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Racial Justice Commitments

 

An Open Letter Regarding Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Commitments to Racial Justice

Approved by Pittsburgh Public Theater Board of Trustees on December 14, 2020

To our artists, audiences, and greater community:

Pittsburgh Public Theater aims to serve as a true public theater by creating diverse theatrical experiences in a responsible way to engage and elevate our entire region. In response to the powerful call to action and generous insights offered by the Black, Indigenous, and artists of color from our regional and national communities, especially the artists who have organized to create We See You White American Theatre and Black Theatre United, Pittsburgh Public Theater is proud to announce the next steps in our organization’s ongoing commitment to racial justice. 

In June 2020, we released a statement declaring solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists, audiences, and neighbors. In it, we said: “You matter to us. Your stories matter. Your lives matter. Justice matters.” These beliefs have not waned. In that statement, we promised to take a hard look at our own internal practices to identify and initiate steps to achieve greater racial equity and just representation throughout our organization. Since that time, we have launched a Racial Justice Task Force composed of Board members, artists of color, and community leaders to steer us in a year-long process to create meaningful improvements across our operations. The Chairperson of this Task Force now sits on the Executive Committee of our Board.  We have begun honest and rigorous conversations with our staff and have collaborated with our Board’s Executive Leadership to ensure these commitments are sincere and appropriately funded. 

We recognize this work will be ongoing and that we cannot do it in a vacuum. We will stumble, and we will get things wrong. We are dedicated to listening and learning from the communities of color in our Pittsburgh region, and to opening more channels for transparency so that we may continue to improve. We extend our earnest gratitude to the individuals and organizations who have already helped us shape this process and offered us a clearer understanding of what our role must be in addressing systemic racism in American theater and in our own community.

The Public’s first phase of Racial Justice Commitments are listed below. These steps have been reviewed, revised, and endorsed by the theater’s Executive Committee, the Racial Justice Task Force, the full Board, and the staff. Progress towards these goals will be available for review and comment on the theater’s website, to help us stay accountable and transparent, and to invite public review of our effectiveness and impact as we work to serve the Pittsburgh region as a true public theater.

Sincerely, 

maryasmall

Marya Sea Kaminski
Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Public Theater

lousmall

Lou Castelli
Managing Director, Pittsburgh Public Theater

courtney

Courtney CT Horrigan
Board Chair, Pittsburgh Public Theater

Statement of Solidarity


On June 1, 2020, Pittsburgh Public Theater issued the following statement:

At Pittsburgh Public Theater, we believe in the power of art to transform and connect us, and in our fundamental responsibility to serve our city and region as a true public theater for all people.

We are in a moment of reckoning, when we are all being called to face the persistent racial injustice and violence perpetrated against Black communities in our city and across the country. We stand with our Black colleagues, artists, audiences, and neighbors. We deepen our commitment to creating an organization and a world where you feel safe, seen, and loved. You matter to us. Your stories matter. Your lives matter. Justice matters.

Out of respect during this time of national crisis and grief, we will be postponing our annual gala, which was to take place later this month. We will also be pausing our PlayTime programming and postponing our reading of Bekah Brunstetter’s THE CAKE. We know many of you were looking forward to these events, as were we, but this is not a time for celebration, it is a time for thoughtful action.

We deeply believe in the work we do and in the way art and artists bring us together to realize a better world. Current events demand that we take some time to reimagine how our role in Pittsburgh’s cultural life can evolve in the months ahead. We feel a deep commitment to remain true to our mission and to our devoted community of artists and audiences, so in the coming weeks, we will be taking a hard look at our own internal practices and what we can do better – to create a place of sincere welcome, to practice equity and justice throughout our organization, and to support our Black artists and audiences.

Thank you for taking this moment with us. We hope you will join The Public in the fight against racism and in lifting up Black voices so we might all listen and stand in solidarity. We look forward to being in your company again and sharing ideas for how we can best serve you and our city in the future.

Truly yours,
Marya Sea Kaminski, Artistic Director
Lou Castelli, Managing Director

Phase 1: First phase of our Racial Justice Commitments

To increase accountability and deepen our learning about inequitable practices and systems, the theater will:

  • Identify and prioritize opportunities, intersections, and connections with BIPOC artists and stakeholders to learn where we are succeeding, where we can do better, and to inform our next phase of racial justice policies and commitments on an ongoing basis.Progress as of 12/15/21: After consulting with BIPOC artists and leaders, we have revised our commitment in an effort to better serve and learn from the community; and individuals are encouraged to respond to our racial justice work through a variety of channels.  With input from our EDIA Consultant, a guide for processing and responding to feedback through a racial justice lens has been developed; key tenets of our individual and institutional response to feedback guide us to value impact over intention and recognize our responsibility to repair harm done.

