Theater’s day of reckoning: San Diego stage companies answer the call for equity, diversity and inclusion

Black history month celebration of diversity and African culture pride as a multi cultural celebration.
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Responding to demands to level the playing field for Black artists and other underrepresented groups, local theaters are implementing new anti-racist policies, hiring rules and plans for more diverse programming

In William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” the young Danish prince instructs a troupe of actors that the purpose of their work is: “to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature” to honestly reflect the world around them.

Four centuries later, American theaters are now being asked to take a closer look in that mirror. For far too long, many say, U.S. theaters’ leadership, performers, the plays they produce and the audiences they serve have remained predominantly White, even though 40 percent of the U.S. population is not.

On July 8, 2020, a coalition of hundreds of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) artists who grew tired of waiting published a sweeping 29-page list of demands for transformational change called We See You White American Theater, which can be read online at weseeyouwat.com. The document listed hundreds of demands for new policies, programs, practices and investments to level the playing field, including devoting 50 percent of jobs onstage and behind the scenes to people from BIPOC communities.

We See You W.A.T., as it is more commonly known, arrived when theaters across America were closed. Although the pandemic has devastated the industry, several local theater leaders say the shutdown gave them the time they needed to tackle this problem in a meaningful way. Since July, more than 100 of the nation’s largest theaters — including San Diego’s the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Repertory Theatre — have responded to We See You W.A.T. with new anti-racist policies and plans.

Freedome Bradley-Ballentine - The Old Globe
Freedome Bradley-Ballentine is the associate artistic director and director of arts engagement at The Old Globe.
(Courtesy of Rich Soublett II)

For Freedome Bradley-Ballentine, associate artistic director and director of arts engagement for the Old Globe, the historic importance of We See You W.A.T. can’t be underestimated.

“It’s the Magna Carta of the theater world,” said Bradley-Ballentine, a Black theater artist who joined the Globe’s leadership staff in 2015. “Some people, when they first read it, were taken aback by the tone of the demands. But there have been people asking for space since the Black Arts Movement, and after 50 years of gently asking, these people said ‘MOVE!’ People always say, ‘I don’t know what BIPOC people want,’ well this is a document that lays it all out.”

Why is this happening now?

The killing of George Floyd on May 25 was the flashpoint for the Black Lives Matter movement and, subsequently, We See You W.A.T. Jacole Kitchen, who is artistic programs manager and local casting director at La Jolla Playhouse and also executive director of San Diego Performing Arts League, said the theater industry has long been seen as progressive in its programming, but there are clear blind spots in how theater companies operate.

Jacole Kitchen, artistic programs manager at La Jolla Playhouse
Jacole Kitchen, artistic programs manager at La Jolla Playhouse
(Courtesy photo)

“One of the reasons it took so long is we don’t always realize there’s a problem until somebody tells us there’s a problem,” said Kitchen, who is Black. A lot of time we’re able to say I understand, but I’m not a part of the problem. A lot of these institutions weren’t recognizing, previous to this, how great an issue it was.”

The clearest example of this in San Diego was the fumbled launch last May of a coalition of 28 local theater companies who united under the “One Theatre. One Story.” marketing banner to raise awareness about their plight in the early months of the pandemic. But the launch of “One Theatre” caused an uproar because none of the theaters in the group had BIPOC leadership, an unintentional slight that Kitchen called “the giant white elephant in the pandemic room.”

We asked San Diego theater leaders and local Black theater artists the opportunity to talk and write about their views on the topic of social justice in the industry

To remedy the situation, One Theatre was replaced in September with a new and more diverse, 45-member organization called the Theatre Alliance, which is operating in partnership with the San Diego Performing Arts League. The Alliance is overseen by nine ambassadors, of which four are BIPOC artists, including Kandace Crystal, an actor and director who is also artistic director of American History Theater and associate artistic director of Trinity Theatre Company.

Crystal, who is Black, oversees the Alliance’s periodic virtual member roundtable discussions that she said have been highly productive but have also occasionally grown heated.

