Transformational change is needed throughout our country and our industry.
When the pandemic forced the closure of our theater March 2020, we continued our weekly Skylight Staff meetings talking about the future. The summer’s horrific racist events and national demand for justice amplified our commitment to make Skylight a more anti-racist organization by improving equity, diversity and inclusion in all areas.
Aided by We See You White American Theater, we began 12-weeks of detailed internal evaluation followed by 3 sessions of assessment with candid feedback by a cohort of 15 Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists. The living document below, “Action Items For Change,” endorsed by Skylight’s Board of Directors without alteration, is the beginning of our work to bring action to words and is published in order to be accountable and transparent. We invite you to monitor our progress as we move forward.
THEATRE IS SYSTEMICALLY RACIST AND EXCLUSIVE
Skylight Theatre Company acknowledges that the art of theatre as it has historically been practiced, along with its accepted operating systems, is racist and exclusionary. We at Skylight recognize that we have not done as much as we could have done to reduce and eliminate the racist and exclusionary practices that are endemic to the art of theatre generally and in the greater Los Angeles community we serve. Skylight takes full responsibility for its conduct: for words spoken and for times it did not speak; for actions taken or condoned, and for actions it did not take or reject; and for those times it did nothing or did not go far enough. For this, we are sorry.
We challenge ourselves to make Skylight a safe, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist environment for all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, staff, and audiences. It is inevitable that Skylight will misstep and, when it does, Skylight will make all necessary adjustments, and will continue striving to provide the safe, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist environment we all deserve. Skylight’s Staff and Board of Directors are energized to forge an exhilarating new chapter in its future that is open, welcoming and all-inclusive. By making our theatre safe and equitable for BIPOC individuals, Skylight will be safer and more equitable for all.
Skylight Theatre Company recognizes that our theater is geographically located on unceded Tongva land, which was taken from its rightful owners/stewards forcefully and violently, and it belongs to the Tongva people and always will belong to them.
This is a living document. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a beginning. Our work continues and we will address additional areas as we continue our review of exclusionary practices. Check back for updates as we move forward.
ACTION ITEMS FOR CHANGE
We want to ensure that each of our collaborators and our audience feels physically and emotionally safe in our space. In the event that harm occurs, we want to create a culture where people feel safe to speak without fear.
Hire a trained BIPOC consultant who will lead mandatory anti-racist training sessions for our staff. The goal is to provide staff members with tools to create a safe and equitable space for artists, technicians and audiences, both in our theater and in our digital collaborations. [Update: Training for Staff and Board completed April 17, 2021. Additional training planned.]
To ensure that Skylight Theatre Company is a safe, open environment where everyone has an opportunity to speak and be listened to, all productions and projects will have a Community Agreement that will be publicly posted. At the group’s first meeting, Skylight will provide a template to assist the group with creating their own Agreement.
Safe Point of Contact
Skylight Theatre Company will provide a clear communication path for reporting unsafe behavior and resolving conflict. A minimum of two staff members will be assigned these responsibilities, so as to provide options for who to reach out to in the event of an infraction.
Staffing – Hire Additional Paid BIPOC Staff
Begin an immediate search to expand Skylight’s staff. Our goal is to hire a minimum of two additional BIPOC staff members (by the end of 2021). Responsibilities could include: SkyLab Liaison, Literary Manager, Producer, etc. Compensation will be commensurate with other staff members and their responsibilities. All staff will continue to have the ability to nominate and shepherd plays into Skylight’s production seasons. [Update: Two new BIPOC staff have been hired since this document was initiated: Q4 2020 and Q1 2021.]
Front of House
Skylight Theatre Company will expand staffing to include BIPOC members by reaching out to educational institutions, social service groups, senior centers, and cultural centers in the surrounding community to identify interested applicants.
Disabled Artists and Audiences
Artists: Ensure that disabled artists are always part of the conversation, and included in casting and other artistic or staffing opportunities. They should feel welcomed and safe in our house working in any capacity - as a performer, backstage, front of house, etc.
Audiences: Disabled audience members should be comfortable in the theater. Continue to provide ASL interpreted performances for all productions. Review costs for improving hearing-impaired devices and the addition of close captioning. Review costs for renovation to improve physical access for our disabled artists and patrons.
Ensure that while we are focusing on marginalized populations and emerging artists, we recognize that artists emerge at all ages and we will continue to provide opportunities for all ages.
Indigenous Land Recognition
Acknowledge the land on which Skylight Theatre Company resides at all events and productions.
Expand Training and Access
BIPOC artists have not had regular access to information on the “business of being an artist.” With the help of our advisory BIPOC cohorts, the Skylight plans to identify tools or services needed by under-represented artists and provide meaningful, equitable access to all of our collaborators.
Amplify BIPOC Voices
Have a BIPOC guest editor for Skylight’s E-Newsletter, or launch a Skylight blog with regular BIPOC contributors.
Skylight Theatre Company is a proud member of the greater Los Angeles community and will endeavor to create expansive content and programming that represents and supports not just our artistic home in Los Feliz but all neighboring areas of Los Angeles county.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors’ primary responsibility is Skylight’s financial health, they do not participate in artistic or program decisions.
