90-Day Report #2 (12/18/20)

The MTC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee provides education training, leadership, oversight and accountability to MTC's EDI work in shifting the organizational culture towards a more diverse, welcoming and safe environment for artists, audiences, board members, and staff. In June 2020, we posted Our Community Pledges on the Accountability page of our website. This document is a detailed outline of our commitments to help guide our organization towards a more equitable and anti-racist future.  We have pledged to provide regular status updates on our EDI commitments. 

This is our second 90-day status report on the Marin Theatre Company’s efforts to root out systemic inequities and racism within our organization. Please click or tap below on "Show More" to read the status reports for each pledge as of December 18, 2020.

In the past 90 days, through the dedicated efforts of a scaled-down staff and MTC’s volunteer board, MTC has accomplished the following:

  • Consistent with our commitment to center and empower BIPOC voices and place people of color in leadership positions, we have applied an equitable artistic management-level selection process and hired Nakissa Etemad as our new Associate Artistic Director, the first AAD in the company’s history.  Nakissa, an Iranian American dramaturg, will bring her experience and stewardship to continue lifting and centering BIPOC writers. She will select the fourth play in our current season, in addition to producing that play and several others, including The Catastrophist, in the coming months. She has also joined the EDI Committee, and is already making significant contributions to these efforts after only 40 days on the job—all in addition to her management responsibilities as the new AAD.
  • We have retained ArtEquity, led by Carmen Morgan, as our external EDI facilitator.  ArtEquity will lead EDI sessions for MTC board and staff beginning in January 2021. One of the primary reasons we chose ArtEquity is that Ms. Morgan and the organization are very familiar with MTC’s recent history and demographics.  We believe their EDI approach will be specific and tailored to our needs, to help move the organization toward a more equitable and anti-racist future.
  • In October, while we were finalizing the ArtEquity contract, board member and EDI professional Aldo Billingslea led two EDI training sessions on Zoom, the first of which was attended by 96% of our staff and board, and the second by 86%.  
  • We have continued to work with the BIPOC-owned search firm ALJP Consulting to identify a new Managing Director for MTC, with interviews of candidates currently underway.
  • We are engaged in an active search for an HR consultant, and have placed EDI issues at the forefront of our identified HR concerns.  We hope that the HR consultant, once selected, will help us revamp our employee handbook with a specific emphasis on items identified in MTC’s Community Pledges, such as making the theater a welcoming and safe place, particularly for BIPOC employees and guest artists, and revising our non-carceral policy. We have also sought recommendations from our HR consultant candidates for facilitators to provide intimate partner violence/rape prevention/sexual safety/consent training.
  • We are revising our land acknowledgement policy and have sought the input of the Coast Miwok Tribal Vice Chair Lorelle Ross who has agreed to help us center the tribe’s voice.
  • We have successfully implemented a five-day work week in rehearsal for our second production of the season, The Catastrophist.

In connection with our efforts to prioritize humane and equitable working conditions and reduce undue burden on our dedicated eight full-time and two part-time staff members (most of whom have also been deep in rehearsal and production), this report focuses on highlights of our progress in the past 90 days. We remain grateful to the accountability organizations that have engaged with us on EDI issues, and EDI continues to be top of mind for MTC. We plan to continue taking action that will have an impact on both MTC and the greater community.

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90-Day Report #1 (09/30/20)

This is our first 90-day report out on the Marin Theatre Company’s efforts to root out systemic inequities and racism within our organization.

Please click or tap below on "Show More" to read our full Executive Summary. Scroll down and click or tap on "Show More" beneath Our Community Pledges to review the status reports for each pledge as of September 30, 2020.

In the past 90 days, the members of the EDI committee and the staff and board members of MTC have collectively spent hundreds of hours on this focused work. Below is a brief overview of our progress so far, laid out in more detail in the updates to Our Community Pledges further down this page:

  • We have revamped our hiring process for the open Associate Artistic Director position to ensure it is transparent and equitable, and we intend to refine and cement the new tiered interview, no-veto approach for future management-level artistic hires. 
  • In regard to our search for a new Managing Director, the MD Search Committee requested proposals from four different search firms, received proposals from three, and interviewed each firm twice. The first interview was with senior management of the firm, the second with the team that would be leading our specific search. The committee selected ALJP, a BIPOC-owned firm out of Chicago. 
  • We have established an Artistic Committee made up of engaged BIPOC and non-BIPOC voices to review scripts and put together a season made up of the best new American plays, with an emphasis on underrepresented writers—while also taking into account that so much of life and art is digital right now, and that American theater as we know and love it does not currently exist.
  • The EDI Committee has conducted a broad effort to identify, interview, and select an EDI facilitator to conduct intensive board and staff training and consultation. The EDI Committee has made a recommendation to the full board on its selection, and we anticipate being able to identify the selected consultant soon. In the meantime, staff have continued to conduct monthly EDI workgroup meetings and are endeavoring to hire a paid facilitator to lead them, and a new board member who is a professional EDI facilitator will be conducting staff & board anti-bias training in October in addition to the training we anticipate our EDI consultant will implement.
  • We have added seven new members to the board, five of whom identify as BIPOC, and removed any monetary contribution requirement.  Although MTC’s board has always been a “working” one, the new and BIPOC board members are committed to improving the organization and have taken leadership roles in key committees, including Artistic and EDI.  
  • We have abolished our unpaid internship program, and altered our work week requirements to make the access to professional opportunities at MTC more equitable and available to all.
  • In terms of facilities, as a matter of equity we have prioritized changes to make MTC more welcoming and safe for our artists and audience, including converting to all-gender restrooms when we have the financial ability to do so. 
  • We have revitalized the strategic planning committee of the board, and that committee has tasked itself with taking a longer term look at the mission, vision and values of MTC, with principles of equity and access firmly in mind. 