Kandace Crystal - Trinity Theatre Company, American History Theater.
Kandace Crystal is associate artistic director of Trinity Theatre Company and artistic director of American History Theater.
(Jay Wiggs)

“People have to be willing to do the work and have those missteps when they screwed up royally, where they can not just apologize but make it right,” Crystal said. “We have people who don’t agree with points, but it’s all about the communication. Marriages fail when there’s no communication, and theater is a bit of a marriage. There’s a lot of pushing through the muck, and the people in the Alliance are willing to do that.”

Besides seeing more people of color onscreen in locally produced virtual production this past year, San Diego audiences have likely heard a new addition to most pre-show speeches driven by We See You W.A.T. — an acknowledgment to the Kumeyaay people, who occupied this region long before Spanish, Mexican and American people arrived.

Dea Hurston, a playwright and longtime local theater philanthropist, said that the last year of pandemic-related closure has been a terrible one for San Diego theaters and the new reckoning process has been messy. But she’s optimistic about the future.

“People are unsure if theater will return and what that will look like when they do,” said Hurston, who is Black. “I think theater will survive, and it has a responsibility to return, but not as it was. This past year has provided an opportunity for the reopening of theater that will look like it should — which is a supportive, creative, inclusive community that tells stories.”

Dea Hurston is a San Diego playwright and philanthropist.
(U-T File)

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This “Theater’s Day of Reckoning” special project offered San Diego theater leaders and local Black theater artists the opportunity to talk and write about their views on the topic of social justice in the industry. We put out a call to all 45 members of the Theatre Alliance in San Diego for their anti-racism plans. Twenty-one companies responded. What follows are encapsulations of the equity, diversity and inclusion plans and anti-racist statements that we received. Wherever possible we are including a web link where readers can go online to read the complete documents.

Old Globe

In October, San Diego’s oldest and largest theater published its five-page Social Justice Roadmap, an extensive five-year plan supported by a $2 million fund to bring it to fruition.

The plan has four phases, the first of which is now under way. Phase one includes new hiring initiatives that led to the recent promotions of Freedome Bradley-Ballentine and MFA program director Jesse J. Perez to senior positions; employee workplace culture training; and expanded representation of BIPOC members on the board of directors. Phase two, launching when the Globe reopens, will include an expanded number of plays written and directed by BIPOC artists in productions with creative staffs that are 50 percent BIPOC; a new BIPOC resident artist program; expanded and inclusive community arts engagement efforts; inclusion-minded paid internships and five-day work weeks; and new volunteer opportunities for BIPOC communities.

Phase three begins in 2022 with additional BIPOC hiring and programming; the creation of two paid fellowships for BIPOC artists; and the hiring of an audience development manager to raise awareness in BIPOC communities. Phase four spans from 2023 to 2025 and will include new programming at its Tech Center in southeastern San Diego; a residency or co-productions with a BIPOC theater company; expanded recruitment of BIPOC job candidates; the creation of a director of equity position at the senior level; and a new position for an multimedia reporter who will represent the Globe to diverse constituencies. The full plan can be found online at theoldglobe.org/the-old-globe-social-justice-roadmap/.

Barry Edelstein, artistic director of The Old Globe
(Courtesy)

Artistic director Barry Edelstein said only about 20 percent of the Roadmap work will be visible to the public, meaning its work onstage and in community engagement programs. By necessity, Edelstein said, the changes must go much deeper in order to “interrupt and dismantle” the long-established systems that created the same outcomes.

“For White people who are being asked to listen in a new way, sometimes the language can be uncomfortable,” Edelstein said. “No person of conscience would think of themselves as a White supremacist, but what we’re talking about are systems of White supremacy. When I read We See You W.A.T, the most powerful impression I have is the legacy of pain and hurt. So when someone comes to you and says, ‘I’m in pain,’ the right human response is to say, ‘I hear you, I see that and let me make space for that and respect for that.’”

Edelstein said when he arrived at the Globe eight years ago, he could count on one hand the number of women hired to direct Shakespeare plays in the company’s now 86-year history. Since then, half of the Globe’s Shakespeare directors have been women. Hiring of BIPOC directors, writers and performers has also increased dramatically, and with positive results. Edelstein’s 2017 staging of “Hamlet” — being reprised next month in an audio production on KPBS Radio — had a cast that was more than 60 percent Black. It was the most successful Shakespeare production in Globe history.

