THE DIVERSITY/INCLUSION/GENDER PARITY
2012 TASK FORCE REPORT
Conversations for Change
Click here for a copy of the report
In June 2012 the TCG Conference was held in Boston. There was a strong Boston/New England presence at the conference, and I was talking to people at the closing reception, getting feedback on what panels they had attended, and what inspired them moving forward. One person was telling me about one session she went to about diversity, and I mentioned that I had a few other conversations about that panel, and how great it sounded. She remarked that she sick of conversations. “We’re all good at talking. Where’s the action?”
This was one of the contributing factors, amongst many, for us initiating the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity (DIG) Task Force last fall. The goal of the three meetings was to identify DIG issues in all areas of theater (on stage, backstage, in the offices, in the board rooms, and in the audiences) create action steps for moving forward. I realized this was an enormous topic, and three conversations were not enough. But we needed to start somewhere.
These conversations were complicated, layered, and fractured. If anything, they got more difficult as the meetings progressed. But the appreciation that we were having the conversations, the wary support of trying to brainstorm action steps, and the desire by many to know what was next helped us push through. These conversations, together or in separate buckets, are very topical right now. Our challenge is to keep them topical, and identify or create the pathways to change for our sector. For change we must.
Boston is a majority minority city where minorities comprise 53% of the population. The country will be majority minority within thirty years. The theater sector does not reflect that changing America. And yet every person in that room, every member of StageSource, every member of the greater Boston and New England Theater community, every one of us is passionate about theater, and wants to see it continue to flourish. So where is the disconnect? How can we care so much about the field, but not worry about the lack of diversity, inclusion, and gender parity in it? Parse it however you like—as a business strategy, as the potential for cultural influence, as a community organizer—creating a sustaining model for theater, all theater, is important. But our efforts are falling short. Moving forward, we need to channel our passion for theater into creating a sector that reflects the whole of our society, not just a segment of it. There are challenges to creating this change:
Some members of our community do not see the need.
Some try their best, but fall back into the familiar when it is too “difficult”.
Some worry that their existing audiences or boards won’t support change.
Some do not feel included in the “traditional” theaters, but find support for their work and their theaters disappearing. Finances and funding are affecting different communities disproportionately.
There will always be theater. But how can we allow our work to become irrelevant, or marginalized, but continuing on paths that are shrinking our talents pools (on and off stage) and our audiences? The challenges of talking about, and affecting change around, diversity, inclusion, and gender parity, underscores its importance.
This report is just the beginning of a path to create changes in our sector. But it is a beginning.
Julie A. Hennrikus