Is this everything we had hoped we would be able to accomplish in 90 days? No. But true transformation takes time. We also want to recognize that even without these significant changes, the MTC of 2020 is a different organization from the MTC of 2019. The pandemic has forced us to lay off two thirds of our staff; as of today, we only have seven full-time employees and three part-time employees. Through the combined efforts of a skeleton staff and an engaged volunteer board, we believe we are beginning to make real progress.

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Our Community Pledges: Reporting on MTC’s actions to dismantle systemic racism in our organization

The following statement and pledges were originally posted on 06/23/20. Please click or tap below on "Show More" to review the status reports for each pledge as of September 30, 2020.

During and after MTC’s production of Thomas Bradshaw’s Thomas and Sally in the Fall of 2017, we received an overwhelming amount of criticism and feedback from members of our community of all backgrounds. As a predominantly white institution, we have failed to take the care necessary to protect our Black artists and audience members.

In response to the events of Thomas and Sally, the Coalition of Black Women Professional Theatre Makers in the Bay Area formed and penned an open letter asking us to take several action steps to correct our mistakes and enact fundamental and systemic change in our organization. The Coalition met with leaders of our organization several times in the months following, at which point we committed to a transformative process intended to dismantle racism within our organization. Many of the below pledges were made initially to the Coalition in 2018, but until now we have not made them public. We understand the need for transparency in this process, and so we are now sharing this with our community.

We welcome public accountability for each pledge we make and we hope our actions toward becoming an anti-racist organization will serve as an example for other predominantly white institutions to do the same. We recognize that this work is fluid and ongoing, and we pledge to provide regular status updates that are honest about our successes and failures. Those updates will be sent to our community every 90 days, but this page may be updated more regularly to respond to immediate feedback. 

Pledge #1: Apologize for mistakes made in producing Thomas Bradshaw’s Thomas and Sally, and e-mail corrective information regarding sexual assault to all patrons and student groups who attended the show.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020: We will be sharing a link to the corrective resource information in our Tuesday Weekly eblast on October 6th, which reaches our entire patron base (those who have email addresses on file, and have opted in to receive emails from us).

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: Marin Theatre Company formally apologized for mistakes we made in a statement released on our website and social media channels, just over a week after the initial meeting between MTC and the coalition. That apology can be found here.

MTC recognizes the potential impact our productions can have on our audience’s understanding of the world and the responsibility that entails. In response to criticism that Thomas and Sally depicted real life sexual assault without adequately portraying it as such, we pledged in 2018 to share information and resources on this issue with student groups and audience members who attended the show, and we hired Kyra Jones (bio here) to compile a comprehensive resource guide. We did share this information with the student groups, however we failed at the time to share it with patrons. That resource information is now on our website, where it will live forever, and can be found HERE.

Pledge #2: Interrogate and change our methods of commissioning, developing, and producing culturally diverse work through an anti-racist lens. Ensure that those working either on stage or behind the scenes demonstrate an understanding of key social issues affecting those characters and/or subjects, including discrimination, democratic participation, criminal justice, historical oppression, and other issues of racial and economic justice, intersectionality, and equity. Hire artists of color for the positions of power in the room from the inception of the work.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020: In addition to the other efforts described throughout this report, MTC has formed an Artistic Committee comprised of a majority BIPOC Board members and artists to help select the 2020/21 season; a season which has been in creation since August 2019 and remains unfinalized for 2021 due to budget and pandemic uncertainties. Playwrights currently under commission are Ismail Khalidi, Margot Melcon and Playwright in Residence Lauren Gunderson, with two more BIPOC commissions soon to be announced.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: MTC recognizes that the work of interrogating our artistic processes is vital and never-ending, and that this is perhaps the most crucial one of all for us to be continuously held accountable by our community. MTC is committed to intentionality and color-conscious practices in all aspects of hiring and participation, especially to support equity, diversity, and inclusion. In the years since we initially made this pledge, we have engaged numerous BIPOC artists and cultural consultants who have made invaluable contributions to transforming our artistic processes. Again, we recognize that there is work yet to be done.