The Globe was able to turn out this ambitious plan rather quickly because Edelstein said the company has been working on its blueprint for the past six years. In 2015, Edelstein hired Bradley-Ballentine to expand outreach to diverse communities. In 2017, the Globe crafted a statement of values focused on inclusivity; in 2019, the Globe’s board approved a strategic plan for equity, diversity and inclusion; and in February 2020, the Globe opened a conversation with the newly created San Diego Black Artists Collective, of which Bradley-Ballentine is a founding member. Bradley-Ballentine said he’s extremely proud of the Social Justice Roadmap because much of it was born out of dialogue with members of the BIPOC community.

“The work we’ve done the past few years — before the murder of George Floyd — helped us so that when that awful tragedy happened we were able to pivot relatively quickly, because we already had a model on how we wanted to work with communities,” Bradley-Ballentine said.

La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley
(Courtesy photo by Becca Batista)

La Jolla Playhouse

On June 3, La Jolla Playhouse unveiled its two-page Anti-Racism Action Plan, which covers changes planned in 2021 and 2022. It includes issues relating to programming choices, artistic hiring practices, pay equity, staff training and more.

The plan calls for three of the plays in the Playhouse’s six-show 2021-22 subscription season to be written by BIPOC writers, including one person new to the Playhouse; and at least one new BIPOC director and one new BIPOC designer in the season; half of all new commissions will go to BIPOC writers; artist residencies will prioritize BIPOC artists; the creation in 2022 of two-year fellowships for a BIPOC director and BIPOC stage manager; paid and inclusive internship opportunities; and more. The Playhouse also recently expanded its board by five seats to be more diverse. The complete plan can be found at lajollaplayhouse.org/ljp-antiracism-statement/.

Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said that the action plan was created through a monthlong series of staff meetings where BIPOC employees talked candidly about their experiences — good and bad — working at the Playhouse.

“Every sentence we put in front of people, they really beat it up. Everyone had powerful, urgent opinions,” Ashley said on a recent episode of San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “We Are Listening” interview series. “There’s some things we’re proud of but there’s a lot of work to do.”

One of those employees was Playhouse artistic programs manager Jacole Kitchen, who said the conversations were challenging and slow-moving, but they were necessary to ensure the resulting plan was more than just meaningless “box-checking.” Besides creating new opportunities for BIPOC artists, the new plan also includes outreach to artists with disabilities and in the LGBTQ community.

“This is not fast work, and that’s why it’s been a problem up until now,” Kitchen said. “In the past, it’s been something we could Band-Aid and fix. But that’s not authentic. Change isn’t going to happen fast.”

Ashley said there will be challenges ahead. American theater audiences are more comfortable attending theater where everyone looks like them, and theater subscribers are less diverse. But theater audiences are more socially progressive than the general public.

“I don’t know how you convince big parts of America to open their hearts and minds, but theater is a self-selecting group,” Ashley said. “You want to engage with something when you walk in the door. Theater audiences can change their minds. That makes me hopeful. People who want to see theaters are capable of change.”

Sam Woodhouse, artistic director of San Diego Repertory Theatre.
(San Diego Repertory Theatre)

San Diego Repertory Theatre

San Diego Rep issued its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan on Nov. 9. The five-part plan builds on the Rep’s long-established history as one of the most inclusive theaters in San Diego County. Since 1988, the Rep has produced 55 mainstage plays by Latinx playwrights, the most by any English-language theater in the country. The Rep also has a long history of producing plays with 50 percent BIPOC artists. In 2005, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle honored the Rep with a special award for its dedication to diverse programming.

The new action plan will be rolled out over three to five years. It includes committing to half of all season and festival plays by playwrights who are BIPOC and female-identifying; the expansion of roles for BIPOC, LGBTQ, women and artists with disabilities; the creation of a BIPOC play festival, a Black Lives Matter play-reading series, an annual Juneteenth play event, and a Jewish play-development program; staff anti-racism training; the creation of new artistic and general manager positions for leaders from the BIPOC, LGBTQ and female communities; staff equity training; and expanded conversations and partnerships with diverse communities. The full text can be found at sdrep.org/equitydiversityandinclusionstrategicactionplan.php.

