Equity and Antiracism at Speakeasy Stage

Equity and Antiracism at Speakeasy Stage

SpeakEasy’s commitment to becoming a fully equitable and anti-racist theatre company is essential to the identity of our organization, and our education and efforts to do so are ongoing. In February 2021, we published our Equity & Anti-Racism Action Plan [link that to the Issuu], which outlines our commitments and measurable action items planned throughout our short and long-term future. Since then, we have published two Progress Reports, articulating what we have accomplished, the challenges we continue to face, and our plans for moving forward. 

We know the work is never done and we are committed to continuing to share our learnings, challenges, and achievements as we go. Thank you for your support in these efforts. 

If you have any questions about this work, please contact our Community & Artistic Programs Manager Alex Lonati at alexlonati@speakeasystage.com

Progress report fall 2022

Our efforts to become a fully equitable and anti-racist theatre company are ongoing and are essential to the identity of our organization. As such, we would like to provide an update on our work. In February 2021, after months of detailed work examining our own inequitable practices and participation in systems of oppression, we published the SpeakEasy Equity & Anti-Racism Action Plan (SEARAP), as we felt it was our responsibility to articulate our commitments and measurable plans for improvement. Last fall, we shared our first progress report, which detailed what we had been able to implement thus far. And our work has continued. 

This plan of action is a living document that continues to evolve alongside our education and observations of the world around us. We are dedicated to holding ourselves accountable (and being held accountable by our arts community) and as such, we will continue to be transparent with our progress and our shortcomings. The following are just some of the things we have achieved over the past year:

Organizational Culture

  • We have contracted Art & Soul Consulting to further our EDI work, both as a resource in the rehearsal room for artists and in the continued development of our staff and boards. 
  • We have focused significantly on the personal and professional development of our leadership, with all members of our staff and Board of Directors completing Inclusion, Equity, Diversity, and Access Training with Angela Park Consulting. Other staff members have participated in (or are currently participating in) the MCC Innovation & Learning Network, Bystander Training with Impact Boston, and the Cultural Equity Learning Community (CELC). We will continue to pursue educational opportunities for our team, as we understand this learning is never complete.
  • We have updated our Community Expectations Statement and Guidelines to more accurately reflect the inclusive and accessible environment for which we strive, and to include clearer instructions on how to report any problems or challenges. This statement is displayed in the theater, in our programs, and on our website.
  • After receiving feedback from artists that we could better align our rehearsal culture and staff culture, we have expanded the responsibility of our Community & Artistic Programming Manager to include weekly time in rehearsal and at performances. This will allow for a clearer and more direct connection to the staff for artists, issue resolution (if necessary) in real time, and will help to ensure culture remains consistent in all SpeakEasy spaces.

Programming & Values

  • This season, we have hired cultural consultants and/or dramaturgs for all productions. It is our hope that having experts present in the rehearsal room, to work with our design teams and collaborate on our marketing campaigns and outreach, will ensure that we are telling stories as authentically as possible. 
  • Though SpeakEasy continues to be proud of our bold and innovative work, which gives opportunities to storytellers of many different backgrounds and identities, we want to expand the group of the people who are involved in the decision making surrounding season selection. With that in mind, last spring we assembled a script reading committee, composed of artists and administrators from the Boston theatre community – diverse in race, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. The committee read a number of potential scripts, discussed the viability and potential value of production, and ultimately helped SpeakEasy narrow the list and craft our current season. All participants were compensated for their time.

Hiring & Employment

  • Last year, we updated our hiring listings to include salary ranges and requirements, expanded our job search timelines, increased compensation for artists, and started employing understudies. 
  • We have hired a Gender Inclusion consultant to build a training video and resource guide, so that we can all have a shared vocabulary when entering a rehearsal room or meeting. The resource guide has been and will continue to be shared with everyone who works at SpeakEasy Stage and the training video will be required viewing.                
  • We have revamped our first rehearsal process to ensure that all production teams receive thorough onboarding and helpful resource guides in a way that is easily digestible for all types of learners.

Accessibility

  • In January 2022, we committed to offering Audio Description and Open Captioning for select performances of every production moving forward. We have continued this commitment with a full season of programming and were able to publish the complete schedule of accessible performances before the 2022-2023 season began. 
  • We offered a Sensory Friendly Performance for Once on this Island and will offer another for our production of The Prom this spring. 
  • Our Community & Artistic Program Manager (along with other members of our staff) completed the Innovation & Learning Network training course last spring, resulting in SpeakEasy being officially designated as a Universal Participation organization with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. 
  • We are finalizing an internal Access Plan document and guidebook, so that these programs can be executed in perpetuity and are not reliant on any individual staff member. 
  • We continue to offer discounted and underwritten tickets through our participation in the EBT Card to Culture program, as well as through community partnerships. For example, during our spring production of Once on This Island, we were able to provide complimentary or significantly discounted tickets to over 1,000 individuals who would not have otherwise been able to attend the show.