Here are some of the ways we have strived to live up to this pledge:

  • In the season following Thomas and Sally, MTC hired five female directors for the six-show mainstage season, including four female BIPOC directors.
  • When considering a play with specific cultural representation, MTC has instituted the practice of hiring multiple paid consultants to read and review the play during the season planning process. This has led to several plays being removed from consideration due to issues of questionable representation, and it has also led to MTC being introduced to several BIPOC writers we would not have otherwise known. In conjunction with this, MTC has continued and expanded upon our commitment to develop and produce female and BIPOC writers.
  • MTC has hired several paid cultural consultants for culturally specific work to provide resources and feedback on every aspect of production, including casting, marketing, design, and staging. Each time we have engaged someone in this work, it has been done a little differently, as we seek to adapt the process to the needs of the show and specifically the BIPOC artists working on the show. We are still learning the best methods to ensure the consultants are in true positions of power in the room, but we have had several successful partnerships thus far.

Here are some of the ways we intend to immediately build from what we have learned:

  • As a playwright-centric organization, it is our practice to give power and choice to the playwright when they are involved in a production, including choice of director. Moving forward, however, MTC will take all necessary steps for culturally specific work to ensure that the playwright is provided with options for directors whose backgrounds match those being represented by the work.
  • MTC will move from the resident dramaturg model to a freelance dramaturg and consultant model, ensuring further opportunity for positions of power to be filled by artists whose backgrounds align with the backgrounds represented by the work.
  • As a result of what we learned from working with playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle and cultural consultant the Honorable Brenda Toineeta Pipestem, in the course of conducting dramaturgical research, MTC commits to a process which centers narratives penned by scholars and historians from the communities being depicted by the work, de-centering the white-penned narratives and histories that often tell the story of BIPOC communities through a white lens, therefore erasing key aspects of history and culture.

Pledge #3: Engage facilitators for further mandatory Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training and Anti-Racist training for the entire MTC staff and board.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020: MTC’s EDI Committee has made an EDI consultant recommendation to the Board following a broad solicitation and interview process focusing on BIPOC-led organizations. We anticipate that we will be able to announce the selected consultant shortly. In the meantime, board member Aldo Billingslea will be providing the board and staff with some preliminary, fundamental anti-bias training in October. We have not yet completed the training identified within the pledge above, but recognize that the necessary time was dedicated toward finding and contracting with a consultant that best fits our organization’s needs and goals.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: MTC has accomplished the following:

  • MTC staff members completed sexual harassment prevention training in FY19
  • MTC staff and board completed EDI training in FY19 with Alison Park of Blink Consulting
  • MTC staff members, including executives, participated in TCG’s EDI cohort moderated by Carmen Morgan of artEquity and in Theatre Bay Area’s TASC (Theatres Advancing Social Change) cohort
  • MTC staff members lead monthly EDI development meetings using artEquity materials as a guide
  • MTC board formed EDI committee and organized and participated in multiple on-site and off-site meetings and  workshops during 2018 and 2019
  • MTC staff and board incorporated EDI check ins and updates into every major meeting

Recognizing that this work is ongoing and can always deepen, MTC commits to the following immediately reportable actions:

  • With experienced paid facilitators, continue annual EDI and sexual harassment prevention training for the entire staff and board, with the next trainings occurring by September 30, 2020.
  • With experienced paid facilitators, begin regular anti-racism training for the entire staff and board, with the intention of dismantling systemic forms of racism in our institution and harmful individual bias within ourselves, with the first of these trainings occurring by September 30, 2020.
  • Develop an onboarding process for new employees that includes comprehensive EDI, anti-racist, and sexual harassment prevention training.

Pledge #4: Develop and release an institutional policy committing to non-carceral (not involving the state or policing) strategies for dealing with any conflict involving community members who statistically face elevated levels of police violence.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020:

  • As part of our EDI consultant search, we identified that conflict resolution training should be a part of our work with a consultant, especially for employees working Front of House (i.e. Box Office Associates, House Managers).
  • Both Board Member Denmo Ibrahim and Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis have been invited and will serve on the City of Mill Valley’s EDI Task Force, alongside other community members and leaders. 

Status Report as of August 6, 2020: MTC has had a consistent voice at Mill Valley City Council meetings since early June, 2020 regarding the Mill Valley Police Department's Use of Force training and policies, which has helped lead to a formal report published by the City Council on August 3, 2020. That report can be read in full HERE. Further involvement with the MVPD and future updates regarding our commitment to non-carceral conflict resolution will be published here.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: MTC formally adopted a non-carceral policy in 2018. We have committed to revisiting that policy each year to ensure it specifically addresses the unique and disproportionate harm that police involvement can bring to BIPOC individuals. MTC staff and board have committed to an ongoing dialogue with the Mill Valley City Council and police department regarding necessary protocols to protect BIPOC artists and patrons.