Opportunities, intersections and connections during the first phase of our racial justice commitments:

  • Convened BIPOC artists and community leaders as members of the theater’s Racial Justice Task Force to shape and define the next phase of PPT’s EDIA commitments
  • Participated in Ten Chimneys Anti-Racism Summit with Black Theatre United, artists and art leaders from across the county for candid conversation about activating anti-racism practices field-wide through reform in our individual theater organizations
  • Co-organized a year-long, community-wide artEquity cohort lead by Carmen Morgan to hold conversations about identifying and addressing racism on individual, institutional, and systemic levels, including an internal organizational assessment
  • Engaged several Black and artists of color as Resident Artists from 2019-2022 to inform internal practices, create a more productive hiring pipeline, and hold regular conversations about how we are meeting or falling short of our commitment to create a more racially just and equitable environment
  • Collaborating with a Black artist on an ongoing basis to create structures and procedures that better support hair and makeup design for Black artists on our stage
  • Engaged directly with Indigenous artists and scholars to craft our institutional land acknowledgment statement and practice, and to create pathways to more authentically and regularly engage with Indigenous artists

Hire a DEIA consultant to collaborate with the theater’s leadership team on facilitation and training, and conduct semi-annual racial justice training for all staff and board members, and prioritize micro-aggression and bystander intervention training for ushers and front-of-house staff upon returning to in-person programming. 

Progress as of 12/15/21: Ron Idoko, Diversity and Multi-Cultural Program Manager for University of Pittsburgh’s Office for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion provided combined DEIA training for staff and Trustees.  The Theater is currently in the development phase of training for Box Office Personnel, Front of House Staff and Volunteer Ushers; and formalizing methods and practices of ongoing training for all Staff is underway.  Consultant Cecile Shellman has also been engaged to assist staff and the Racial Justice Committee as we move forward with this work. 

Assess our vendor partners to encourage purchasing from local, BIPOC-owned vendors and allies

Progress as of 12/15/21: A Vendor Partner Resource List has been developed, identifying local BIPOC businesses and ally vendors.  The Theater will leverage this list to build relationships with these businesses and individuals.

To accomplish greater equity in our staff and board policies, the theater will:

• Revise our guidelines and expectations for members of our Board of Trustees to reframe ‘contributions’ as more than just transactional and/or financial.

Progress as of 12/15/21: Trustee Expectations have been revised to prioritize ambassadorship and to recognize contributions that include cultural, social, and experiential assets Trustees bring to their governance role, in addition to financial contributions.

 Prioritize recruitment of BIPOC leaders and artists to serve as Trustees to share in the governance of the theater and shape future policies and priorities.

Progress as of 12/15/21: Pittsburgh Public Theater has increased BIPOC representation on our Board of Trustees from 5% to 11% during the 2020/2021 season and increasing this number is a continuing priority.

• Revise the theater’s hiring practices to remove barriers to attracting and retaining BIPOC candidates—this includes: adding our racial justice commitments and policies to every job posting, listing the salary range for every position, and eliminating any unnecessary educational attainment requirements for positions.

Progress as of 12/15/21: Job postings have been revised to include salary range for every position and all job descriptions now include fundamental expectations on applying EDIA best practices and a lens of racial equality in every individual’s work.  Hiring resources have been identified to help The Public reach a wide and diverse pool of candidates; this Recruiting Resource list is maintained on the Theater’s network.  Our EDIA Consultant continues to lend insight in this area.

• Begin building a pipeline within our organization to invest in historically under-represented arts talent, starting with a season-long fellowship for a developing leader to observe the theater’s operations across departments, paid at a living wage.

Progress as of 12/15/21: Our Inaugural Arts Leadership Fellow has completed their paid fellowship and has joined our full-time staff as Patron Experience Manager, reporting to the Director of Marketing.  An Arts Leadership Fellow Handbook has been developed to formalize the program, and Season 47 includes a new Arts Leadership Fellow and three paid intern positions.

To promote meaningful change and equitable representation in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s artistic initiatives and programming, the theater will:

 Create a consistent practice of honoring the tribal sovereignty of the Indigenous people and nations who stewarded and traveled through this region as early as 12,000 BC and still do today.

Progress as of 12/15/21: The Public has researched the indigenous peoples who stewarded the land specific to the Confluence of the three rivers and a declaration on land acknowledgement and tribal sovereignty has been completed with input and confirmation from the Native American Community.  The statement appears throughout the theater in both written and oral forms and at all Public Theater events.  The Theater is currently exploring potential opportunities with Native American playwrights and artists to expand the diversity of our staff, interactions, and work.

• Redesign our tech process to more fully value and promote a culture of holistic health for our artists and staff, including the elimination of 10-out-of-12 hour days.

Progress as of 12/15/21: With input from artists and staff, a new Performance Schedule and Production Calendar have been developed that balance the ability to mount quality productions without overtaxing personnel or demanding unreasonable work hours.  Orientation materials related to our new approach have been developed for staff and artists.  Directors, Designers, Artists, and Production Team have been surveyed after the first implementation of the new schedules; responses will be taken into consideration and revisions made to seasonal calendars and orientation materials.

 Catalyze the tactics in our strategic plan to prioritize more diverse perspectives in our artistic programming by expanding the theater’s artistic staff over the next five seasons, beginning with the establishment of a new Resident Director position this season.