Rep co-founder and artistic director Sam Woodhouse said many of the items on the action plan have already been implemented. Last summer, he and Rep artistic associate Ahmed K. Dents launched the Zoom/podcast series “We are Listening,” featuring illuminating and often-frank discussions between Dents and local and regional Black theater artists. The series has touched on so many important issues, the La Jolla Playhouse and Old Globe signed on last fall as presenting partners.

The Rep was a co-presenter of last fall’s The Breath Project festival of 8-minute, 46-second filmed plays inspired by George Floyd’s death; it recently launched its inaugural Black Voices play-reading series, now under way through April 5; and it will stream the Motown musical “Higher and Higher” beginning Monday. Also coming soon are the rap musical “Hype Man,” and new commissions by American Indian, Filipino and transgender playwrights. The Rep is also supporting the development of new plays by Black playwrights Nambi E Kelley and Giovanny Camarena.

Woodhouse is in his 45th year of leadership at the Rep. As a result, some of the company’s strategic plans include preparation for finding his successor when he retires. One of the most controversial demands in the We See You W.A.T. document was for term limits for theater leaders, demanding they resign if they’ve been an executive leader at the same institution for 20 or more years.

Woodhouse said he knows people are looking at him when it comes to that clause in the list of demands. He said he is planning to step down in the not-too-distant future.

“I used to say the most direct way to address these issues is for me to quit,” Woodhouse said in a recent “We Are Listening” episode. “Hopefully when I move on, which will be sooner rather than later, the person who comes into my chair will be a person of color. I am personally committed to that. I hear that call and it makes sense to me. There’s a whole raft of high-level new artistic directors of color making an impact in the field.”

Matt Morrow, executive artistic director of Diversionary Theatre.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Diversionary Theatre

As the nation’s third-oldest LGBTQ theater, Diversionary has a long been a safe space for the queer community and its allies. But in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the company developed a 30-point Anti-Racist Action Plan.

One of the key points in the plan was establishing an artistic fellowship program that will serve to elevate and train a future LGBT-BIPOC artistic producer in a senior position. That fellowship position was filled last September by Andréa Agosto, who is Black. The company has also committed to have at least two LGBTQ BIPOC playwrights represented in a four- to five-show mainstage season; launching a commissioning program for LGBTQ BIPOC playwrights by the end of the 2022 season; and the reaffirmed commitment to have BIPOC and LGBTQ BIPOC artists involved in every show and in arts education programs. There will also be anti-racism training for staff, artists and ushers; efforts to hold space for anti-racism dialogue; and distribution and market anti-racism resources. The full plan can be found at diversionary.org/anti-racist-action-plan/.

In its anti-racist statement, the company, led by executive artistic director Matt Morrow and managing director Jenny Case, said: “Diversionary is a radically anti-racist space that is safe for all of our artists, arts administrators, theater practitioners, and patrons. We recognize that systemic racism has prevented BIPOC people in America from enjoying an equitable, healthy, prosperous life.”

Sean Murray, artistic director of Cygnet Theatre.
(Courtesy of Karli Cadel)

Cygnet Theatre

Cygnet Theatre artistic director Sean Murray said he hasn’t issued a formal action plan yet because he’s not sure how big a staff or budget the company will be working with when it’s finally able to resume production later this year.

“One thing we felt is that we don’t want to make promises unless we can back them up,” he said. “We’re not in the position to hire anyone and do plays by anybody until we can get back in there and know what we’re doing.”

Some of the work the company has done behind the scenes over the past year is to add five new BIPOC members to its board of directors, including two actors, who Murray said have added a fresh new perspective. The staff is now undergoing anti-racism training, and it is choosing more diverse plays for its online theater classes. The theater’s community engagement committee also has a new focus on improving accessibility to the theater for underrepresented populations.

Last fall, Cygnet commissioned three new plays by an Asian-American and two Black playwrights for its Finish Line: A Bill and Judy Garrett Commission. Murray said the company has always hired diverse casts and crews, but there are discussions under way on how to expand that in the future.

Catherine Hannah Schrock, co-founder of Blindspot Collective.
(Jarrod Valliere | San Diego Union-Tribune)

Blindspot Collective

Blindspot Collective was founded in 2016 with the mission to produce “radically inclusive” programming. Community development director Catherine Hanna Schrock said the impact of We See You W.A.T. was to “affirm the trajectory” the company was already on and invigorate its practices on and offstage.