Pledge #5: Provide thoughtful support and safety networks for every BIPOC artist we hire.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020:

  • Both Board Member Denmo Ibrahim and Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis have been invited and will serve on the City of Mill Valley’s EDI Task Force, alongside other community members and leaders.
  • As of this date we have not yet finalized and implemented a formal plan for protecting our BIPOC staff, artists and board members in our community. However, work on this plan is ongoing and we aim to include insight and guidance from participation on the Mill Valley EDI Task Force and work with our hired EDI consultant before finalizing and sharing.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: MTC established the Artist Support Network, an expanding group of artists (most of whom are BIPOC individuals) familiar with our company who have agreed to be responsive to artists employed by MTC who have questions or concerns that they do not feel comfortable bringing to an MTC staff member or executive leader. MTC has also expanded first-day information packets to include the address and contact info for multiple local houses of worship, local counselors, and other wellness resources. MTC has taken steps to introduce the local community to the artists through discussions at the Mill Valley Library and interviews shared via email/on MTC’s website. After receiving feedback about uncomfortable experiences at the local gym, we engaged in a frank and fruitful discussion with the managers of the gym and began providing artist headshots ahead of each production to be kept at the front desk.

After an incident that took place during our production of Noura where actors from the show were participating in an educational event in a local classroom that went on lockdown due to a potential active shooter, the show’s Equity Deputy wrote a letter detailing the resulting traumatic impact and suggesting numerous actions for us to take to protect actors from enduring such trauma when possible and care for them in the instances it does occur. We were in the process of adapting and expanding on those actions when our operations were shut down due to COVID-19, which has also presented us with new challenges for protecting our artists. We pledge to follow up with these additional actions that we have taken and will take in the interest of the health and well-being of our artists.

We recognize that Marin County is a predominantly white and wealthy community and it can feel alienating and occasionally hostile for BIPOC individuals, particularly our artists who exhaust incalculable amounts of emotional labor in the service of creating their work. By September 30, 2020, we pledge to develop and implement a formal plan for protecting BIPOC staff, artists, and board members in our community, especially and crucially regarding potential interaction with the police. At the Mill Valley City Council meeting on June 15, 2020, MTC officially requested to take part in the City Council’s conversations on Mill Valley policing, equitable education policies with Marin City, and equitable housing initiatives.

Pledge #6: Diversify our staff through the intentional recruitment of BIPOC individuals.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020:

  • MTC is currently in the final round of interviews for an Associate Artistic Director position, three of whom are BIPOC candidates.  We would like to share the protocol created by the newly formed Artistic Committee and used for hiring our AAD position HERE.  MTC is creating formalized hiring processes for positions as needed.
  • While we have not yet implemented an independent HR reporting process, we are currently searching for external Human Resources firms to help us develop this reporting process for artists, staff and board members to utilize. In working through our current employee handbook, we identified the need among staff and artists for more clear information about Human Resources. Once we contract with an HR consultant, we will also aim to create an HR manual for staff, artists and board. This document will be provided to artists at first rehearsals, new employees during onboarding and circulated to current staff and board. 
  • In regard to our search for a new Managing Director, the MD Search Committee requested proposals from four different firms, received proposals from three, and interviewed each firm twice. The first interview was with senior management of the firm, and the second with the team that would be leading our specific search. The committee has selected ALJP, a BIPOC-owned firm out of Chicago.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: We are committed to diversifying our staff by hiring BIPOC individuals, intentionally seeking out candidates that challenge our status quo for all positions, including positions of power. MTC has never had a BIPOC individual in an executive role, and has rarely had any BIPOC individuals in other positions of power throughout the organization. Several such positions are set to be available as soon as we are able to hire again, and we pledge to make those new hires with intentionality.

We also recognize that hiring BIPOC individuals into positions of power is not enough, we must also make sure that they are protected. In addition to every other action item we list here, all of which are primarily intended to protect the safety of every BIPOC individual engaged as part of our organization and community, we commit to developing an independent HR process for BIPOC staff and artists to address issues of discrimination and safety by September 30, 2020.

Pledge #7: Remove barriers to board membership and diversify our board through intentional recruitment of BIPOC community members.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020:

  • In August, MTC added 7 new board members, including 5 new BIPOC board members. BIPOC individuals now represent 30% of MTC’s current 20 person board.
  • We have expanded Board membership beyond Marin County, and now have directors residing in San Francisco, Sonoma, Palo Alto and Oakland.

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: MTC has removed the informal minimum donation requirement previously imposed on board members. MTC has removed the requirement for in-person attendance at Board meetings, allowing for a combination of in-person and virtual attendance.

The MTC board is actively exploring other methods of breaking down barriers of access for membership, including ways to expand the membership beyond the boundaries of Marin County. This is an ongoing process that we pledge to continuously report on to our community.

Pledge #8: Provide a public accountability plan complete with timelines for completing related action steps.

Status Report as of September 30, 2020: This is our first 90-day update. Our next update will be shared by or before Friday, December 18th (adjusted to account for the holidays).

Status Report as of June 19, 2020: This is the first of what we pledge to be regular updates so that our community can hold us accountable in every aspect of this work.