Progress as of 12/15/21: The Public has created a Resident Director position; Justin Emeka now serves in that capacity and consults on artistic planning and organizational staffing, in addition to directing in the mainstage season at least every other year.

• Prioritize collaborations and partnerships with BIPOC-led organizations in order to share our staff and financial resources to elevate and amplify the voices of BIPOC artists and leaders in our community.

Progress as of 12/15/21: The Theater has identified the value of prioritizing deeper as opposed to wider; we believe identifying partners and evaluation of collective work will be born out of fostering healthy relationships with those working with us.Collaborations during 2020/2021:

  • Creative Workshop: “Making Shakespeare Black” with Justin Emeka

  • Public Town Hall: “Seeing Shakespeare through Brown Eyes”

  • Demeatria Bocella, as an artist-in-residence, exhibited her “Free to Be Me: A Portrait Series Celebrating Black Girls”

  • Empty Space Project’s film, “Empty Space Shakespeare” screened during our Shakespeare Monologue and Scene competition

Sharing our Resources:

  • Empty Space Project’s work and our partnership with them were featured on our social channels in February and in May 2021

  • All proceeds from our Bard in Bloom event on May 22 went to Empty Space Project

Currently in Season 47:

  • The August Wilson Monologue Competition will take place on the stage of the O’Reilly in spring 2022, and the Bill Nunn Theatre Project staff will be supported by the Public’s Education department to streamline and increase registration in the competition

  • A commission to support the development of a new play titled “The Coffin Maker” by Playwright, Mark Clayton Southers, including an invited reading in spring 2022

  • Developmental support for a new musical by Annalisa Dias and Ronee Penoi titled “The Carlisle Project”

  • Season-long conversations with Black leaders and artists to strategize ways to use our Spring 2022 production of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” as a platform to serve and amplify Pittsburgh’s Black communities, beginning in July 2021

 

Phase 2: Second phase of our Racial Justice Commitments

As part of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s ongoing commitment to eradicate racism and increase equitable and inclusive practices in our organization, our community, and our field, we share this second phase of commitments as developed by our Racial Justice Task Force and approved by our Board in September 2021.

By December 2021:

  • The Public shall make the Racial Justice Task Force a standing committee of the Board of Trustees, with full representation on the Executive Committee. 
  • The Public shall create and maintain a robust inventory of recommended multi-media resources (books, articles, plays, films, video clips, podcasts, etc.) relevant to EDIA advancement that can be accessed by all staff and Board of Trustees. The resource list should exist on a private page of the Public's web site and should be reviewed by staff and updated at least annually. 

By January 2022:

  • The Public shall create specific customer-focused EDIA training for volunteer ushers and front of house staff who engage with the public at the theater’s performances.
  • The Public shall create a staff position to lead organization-wide implementation of, and accountability to, The Public’s Racial Justice goals, and to oversee the successful implementation of these recommendations and all subsequent actions or strategies.

By March 2022:

  • The Public shall establish an ongoing EDIA training schedule, including surveys after each training session, to keep EDIA education a continuing priority for the company. Ongoing training sessions shall be scheduled and updated, at least annually, and introductory training will be required for all new staff and Board of Trustee members.
  • In order to cultivate listening opportunities with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, the Public shall extend its Racial Justice Commitments to include seasonal artists as stakeholders by creating an “Artist Ambassador” program which gives performers, designers, directors, and playwrights opportunities to intersect with Public Theater audiences and communities throughout the season (through workshops, masterclasses, and special events) and compensates artists fairly for their time and energy.

By September 2022:

  • In collaboration with an EDIA consultant and Black, Indigenous, and stakeholders of color, the Public shall articulate a shared set of values and code of conduct to guide decision-making around and through community collaborations, events, and programs that expands the Public’s legacy of artistic excellence by including modes of creative practice and performance that elevate BIPOC artists, communities, and histories.
  • The Public shall create an EDIA Advisory Council composed of community leaders to advise the Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership. 
  • The Public shall create a dedicated staff Engagement position to steward and multiply sustainable relationships with BIPOC and other priority communities through year-round, full-time cultivation, accountability, and programs. 
  • The Public shall prioritize sharing its resources by highlighting excellence in the community and partnering with Black, Indigenous, and organizations or color to host their non-theater events in the O’Reilly’s spaces to authentically welcome new communities into the building. 

By spring 2023:

  • The Public shall hire a consultant who will conduct an Equity Assessment/Audit and assist the Public in developing an overall DEIA/Anti-racism plan, and all related policies and procedures.

 

 

Submit a Suggestion and/or Report a Concern

If you have questions or suggestions regarding Pittsburgh Public Theater's Racial Justice Commitments and/or if you want to bring a concern to our attention click HERE.

Indigenous Resources

Through awareness and action, we can write a new history that honors First Peoples’ spiritual connection to the land and combats Indigenous erasure, systemic racism and continued marginalization.  We invite you to join us in action. A list of resources can be found by clicking HERE.