“Our vision is to create transformative theater that amplifies marginalized voices, illuminates untold stories, bridges disparate experiences and energizes vulnerable communities,” said Schrock, who is Egyptian-American. Her Blindspot co-founder, artistic development director Blake McCarty, is a queer White male.

Blindspot’s nine-point Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan includes its ongoing in-depth work with communities and multicultural groups to uncover stories that have so far yielded plays on the San Diego refugee experience, racial injustice, living with disabilities, American Indian history and stories about Filipino World War II veterans, LGBTQ life and today’s youth. Its current project is “Safa’s Story,” an anti-racism play for grade-schoolers that has been made available on film for at-home learning. All of the shows the company has produced have majority non-White casts, Schrock said.

San Diego Musical Theatre

San Diego Musical Theatre president and co-founder Erin Lewis said the company’s staff is highly diverse, with employees who are transgender, gay, Black, Asian, women and a U.K. immigrant.

Work on an official plan is under way. But in the meantime, Lewis said Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work has included conversations with regional groups to develop a list of BIPOC artists for work assignments, and SDMT productions always feature audition notices aimed to attract BIPOC artists. The company participated in Media Inclusion Group’s “Raise Your Voice” competition for BIPOC playwrights, and it plans to present a reading of a “Raise Your Voices” script later this year. The company is also planning to expand its board of directors to include more BIPOC members, she said.

Jennifer Eve Thorn, executive artistic director of Moxie Theatre.
(Courtesy photo)

Moxie Theatre

Moxie Theatre, whose mission is to create more diverse and honest images of women, has published a two-part anti-racist plan with a twist.

Moxie’s plan commits to many of the demands from We See You W.A.T. for 50 percent representation of BIPOC artists, but with the inclusion of “women+" artists, which includes trans- and cisgender women and non-binary people, as well as women+ with disabilities. By 2022, a primarily BIPOC committee will join the board of directors to assist with play selection; and beginning in 2022, Moxie’s website will display the comparative dollars earned by White vs. BIPOC artists. Moxie also has plans for ensuring anti-racist marketing and critiquing by the media. The full plan can be found online at moxietheatre.com/anti-racist.

“This is an opportunity to do what we do best and to do it even better than before,” Jennifer Eve Thorn, Moxie’s executive artistic director, said in an email. “Moxie’s mission from day one has been to create more diverse and honest images of women+ for our culture. To become fully anti-racist is to become the truest version of Moxie, fully in line with our mission in the deepest way possible. We’re excited to do this work.”

Vanguard Theatre

Vantage Theatre executive director Dori Salois said her 37-year-old theater company was launched with a focus on diverse programming and casting.

Salois said she cast the title role in “Cadenza: Mozart’s Last Year” with a Black actor, staged “Man of La Mancha” as a protest against the anti-immigrant initiative Prop. 187, recently produced a reading of “The Spin Doctor” about the rising White supremacist movement and had long-running school shows about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. She said Vantage was the first local theater company to produce shows at the WorldBeat Cultural Center and Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park.

“Diversity and inclusion are essential for the arts to thrive,” she said. “Without it, we are merely creating in a cultural vacuum, living in an arid desert that denies reality and provides no sustenance for the soul.”

Artistic Director David Ellenstein has been with North Coast Rep since 2003.
(Aaron Rumley)

North Coast Repertory Theatre

North Coast Rep has posted a four-point Diversity & Inclusion statement on its website that represents the views of its board of directors, artistic director David Ellenstein, staff, artists, educators and volunteers.

It says the company is committed to respecting the range of human difference across categories of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, age, socio-economic status, education level, language, physical appearance, physical/mental ability, beliefs, perspectives, and values. It also commits to creating welcoming and accessible spaces for all people, providing opportunities for participation to all and identifying and eliminating barriers that exclude. The full statement can be found online at northcoastrep.org/diversity-inclusion/.

