• Aug 15, 2018

Marin Theatre Company’s Response—Our Commitment and Vision

Marin Theatre Company (MTC) has been criticized for our recent production of Thomas Bradshaw’s Thomas and Sally concerning its representation of African American women, our processes for working with members of the African American community, and our role in the broader theatre community. 

As an organization, we were unprepared to respond to this criticism and as a result we made mistakes responding to the initial protests and the growing controversy.

On behalf of the entire staff and board, we apologize for our mistakes. We had no intention of alienating the many artists of color who have voiced their concerns, including many who have long-standing affiliations with our organization and who we care deeply about, both as creators and as human beings.

We at MTC unequivocally denounce misrepresentation of people of color. The stand we take against racial injustice is an important goal of our work, which for more than ten years has sought to place the voices of people of color center stage. We are grateful for the many artists of color who have entrusted us with their plays, their artistic skills and other creative talents over this time. We intend to learn from our mistakes and vow to continue to grow as a company to more effectively honor and support artists of color and artists from other marginalized communities. 

We have heard and respect the concerns expressed by members of The Coalition of Bay Area Black Women Theater Artists (TCBABWTC). We share a great many goals with them, including creating more welcoming and safe spaces for people of color, offering more artistic opportunities for diverse voices, and fostering a better understanding of the rights of African American women and girls.

Our Continuing Vision
It is our intention to move forward together with all the communities we serve. We will continue to create compelling, emotionally powerful, challenging and uplifting works that reflect narratives of many diverse cultures and demographics – all the while fostering civil discourse. For more than ten years, these commitments have been at the core of MTC’s vision:

Marin Theatre Company creates intimate, powerful and emotional experiences that engage audiences to consider new ideas and adopt a broader worldview. We celebrate and promote the intellectual curiosity of our community, and believe that theater can be an important tool to help people build empathy and create change in our world.

MTC’s record of producing works by diverse writers evidences our commitment to this vision—a vision that aligns in many ways with the goals set forth by TCBABWTA. We are committed to producing new works by women and non-binary playwrights and have achieved gender parity over each of the past three seasons. We are also committed to playwright diversity with at least 50% of the productions in the 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons written by playwrights of color. Going forward, we are committed to bringing even more voices of color into the development and rehearsal process when producing stories by or about people of color. We remain committed to upholding our mission to take risks and foster community dialogue with every new story we tell.

Our Processes
We recognize we must improve our work model. We are stepping up our commitment to build greater diversity and empathy into our processes, standards and staff.  

We reaffirm our commitment to the inclusion of artists of color in our season selection process and will work to find more ways to actively include artists of color and seek ways to eliminate barriers for their greater participation.

We reaffirm our commitment to hiring directors of color for representative narratives, as well as non-representative narratives. If a person of color is not directing representative works, MTC is committed to employing appropriate cultural advisors to complement that role and to explore other methods of representation within the development and rehearsal processes.

We have a renewed commitment to implement an annual Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training program for staff and board. MTC recognizes the importance and value of this type of training and has included it in our current strategic plan. The MTC staff and leadership are committed to developing an aggressive schedule to provide this training in partnership with Theatre Communications Group and artEquity’s EDI team and other advisors. Our goals for this training include: 

  • Conduct focus group interviews with non-white, non-local (San Francisco and East Bay), and non-subscriber audience members about actual and perceived barriers to accessing MTC; create long-term strategies to break down barriers and misperceptions.

  • Develop pathways to attract and retain staff and board members of color.

  • Create comprehensive institutional policies and practices for receiving criticism and responding to it without escalating disagreement and conflict.

MTC senior staff have had one productive meeting with TCBABWTA and have mutually agreed to a second meeting to more fully explore the requests set forth in their open letter. 

Our Impact
We continue to believe in theater’s power – and mandate – to tell important and complex stories. We believe that all artists should be free to use their voices. Ultimately, we vehemently believe in artistic freedom and freedom of speech for all, for our collaborators, ourselves and for our critics especially in these difficult times.  

At MTC in particular, we believe that theater has the opportunity to inspire and the responsibility to challenge. We will strive to involve many diverse voices in the process of bringing important new works to our stages, and hope that our purpose and mission to build empathy and create change in the world rings through.

MTC Board and Staff