We know that this represents only the beginning of what it takes to practice active anti-racism in an organization and we will continue to expand upon these pledges as we are prepared to do so. We are providing this information for members of our community in good faith, and hope that you will choose to hold us accountable to our failures and help us build from our successes.

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In addition to the pledges we laid out in June, we also asked to be held accountable in the process of becoming an anti-racist organization. In August, we welcomed a response to that ask from the Bay Area Artists for Racial Justice, working in solidarity with the Coalition of Black Women Professional Theatre Makers in the Bay Area. 

Please click or tap below on "Show More" to read the specific questions sent to us, and our responses thus far. 

BWBAT demand follow-up:

  1. Please share the exact materials in the Thomas and Sally resource guide that was sent to students. (original demand #1) 
    1. Response: The corrective resource information that was shared with students can be found on our website HERE.
  2. Will this resource guide be sent to patrons via email as originally promised? If not please state your reasons, if yes please share the “how”. (original demand #1) 
    1. Response: We will be sharing the link to the corrective resource information in our Tuesday Weekly eblast on October 6th, which reaches our entire patron base (those who have email addresses on file, and have opted in to receive emails from us).
  3. Please provide details about your season selection process and describe the ways you are centering BIPOC voices. If you had one process from before COVID, and a different one now, please detail both. (original demand #2)  
    1. Response: 
      1. In previous years, MTC’s season selection process would begin at the start of the current season (August/September) to plan the following season, with an announcement usually shared in February or March. Voluntary meetings comprised of staff members (across all departments), interns, board members and artists would convene bi-weekly to discuss potential plays. Each 3-hour meeting would cover 2-4 plays. Participants were encouraged to send in their thoughts in written form if unable to attend the meeting, or attend digitally via Skype or Zoom if transportation was an issue. Guidelines for these discussion meetings included that folks may only comment on a play they have read or seen it in its entirety, but all may ask questions. Plays under consideration would be provided at least 1 week in advance by the Artistic staff. Oftentimes, this monthslong process would entail narrowing down a list of over 100 plays, down to 10-20. The thoughts and opinions shared in these meetings would be recorded by a notetaker and shared with the group. In these meetings, beyond the literary and theatrical merits or evoked emotional responses of each play, we would discuss potential partnership opportunities, cross-season conversations (e.g. committing to producing all of August Wilson’s plays), or why a certain play would be good for our region, community, current social times, etc. We would also discuss the production needs and possibilities underpinning each potential selection. As the list of possible plays narrowed throughout the fall (e.g. due to rights being taken by another theatre or a lack of interest among the group of participants to pursue it) conversations would turn toward putting together potential season combinations. These conversations often included more specific budgetary numbers: production costs, ticket revenue projections, and out of town hiring costs. Participants at these meetings would help piece together, with the AD’s guidance, a few possible season lineups. From then on, the Artistic staff would work to secure the rights to our ideal season picks, and adjust the lineup as projects solidify or fall through. Beginning with season planning for the 2018-2019 season, cultural consultants were hired to read and give feedback on plays that were written by or about marginalized or underrepresented communities. This led to a number of plays being eliminated each season and helped us discover new voices such as Mary Kathryn Nagle.
      2. For the 2020-2021 season our process began with the same process in the Fall of 2019 but altered over the course of the 2019-2020 season and then through the summer of 2020. In summer of 2020 we created a diverse Artistic Committee of staff and Board members that continued the discussions originally begun in the Fall / Winter. More individual artists were consulted about their programming thoughts. Individual artists were also encouraged to offer suggestions for virtual productions and explorations that they were interested in taking in response to the events of 2020. Discussions were held with playwrights and directors about how and if their work should be presented at MTC in 2020-2021. Artists of color were consulted about their feelings about MTC and what it should present in 2020-2021. Playwright Sarah B Mantell was originally offered a slot in the 2020-2021 season but wanted to be assured that her play would be in a season that was 50% BIOPOC. To ensure that could happen, she allowed her production to be moved to a later season.
      3. Many of the productions which will be part of the 2020-2021 season needed to have a built in flexibility that would allow them to adapt to the changing pandemic landscape - an ability to be virtual, outdoors or indoors.
  4. Regarding the following staff questions, please indicate how many staff participants from past trainings are currently employed and how many of these attended the training specified. Please provide names or indicate category of staff represented (leadership, board, frontline staff, etc):
    1. Response: these can be found in original demand #3
  5. How many staff members attended FY19 EDI training? 
    1. Response: FY19 training was mandatory for all staff and interns (approximately 25 people). Seven out of 8 of the current staff were employed by MTC at the time and took part in the FY19 training. 
  6. Which staff members and how often did they participate in TCG’s EDI cohort and TBA’s TASC cohort in 2019? 
    1. Response: Director of Production Sara Huddleston, former Managing Director Keri Kellerman and Director of Ticketing Kate Robinson participated in TBA’s TASC cohort in 2019. Jasson Minadakis participated in the public report out in October 2019. Of the original cohort members from MTC, Sara Huddleston remains on staff and continues to participate. Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, former Literary Manager Laura Brueckner and Keri Kellerman each participated in TCG’s EDI cohort at varying times between 2017 and 2019. Sara Huddleston participated in this cohort through a previous employer. 
  7. Who leads monthly staff EDI meetings and how many staff attend? 
    1. Response: Originally started and led by former Managing Director Keri Kellerman in 2019; after Kellerman left the organization, Kate Robinson led the monthly meetings through August of 2020. Attendance of staff ranged from 2-7 members and was not mandatory. As of September 2020, staff are currently budgeting and searching for a paid facilitator to lead these monthly meetings, at which point they will become mandatory. 
  8. How is MTC vetting the EDI trainers? Will you be hiring distinguished/well regarded BIPOC EDI and anti-racist trainers? 
    1. Response: We started by assembling an extensive list of potential EDI consultants that were recommended by a variety of stakeholders. The joint staff and board EDI Committee contacted these individuals or organizations for proposals, providing a sense of MTC's history and needs. The EDI Committee held follow-up interviews with two BIPOC-led organizations and recommended one to the board, with a more detailed proposal to follow. We anticipate announcing the selected consultant shortly. In the meantime, board member Aldo Billingslea will provide the board and staff with preliminary, fundamental anti-bias training in October.
  9. The BWBAT coalition asked for “mandatory training in intimate partner violence, rape prevention, and sexual safety/consent.” Has this occurred? If not, when will it be scheduled. (original demand #3) 
    1. Response: We have not yet contracted a facilitator for “mandatory training in intimate partner violence, rape prevention and sexual safety/consent.” Since our staff is so small at the moment, we would like to carry out this training in Spring of 2021 when we will have on boarded some new hires. We welcome recommendations from our community for facilitators/trainers doing this vital work. Please direct any recommendations to 
  10. Please share the official MTC non-carceral policy. (original demand #4)
    1. Response: MTC’s current non-carceral policy currently reads as follows: "MTC is committed to non-carceral (not involving the state or policing) strategies of conflict resolution. When conflicts arise, employees must immediately report the situation to the Managing Director and/or the Artistic Director." We will revise and strengthen this policy for our next report out. 

