Chicago Shakespeare’s ongoing work to be a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization has been informed by a thoughtful, collaborative process at every level of the organization, led by the Theater’s Director of HR, Diversity, and Inclusion Ty Woodfolk.
We join the Theater industry in examining the embedded structural inequities in the field and in illuminating ways in which we can address them. We honor the work and intentions of industry initiatives led by BIPOC theater-makers, including We See You W.A.T. (White American Theater), Black Theatre United, and more.
We have engaged cross-departmental working groups to examine our practices and policies and to establish short- and long-term goals for the organization across each of the six IDEA strategic priorities. Metrics and structures of accountability are being agreed upon as we determine how best to update and report on our progress moving forward. In Fall 2020, we first outlined our working IDEA strategic priorities and shared those commitments with the public and our wider community. Read that communication ►
Chicago Shakespeare’s Board of Directors has elected Nazneen Razi and Binta Niambi Brown to chair the Board IDEA Committee and work in partnership with institutional leadership, ensuring that our commitment to this work remains central to our strategy and planning.
The artistic and producing teams have held meetings, inviting self-identified BIPOC art-makers who have worked with the Theater over the last five years to share their experiences with Chicago Shakespeare’s casting, rehearsal, and production processes. During these small-group ‘Listen In’ sessions, collaborators shared candid feedback and revealed hard truths that call for organization-wide cultural transformation. The learning from those sessions has been translated into our IDEA objectives, our artistic planning and process, and into our individual and collective consciousness.
The Theater has engaged consultants to supplement our existing professional development programming with focused anti-racism and anti-harassment training. Every member of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s staff has participated in the curriculum and contributed to company-wide and small-group conversations about these topics, which will continue on an ongoing basis.
Even as our process continues, we are implementing our learnings and objectives. Recent examples of our work in action include:
- Our Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program is evolving in its 10th year to more intentionally and authentically serve Chicagoans in their neighborhoods. Local artists, musicians, and dancers will take center stage alongside actors to create a multidisciplinary, multilingual, and wholly unique artistic event celebrating resiliency and connection. Inspired by the city’s Together We Heal and INVEST South/West initiatives, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks will launch the Theater’s new, year-round program that responds to and engages with the evolving needs of neighborhoods and community partners.
- In our Bard Core program (a year-long professional learning seminar for CPS teachers) and our annual Chicago Shakespeare SLAM with high schools from our region, we have reframed readings, materials, and discussions to foster open and meaningful conversations about race and diversity, and the dominant, pervasive force of white culture in our decisions—from curriculum to casting and performance choices.
- This past year, our virtual lifelong learning seminar series engaged participants in courses with anti-racist examinations of Shakespeare’s play in a contemporary context, including Revising “Othello” and “The Tempest” as Resistance.
- Chicago Shakespeare’s Artistic Department partnered with the League of Chicago Theaters to present a workshop on the subject of trans-inclusive casting, hosted by consultant and dramaturg Josephine Kearns.
- Members of the leadership team participated in the Ten Chimneys Foundation summit on racism in the Theater, which featured discussions with industry leaders on core issues holding the arts community back from a more just and equitable future.