Anti-Racism Vision & Action Plan

Introduction

We have not done enough quickly enough to address systemic racism in our company, in our region and in our country.

We thrive on rigor, authenticity, specificity and, above all, an eagerness to work collaboratively. We depend on these tenets in every aspect of our work but the way in which we do our work can slow us down. We can no longer let that serve as a justification; we must make progress now. As an organization, we have placed too great a burden on APT’s generous BIPOC community. We have used our rural location as a reason for not expanding our BIPOC company and staff more quickly, especially in leadership positions. We have allowed the myth surrounding ‘classical theater’ — that classical theater is primarily the domain of White practitioners and audience members — to be an obstacle in amplifying BIPOC voices. And, we have ignored, and therefore disrespected, Indigenous communities by failing to properly acknowledge that APT is located on the ancestral land of the Ho-Chunk people.

The time to do better is now.

APT acknowledges the demands made by We See You White American Theatre and the BIPOC Living Doc Equity Action Plan. We are grateful for the labor these documents represent. We are reviewing the demands in full, and in this living document will be transparent about our responses.

Our Vision Regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

American Players Theatre is committed to creating a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusion are guiding principles, where listening for understanding is paramount, and where mutual respect is nurtured. To accomplish this we commit to:

• Identifying and dismantling the obstacles, structures, and systems that have excluded artists, artisans, and audiences, and kept them from APT. 

• Collaborating with a diverse community of artists and staff in making theater. 

• Creating art that values, invites, listens to, and is transformed by a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

• Welcoming and building a diverse audience.

• Cultivating a community where learning is essential and ongoing.

• Honoring and examining our values while holding each other accountable. 

We are committed to creating a more equitable and diverse company and are prepared to make the significant budgetary investments needed.  We know this work is constantly evolving and will require persistence, focus, and the intentional engagement of resources. 

Action We Will Take

Now that we have laid out APT’s vision for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, here we outline the specific steps to fulfill that vision. Many of the actions below are taken directly from BIPOC Demands For White American Theatre and from our own strategic plan.

For our staff, board and company:

• We are committed to bringing a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC) into our senior leadership team by the end of 2021.

• We are committed to having our BIPOC Artistic Associate with casting authority present in each audition room.

• We are committed to discussing with each incoming director our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy when securing our agreements.

• We will expand the Core Acting Company to include more BIPOC actors, with a goal to achieve at least 50/50 parity within our Core Company of actors by 2028.

• We will expand the number of BIPOC Board members with a goal of reaching 20% of the total members by 2022.  

• We will accelerate and expand the current BIPOC paid apprenticeships and internships to reach throughout the entire organization by 2026.

• We are committed to creating an equitable work environment for BIPOC individuals, by providing additional resources including housing, transportation, haircare, and additional support staff.

• We will enhance our support and improve our listening to affinity groups of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ employees, and other affinity groups as they arise. These coalitions provide a conduit for APT to hear concerns that arise for those groups in our community and will look to allocate funds to address these concerns as they arise. 

• We will create an Anti-Racism Committee composed of APT Board members. This committee will guide the ongoing education among Board members and communicate with staff about EDI initiatives. 

• APT will create ambassadorships for our BIPOC Core Acting Company members to travel to historically black colleges and universities, as well as other educational institutions to share our work and recruit BIPOC artists and artisans for our company. Our goal is to have the program up and running by 2023.

• We are committed to improving our understanding of our own racial biases and the systemic racism in the organization by listening to our BIPOC employees. We will have in place yearly one-on-one interviews, feedback with deputies chosen by the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ affinity groups and an official plan of action to respond to instances of racist behavior.

• APT’s Artistic Director will meet with all incoming directors to review our Equity and Anti-racism plan prior to first rehearsal. Directors and designers will be made aware of expectations regarding APT’s approach to discussing sensitive and racially-charged topics in the rehearsal room. In addition, all designers, fight directors, choreographers, and voice & text coaches, and other guest artists will be expected to have completed anti-racism training prior to working with APT.

• APT will continue to improve our facilities and infrastructure to provide greater accessibility for staff of all physical abilities.

For our dramaturgy:

• We are committed to questioning our notion of what is a “classic” by examining classical texts through a BIPOC lens, and continue to expand our repertory canon by including more BIPOC playwrights, thereby challenging what has traditionally comprised APT’s programming.

• In Fall, 2020, produce a virtual reading series of plays by BIPOC playwrights.

• Beginning in Fall, 2020, we will commission our first new play in our “Redefining the Classics” series, featuring playwrights that are Black, Indigenous or People of Color, with a public reading slated for the 2022 Winter Words Series.

For our audience:

• Develop a land acknowledgement statement to the Ho- Chunk Nation that is communicated to our audience regularly and prominently, including placement on the APT property.

• In conjunction with APT’s Strategic Partnership committee, continue to forge meaningful relationships with BIPOC communities and introduce and welcome them at APT. We will identify a list of partner organizations by 2021.

• Introduce new ticket programs in 2021 that increase accessibility and availability for BIPOC audiences. 

• Use our unique experience as theater makers who work with rural schools to create anti-racism programming specifically designed for rural districts.

• Expand our work in the Wisconsin prison system understanding that due to institutional racism the prison population is disproportionately made up of BIPOC individuals. Our intention is to provide these populations with the same opportunity for transformation through the exploration of deeply poetic writing that we share with our audiences here at APT.

• Develop annual Shakespeare touring productions made up of a diverse cast of both Core Company and early-career artists to bring APT’s text-driven approach to Shakespeare to communities previously unable to experience our work.