Follow-up to MTC additional pledges

  1. What are the actions/action plan happening in response to the Noura active shooter incident? 
    1. Response: We are developing plans for working with local schools and other public spaces that our staff and artists frequently attend, with the aim to be able to support fully and respond promptly to active shooter situations, environmental dangers or other unforeseen incidents. We have plans for onsite situations but we are finding offsite action plans more difficult to determine. This work is ongoing and we will report back when solidified plans are in place. 
  2. What percentage of board identify as BIPOC? What percentage of board officer and committee chair positions are held by BIPOC? 
    1. Response: 30% of our current board members identify as BIPOC and we aspire to recruit more BIPOC members in 2021. Currently, BIPOC board members are leading several key committees, including Artistic and EDI. They are also vital members of other critical committees, including: Strategic Planning, Marketing, Committee on Directors/Governance, Development, and Managing Director Search.
  3. What is the discrimination/safety HR process referred to in your pledge? 
    1. Response: We are currently searching for an external Human Resources firm or group to work with to develop an independent reporting process for artists, staff and board members to utilize. 
  4. What positions are currently open in addition to associate AD? Please share more about specifics of the hiring process. 
    1. Response: Currently we have two positions we are actively seeking to fill: Managing Director and Associate Artistic Director. 
      1. In regards to our search for a new Managing Director, the MD Search Committee requested proposals from four different search firms, received proposals from three, and interviewed each firm twice. The first interview was generally with senior management of the firm, the second with the team that would be leading our search. The committee selected ALJP, a BIPOC-owned firm out of Chicago. In the coming weeks, ALJP will be reaching out to staff to speak about the theatre and the MD role. They will also be speaking with stakeholders who are partners in the community, subscribers, in management at other theatres, local business leaders, etc. The entire staff will be able to participate in the interview process.
      2. The newly formed Artistic Committee was created to help guide and support the interview process for artistic personnel. We developed a protocol for the AAD hire that can be found HERE.
  5. How/where will the 90-day updates be released to the public? 
    1. Response: Our 90-day updates will be posted on the Accountability page of our website, shared on our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and included in our Tuesday Weekly eblast (on the Tuesday following the update post date) which reach all contacts in our database that have provided an email address and opted in for emails from us. We also hope that the Bay Area Artists for Racial Justice will post or link to our update on their site, so that it may reach a wider audience.

Broader questions

As we read your statement, we had questions about some of the stated goals and some of the stated methods to achieve those goals, as we consider whether they articulate a path to real equity. We recognize that many of the areas we are about to discuss contain questions about how to achieve meaningful equity that don’t have settled answers. We believe raising these questions transparently for the community to consider is an important part of thinking together about what a healthy path to equity looks like. We welcome your response to this in any format in service of open dialogue.

We value an open dialogue around these topics, and engagement with perspectives outside our own. We intend to discuss these questions in further detail with our hired EDI facilitator/consultant, but would also like to extend an open invitation to the members of BAARJ to have a conversation with us around these topics. Please find our initial thoughts below. We hope to continue to grow these responses and practices with input and collaboration with our community. 

