Steppenwolf has had internal complaints about equity from their staff of color for years, which began to accelerate after The Great Leap when Deanna Myers’ complaints of harassment on the job went viral on social media. In the past year they have struggled to retain their staff of color for a variety of reasons, many having to do with inhospitable job environments, under-resourced shows, and pay inequity. Recently, two artists affiliated with the theatre have spoken to their journeys of navigating and negotiating with this institution. This article includes all three statements from these artists including the essay published by Isaac Gomez just today.
It is only fair to present these separate and yet deeply related arguments alongside each other, in order to ask ourselves what our path of engagement or divestment may look like. It is not a short read, but diligence is required of those seeking justice. Lowell Thomas served as Video Content Producer and resigned from the company earlier this month. Here, Thomas states his reasoning in his own words, posted on Instagram April 15th:
Steppenwolf Theatre Company has committed itself to inequity. Time has revealed that the leadership of Anna Shapiro, Brooke Flanagan, and Leelai Demoz betrays the very people who have helped it maintain its renowned status. It smugly ignores the urgency of the We See You White American Theatre Demands and offers only tepid reflection as a response. It buries claims of harassment, racism, and sexism to avoid accountability and real change. There is no redemption for this kind of leadership. It will continue to exploit its artists and staff under the guise of “grit” while clutching its pearls whenever presented with the harm it has inflicted on others. Continue reading “Divestment and Dissent – Artists Speak Out on Steppenwolf Theatre”
Rescripted’s Revolution Glossary is our new series where we dive deeper into words which are part of the conversations about justice happening around all of us. The goal of this series is to provide a resource for people who want to expand their vocabulary around social justice topics, or people who want extra context and perspective on their word choices. Our hope is that this series can spark some important discussions, and help people jump into those discussions with enthusiasm.
Earlier this year, a group of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color theatremakers drafted a public letter to the White American Theatre establishment about the harm they have suffered working in institutions that have failed to address the racism internal to their practices. In this letter, the theatremakers sought to share ways theatre in all its forms can become more equitable and safe for all artists involved. In the letter, the drafters make use of the EDI terminology. EDI stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; it is a framework that has emerged in the last years to rectify the lack of representation in the workplace. Today, I’m going to focus on just the “D” of EDI: Diversity. The term “diversity” has been making its way across many of our news feeds in the past few months, where its overuse might make it seem more like a vapid buzzword than a useful concept. However, diversity and those calling for its intentional implementation in the workplace aren’t kicking up dust because they’re bored. The desire for diversity is the desire to have the workplace be more reflective of real world demographics.
Continue reading “REVOLUTION GLOSSARY: What is Diversity?”
Below is the unedited text of a letter sent by over sixty artists who had previously worked at or are currently affiliated with Victory Gardens’ Theater. This letter was sent on March 2nd, 2020. Erica Daniels was appointed on May 5th, 2020. Several of the signatories of the original letter have permitted us to publish their names.
“To The Board of Directors and Executive Leadership at Victory Gardens Theater,
We are writing as artists and artistic affiliates who have had the pleasure of working at and with Victory Gardens Theater at one point or another in its forty-six year history, witnessing first-hand its great strides as a leader and cultural change-agent in our field. Continue reading “Two-Month-Old Letter Reveals Artists Called for Transparent Leadership Search at Victory Gardens Theater in March”