/directors of both episodes of Takes on Shakes.
The Free Shakes 2021 Season Planning committee includes 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists and staff members. Artists are paid for their participation in this shared leadership process at a rate comparable to staff salaries. Key season planning decisions, such as the choice of play(s), will be reached by consensus, not made unilaterally by the Artistic Director.
In Fall 2020, 4 out of the 5 teaching artists hired for after-school programs and virtual Playshops were BIPOC; at least one identifies as LGBTQ+.
SF Shakes’ Executive Director also participated in ArtEquity’s excellent training, Finding the Keys, Antiracist Approaches to Radical Recruitment in the Arts.


 SF Shakes plans to publish another update by May 31, to include - among other topics - updates related to, “Transparency into Finances and Decision-Making”:

On January 26, a team of Board, Staff and Resident Artists began a four-month workshop to build capacity to co-imagine, co-create, and co-foster an antiracist, multicultural organizational culture, structure and model. We expect to examine together how to implement more inclusive decision-making and other forms of power-sharing. We will include an update on this team’s work on May 31.

In February, SF Shakes will also begin to work with a financial advisor to develop a more inclusive budgeting and forecasting process to support distributed decision making and strengthen both internal and external communication around our organization's financial position and priorities. We will include an update on this work on May 31.

We applaud the March launch of the American Indian Cultural District in the Mission District of San Francisco, future home of the American Indian Cultural Center. We will introduce ourselves, and ask whether they are interested in exploring how SF Shakes might further their mission and activities and amplify the visibility of Native Americans in San Francisco.

In spring of 2021, an Education Workgroup of management and teaching artists will be formed to address the management structure of education programs, decolonizing our camp and classroom curricula, training of teaching artists, and best practices for teaching virtually and safely in person.