  1. Since freelance and consultant artists/staff are named as part of a key solution to lack of representation on permanent staff, how will these artists truly have equitable power at MTC when collaborating with permanent and full time artists/staff 
    1. Response: We invite freelance artists to participate in season planning whenever they are able, to help with a balance of power and perspective in the room. Additionally, our consultants will be empowered to make decisions surrounding rehearsal, marketing, and elements beyond their roles to help create an equitable room. 
      1. For example, cultural consultant the Honorable Brenda Toineeta Pipestem and playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle were given full veto power over artistic, dramaturgical, production, marketing, education and outreach choices for our production of Sovereignty in 2019.
      2. For Noura, we produced the play in association with Golden Thread Productions and worked with Founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian as cultural consultant and hired Golden Thread Resident Artist Nakissa Etemad as dramaturg to create a partnership that would distribute power within the production team and between MTC and Golden Thread.
      3. We continue to explore and interrogate new methods of empowering our artists and cultural consultants. Each project brings new and unique methodologies that we endeavor to carry into the next. 
  2. How will you make your hiring processes transparent in light of the current open positions?  
    1. Response: MTC is creating formalized hiring processes for positions as needed. For example, we would like to share the protocol created by the newly formed Artistic Committee and used for hiring our AAD position HERE.
  3. If a BIPOC individual is hired as associate AD how will you make sure that they have real power in the organization? How will you ensure a healthy work environment/culture in your organization for BIPOC hires? 
    1. Response: MTC is hiring external HR and EDI consultants to help to aid and develop that culture. The Associate Artistic Director, along with the Artistic Director, will be a member of the newly formed Artistic Committee. The AAD will have producing power independent of the AD. MTC is considering introducing a new program where new staff are paired with a board member, to both provide resources and to strengthen relationships between board and staff.
  4. Are BIPOC directors only in consideration for ‘culturally specific’ work? Will BIPOC directors be hired for projects that tell traditionally White/European stories? 
    1. Response: We always consider a multitude of directors for every project, including traditionally White/European stories. While our 2020/21 season doesn’t reflect this, we are committed to ensuring BIPOC directors are hired for traditionally White/European stories in the future. 
  5. What are the ‘necessary steps’ that truly give a playwright decision-making power (not just options) in director selection when MTC holds the power of season selection? 
    1. Response: We make every effort to give our playwrights their first choice of director. But we are open to further conversation around this topic.
  6. Is MTC consulting with and listening to experts/thought partners to shape their input into Mill Valley City Council policing conversations?  What is the plan to educate patrons and the local community in order to keep BIPOC artists safe in Mill Valley? 
    1. Response: We are still working on our formal plan to educate patrons and the local community to keep BIPOC artists, board members, patrons and staff safe in Mill Valley. Both Board Member Denmo Ibrahim and Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis have been invited and will serve on the City of Mill Valley’s EDI Task Force, alongside other community members and leaders. We will be providing updates on that participation, and allowing it to inform our internal conversations and plans around safety for BIPOC individuals in Mill Valley.
  7. How will newly recruited BIPOC board members have agency/power if monetary commitment is removed? 
    1. Response: Currently BIPOC board members are leading several key committees, including the Artistic Committee and EDI Committee. They are also vital members of other critical committees, including Strategic Planning, Marketing, Committee on Directors/Governance, Development, and Managing Director Search. MTC’s current policy regarding Board directors states "in addition to individuals with business and financial experience, we seek directors who contribute a variety of relevant skills, experience and/or financial resources that he/she/they may bring to strengthen the organization." As an example of how BIPOC board members exercise agency, the Associate Artistic Director Hiring Committee includes 1 staff member and 2 BIPOC board members, and all three have equal voting power in who will be hired.

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Our Commitment to Anti-Racism (08/07/20)

Dear Leadership of The Living Document,

On behalf of the Marin Theatre Company, we want to thank the artists and organizers for the tremendous work done to document and issue an action plan for our community. This is an excellent example of how we can move from harm to healing. We also want to recognize the burden of artists to recount traumatizing experiences and the labor of organizers to address change on so many levels of our industry. This is not lost on us. This is real work and we are humbled by it. Thank you.

We have read and are engaging with the demands issued in the BIPOC Equity Action Plan, the "We See You White American Theatre" document, and the testimonies of racism experienced in our Bay Area Theatre community, as recounted in The Living Document

We hear you. We believe you. We join you in actively working to dismantle racism at every level of engagement at our theatre. We are committed to developing the tools to hold ourselves accountable. We will not place that burden on our BIPOC colleagues. This is our work.

 We will do everything in our power to comprehend, acknowledge, and address the inequalities and systemic forces in our nation, in our community and specifically within our theatre where we have direct influence to create meaningful change. We have already begun to take such actions, but we know that the work of actively and continually dismantling oppressive systems is neither easy nor immediate. We are examining all aspects of our company to root out racist practices and behaviors. How do we make theatre where bigotry has no place?