Continuing Challenges 

  • Many of the initiatives outlined in our original SEARAP document that were categorized as “short-term goals” are proving to need more time than previously anticipated. While we are eager to achieve these goals, we are prioritizing doing the work correctly over simply doing it quickly. Updated goals will be reflected in our next draft of SEARAP.
  • The availability of financial resources has also slowed our progress, particularly in regards to hiring understudies for all productions in our 2022-2023 season, as previously intended. We aim to be better positioned to hire understudies for all performances for the 2023-2024 season.  
  • We are working towards eliminating 10/12 rehearsals and are moving towards 5-day work weeks, to make the rehearsal schedule more flexible for those managing other work and childcare. 
  • We are exploring ways to more consistently and accurately collect community feedback from our audiences so we can get a fuller understanding of the impact of our work and the stories that still need sharing.

As our SEARAP document is meant to be a living and constantly evolving document, we are currently working with Art & Soul Consulting to update it. We anticipate being able to publish our updated plan by February 2023. 

We always welcome your feedback, comments, and questions. We invite you to reach out to us with any thoughts or questions by emailing Community & Artistic Programs Manager Alex Lonati at alexlonati@speakeasystage.com.

The entire SpeakEasy team thanks you for your support and participation in this essential work.

Progress Report Fall 2021

As we kick off our 31st season, we would like to share our first annual progress report on our equity and anti-racism work. This past January, we published the SpeakEasyEquity & Anti-Racism Action Plan, the culmination of months of vital and detailed work to examine our own inequitable practices and complicity in systemic racism and systems of oppression that are based on race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and ability. This specific and detailed action plan is a living document that will evolve as our learning continues and as the environment around us continues to change.

In an effort to hold ourselves accountable, and to be transparent with our progress, we want to share what we have accomplished so far. All “immediate changes” and “short term initiatives” defined in the plan have been completed or their implementation is currently in progress. A summary of this progress is outlined below.

Organizational Culture

  • To continue the professional and personal development of our staff, and to ensure that these conversations are at the forefront of our planning, we have implemented bi-weekly discussions and trainings centering Equity & Anti-Racism. These have primarily been attended by our staff, with select trainings including our Board of Directors as well.
  • Every member of our staff and the majority of our Board of Directors have completed official Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access training, led by Angela Park Consulting, as well as the Cultural Equity Learning Community through Arts Connect International.
  • We share our Land Acknowledgement and Equity & Anti-Racism Action Plan at every first rehearsal and first board meeting of the season. These resources, as well as additional ways to engage and educate, are also made available on our website, in our playbills, and displayed at our theater space.
  • We have officially recognized Juneteenth, Indigenous Peoples Day, and Election Day as holidays and our office will be closed on those days in observation.

Hiring and Employment

  • We have updated our hiring practices to include salary ranges and experience requirements for all jobs, and have expanded the job search timeline so as to reach as many candidates from a diverse range of communities as possible.
  • To prioritize the health of our artists, we are hiring understudies for all performances.
  • We have increased compensation for our artists to offer a more competitive wage.
  • At the first rehearsal, everyone receives Anti-Harassment training, as well as information about SpeakEasy’s community expectations and Equity & Anti-Racism protocols.  
  • We now share our demographic survey with everyone who works with SpeakEasy, as well as everyone who applies or auditions for us, so that we can better track the communities we are reaching and with whom we are working.

Programming and Values

  • We continue to select works that address a wide range of relevant and timely topics, including systemic racism, equity and justice, and identity. We produce and invest in stories that challenge the narrow and unexamined scope of narratives about the BIPOC experience – focusing on joy, innovation, and expression, as well as overcoming hardship and oppression. And we hire artists and storytellers that can authentically share these narratives on and off stage.
  • We have updated our Company Values and our brand to officially include a commitment to social justice and inclusion.
  • To pay respect to the Massachusett tribe, whose unceded land we work and reside, we have created a Land Acknowledgement plan and resource page on our website, and we share this information both internally with staff, board, and artists, and externally with patrons at the theater and in our printed programs.

Accessibility

  • Starting in January 2022, we will offer both Open Captioning and Audio Description resources for select performances of all productions moving forward.
  • We will offer a Sensory Friendly Performance for our spring 2022 production of Once on This Island, and have identified a partner who will help us to continue this programming for at least one production a season moving forward.
  • We offer discounted ticket rates through the Huntington Community Membership Initiative and the EBT Card to Culture program, in the hopes of making our work accessible to individuals at all income levels. We also have added a veteran ticket rate.

Our efforts to become a fully equitable and anti-racist theatre company is ongoing and is essential to the identity of our organization. Internally, we revisit the progress on our plan quarterly, and will continue to update the document as our priorities and action items continue to develop. As we continue to track our progress, we welcome your feedback, comments, and questions.  We hope you’ll be part of this progress, and we invite you to reach out to us with any thoughts or questions by emailing Community Programs Manager Alex Lonati at alexlonati@speakeasystage.com.

Thank you for your support and participation in this essential work.

Speakeasy Anti-Racism Action PLan (SEARAP)

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