Expand the number of people on Skylight’s Board of Directors (currently 8) by adding a minimum of three BIPOC members by the end of 2021. After that, the ongoing target is one new BIPOC member for each of the following three years. We will continue to monitor representation on the Board so that the membership always reflects the people and artists we serve and the diversity, cultures, ethnicity and experiences of the greater Los Angeles Community, with all efforts being made to fill vacant board positions with BIPOC members. [Update: A new BIPOC member joined Q4 2020. There are now 9 members.]
Outreach Advisory Board
Create a diverse Community Council from outside of the theatrical community; majority of representatives to be local BIPOC leaders. The Council will advise Skylight on how best we can support their community. These interactions can help identify themes for play commission and/or development. Meeting schedule for the Council to be devised by the participants; membership is by nomination and invitation.
Acknowledging that we are not starting with a level-playing field, Skylight is committed to operating as a color-conscious (or color-intentional) theater company.
Skylight Theatre Company will inform all writers, directors and producers of its policy to maximize story opportunities for BIPOC and marginalized artists; including eliminating the need for actors playing family units to be the same race. Skylight’s color-conscious submission, casting, and artistic policies will be included on our webpage so that writers are aware that the policy is company-wide and applies to all stages of the creative process, including play development, readings, and productions.
Playwrights: Moving forward, BIPOC artists will write a minimum of 50% of the plays produced by Skylight Theatre Company. Playwrights will share mutual approval with Skylight in choosing the director, cast, and designers for their work.
To ensure that we are prioritizing the voices of historically under-represented playwrights, Skylight will no longer use an exclusively blind submission process. We welcome playwrights to provide any demographic information that they identify with. A decision not to provide this information will not have a negative impact on the selection process.
Skylight Theatre Company will ensure that the team of readers for pieces by BIPOC playwrights will include staff members who identify as BIPOC.
Casting/Auditions: In support of Skylight’s Color Conscious Casting policy, casting notices will include a statement about color intentional casting in addition to providing the rehearsal and performance schedule. At on site auditions, the same information will be posted along with Skylight’s Safe Space/Safe To Speak policy, and information about how we work with actor’s personal schedules. Skylight is committed to hiring an average of 60% BIPOC actors per season.
Creative Team: Skylight is committed to hiring creative teams that are 50% BIPOC.
Artistic Advisory Board
Re-imagine Skylight’s Artistic Advisory Board, expanding it to include individuals who have previously worked at the Skylight, as well as other active and interested community members. The makeup of the group will be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Artist and Play Development Programs
In addition to improving the equity and diversity of our existing development programs (including SkyLab, Play Reading Series, Fresh Brews, and Skylight Live), Skylight will be instituting the following new developmental programs.
Emerging Playwrights Circle
Establish an ongoing writer’s lab for playwrights under 30 that centers the voices of BIPOC and other underrepresented identities.
International Play Festival
Create an ongoing annual play festival for full-length plays that will center the voices of BIPOC and other underrepresented communities. The festival will have BIPOC leadership, and they will be very involved in the shaping of the program. We recognize that the diaspora for people of color is wide and plan to exercise sensitivity and care in the creation of this festival.
Identify and acquire funding to establish a sustainable annual program that will provide reasonable financial support to commission full-length plays from BIPOC playwrights and other underrepresented voices.
Skylight’s Underground Program
Commit to expanding our Underground mentorship program that was started as a bridge between the educational environment and the professional community. We will continue to make our space available to mentor young artists and small, emerging companies. In addition, we will create meaningful opportunities for arts administrators, producers, designers, and technical staff. In expanding the program, we intend to focus on amplifying the voices of emerging BIPOC and other underrepresented artists.
Skylight acknowledges that doing the work of anti-racism is not a solitary endeavor; it requires partnerships. We will continue to expand our community. We begin here.
Skylight will strive to foster relationships with critics who prioritize engaging in the work in an anti-racist manner. This will include making a concentrated effort to invite BIPOC critics and critics from independent and educational journalism sources to attend Skylight performances.
Alternative Theatres of LA (ATLA)
Skylight Theatre Company is a founding member of ATLA, an organization of 65 intimate theaters from the greater LA area. ATLA’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion subcommittee is currently in the process of assembling a list of BIPOC artists. Once published, this list will be accessible online and regularly updated, and Skylight Theatre Company will be one of its stewards. As ATLA will be putting forth other standards and practices for equitable inclusion in the coming year, Skylight intends to use these as a resource.
Skylight commits to the resources below to hold us accountable.
After completion of a job at Skylight, individuals will be asked to fill out an exit survey detailing their experience with our company, so that we may learn from their feedback and take action accordingly.
Skylight’s cohort of BIPOC collaborators, who helped develop these action items, will continue to advise on our anti-racist progress and process the information gleaned from our exit surveys. These cohorts meet bi-annually, and all participants are compensated monetarily for their emotional labor.
We understand that we cannot fully hold ourselves accountable, so we will be seeking out external assistance through BIPOC-led organizations.