 As the BIPOC Equity Action Plan recognizes, we can start by producing plays by BIPOC, queer, trans, womxn of color, non-binary, and disabled playwrights. Over the last five seasons, 61% of the plays we have produced were by underrepresented writers. We will continue to seek out and produce the best new American plays reflecting underrepresented voices in our community every season. We know, however, that this is just one thread in the fabric we are weaving together. For the future we are committed to hiring more underrepresented directors and designers, hiring cultural consultants for BIPOC plays, hiring BIPOC directors for BIPOC plays, and creating an affirming and safe space for all artists, staff, and patrons for every play we rehearse, read, workshop and produce. We have committed to releasing updates about our EDI actions every three months (find the latest update on our accountability page here. Currently, we’re working to address the individual demands from the BIPOC Equity Action Plan and will convey details of our anti-racist practices as well as transparency of our process in the coming months. Our next report is due September 30th.

To our colleagues across the nation who are bringing racial justice to the forefront in the American theater, we applaud you. We believe in the power of story to transform lives and live art to create empathy and understanding. This collective reckoning will not only make us a better theatre company. It will also make us better people. From all of us at Marin Theatre Company, thank you for your service and for the opportunity to create deep radical inclusivity at every level of our organization. The work has begun.

With respect,
Marin Theatre Company Staff & Board

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Our Message of Action (06/23/20)

Dear Marin Theatre Company Community,

On May 31st we shared a statement condemning racist violence, demanding justice for the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, among countless others, and voicing our solidarity with Black artists and community members. But we know as a predominantly White institution, that this statement is not enough. We want to share with you how we are going to take action.

Over the past few weeks our staff and board have engaged in deep conversation about our power and privilege and our moral imperative for anti-racist action. On Saturday June 13, 2020 the Coalition of Black Women Professional Theatre Makers in the Bay Area released a statement which accurately states that we failed to engage in a public accountability process after the harm caused to members of our artistic community and the public by our production of Thomas Bradshaw’s Thomas and Sally in 2017. We apologize for our lack of communication and follow-through. We are still working to repair the faith and trust that we lost with our community as a result of that production and our responses to the concerns that were raised. The Coalition’s statement is evidence of the actions that we still need to take. 

In 2018, we made numerous pledges of action to the Coalition to dismantle systemic forms of racism in our organization, but we have not communicated the changes we made towards honoring these commitments. We have now posted a full report on our website with status updates (see below).

We want to clearly state that the MTC staff and board are committed to the following actions, accountability, and an ongoing process of identifying and dismantling systems of white supremacy and privilege that harm and oppress people of color, and reward whiteness or affinity to whiteness. We are committed to being an anti-racist organization. Moving forward, we will report on our actions publicly every 90 days. 

Marin Theatre Company pledges to do the following by the end of September 2020:

  • Engage facilitators for further mandatory Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training and Anti-Racist training for the entire MTC staff and board
  • Remove barriers to board membership and diversify our board through intentional recruitment of Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) community members
  • Diversify our staff by hiring BIPOC individuals, intentionally seeking out candidates that challenge our status quo for all positions
  • Develop an independent HR process for BIPOC staff and artists to address issues of discrimination and safety
  • Develop and implement a plan for protecting BIPOC artists, staff, and board members while present in our Mill Valley community, specifically regarding interaction with police
  • Provide an update to our community, like this one, every 90 days, on how our plan of action is evolving and adapting in the course of this ongoing work

We are asking our community members to join us in this work, and to hold us accountable. If you would like to continue the conversation with us, you can e-mail, message us on Facebook, or leave a comment on any of our social media channels.

Last week, BIPOC theatremakers from around the country released an open letter to White American theaters. We acknowledge that our institution has been part of the problem of perpetuating white fragility, silence and supremacy in the field. It is our responsibility to listen, engage, and take action.

Thank you for your support,
Marin Theatre Company Staff & Board

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Our Statement of Solidarity (05/31/20)

To the Marin Theatre Company Community -

Theater is an important tool that builds empathy and creates change in our world. That is what we strive for with every production we mount. But speaking through art alone is not enough - we cannot just be passive protesters.

Racist violence that is itself a pandemic in our country and in our world must end. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among the countless others who have been victimized by racist violence in our nation's history must not be forgotten or ignored. We must all demand justice. We must all continue to fight against white supremacy and racism in all its forms.

While we, as a nation and a world, have been forced to pause from what was our “normal” to create a safer world, we must ensure that “safer” includes safety for all Americans and all global citizens. We must move from passivity to action in seeking safety, justice, and respect for every person.

We stand with all of our black artists and black community members during this time, and always. #blacklivesmatter.

For more resources on how to be active in the fight, please see links below.

Anti Racism Resources
Resources for White Allies Against Racism

In solidarity,
Jasson Minadakis, Artistic Director  
Jenna Deja, Interim Managing Director  
Marin Theatre Company Staff & Board

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