Kristianne Kurner, executive artistic director of New Village Arts
Kristianne Kurner, executive artistic director of New Village Arts, explains the postponement of the theater’s entire 2020-21 season in a video address broadcast on Facebook earlier this month.
(Courtesy photo)

New Village Arts Theatre

Kristianne Kurner, executive artistic director of Carlsbad’s New Village Arts, said the company’s equity, diversity and inclusion plans will be published on the company’s website in early April. The staff has been developing the plan during weekly Zoom meetings, with inspiration from the We See You W.A.T. document.

Here is some of the work now under way at NVA: anti-racism training; development of two world-premiere plays with 12 BIPOC artists; free monthly film screenings featuring BIPOC artists; and the creation of Teatro Pueblo Nuevo Scholarship Fund. Coming soon: creative team and acting roles will be offered to at least 50 percent BIPOC artists and the hiring of more BIPOC designers and staff.

Lamb’s Players Theatre

Lamb’s Players producing artistic director Robert Smyth said that rather than publish a statement on demand, the company plans to show its commitment to diversity through its actions.

This includes an increased commitment in future seasons to programming works that celebrate diversity. In its coming season, the company plans to produce the work of a local Black playwright that’s a musical biography on jazz singer Ethel Waters.

“We’re grateful to be part of a community that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion and look for more ways to do that,” Smyth said. “We believe Black Lives Matter is important. White people in this nation need to recognize that it’s our last big hurdle to bring forward people who not only used to be in slavery but people who were made into a lower caste in a culture that has locked them into place.”

The Roustabouts Theatre Co.

The Roustabouts published a statement on its website rejecting bigotry and committing to further diversity “on our stage, backstage, in crew opportunities and other areas of operation, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, religion, or social status.” The full statement can be found at theroustabouts.org/edi-statement.

The company is now working on a co-production with American History Theater and TYPA (Teenage Youth Performing Arts Theatre Company) of Katori Hall’s play “The Mountaintop.” The play, about Martin Luther King Jr. on the day before his assassination in 1968, will stream April 24 through May 16.

Francis Gercke, artistic director of Backyard Renaissance Theatre Co.
Francis Gercke, artistic director of Backyard Renaissance Theatre Co.
(Courtesy photo)

Backyard Renaissance Theatre

Founded in 2015, Backyard Renaissance has yet to publish its anti-racist plan, but its artistic director Francis Gercke has listed some of the company’s efforts at inclusion.

Two of the company’s three founders are either BIPOC or LGBTQ. The company has produced original plays and world premieres written by female, queer and BIPOC playwrights. The company uses diverse casting procedures and seeks out women, queer and BIPOC playwrights.

Coronado Playhouse

Coronado Playhouse has launched a new website to mark its 75th anniversary, with a landing page outlining its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plans at coronadoplayhouse.org/our-mission/.

Anthony Zelig, production manager for Coronado Playhouse, said the company has expanded the diversity of its board over the past two years with four members who are BIPOC and/or women. The company is also diversifying its programming. On Friday, it opened a production of Djanet Sears’ “Harlem Duet,” directed by Kandace Crystal of Trinity Theatre and American History Theater.

“We firmly recognize the need for change in our community, and we are looking forward to continuing to develop a broader family of artists and patrons at the Playhouse,” Zelig said.

Patio Playhouse

Patio Playhouse, an Escondido community theater run by artistic manager Matt FitzGerald, adopted a diversity statement and a 21-page policy on diversity, inclusion, harassment and consent last spring.

The statement says Patio Playhouse: “asserts its dedication to diversity and inclusion of all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability or social status. Patio Playhouse is intent on advancing equality and diversity be it on stage, backstage, designing, production, operations or any other activity or sphere of influence. Patio Playhouse believes that everyone deserves equal opportunity, to be treated with respect and dignity, to receive encouragement to reach their full potential and to be free from discrimination.”

The new policies include the consideration of hiring diverse casts and creative teams and allowing discussions with show participants regarding staging culturally based violence, use of accents or dialects, use of black face or brown face makeup and more. The full document can be found at patioplayhouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/PPCT-Policies-and-Procedures-DIC-41920.pdf.

Write Out Loud

Write Out Loud co-founders Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter, who specialize in oral presentations of plays, poems, books and stories, have issued the following anti-racist statement.

“Write Out Loud has a history of providing free programming that is accessible to people of all ages and genders and across all ethnicities and socio-economic situations. The organization, staff and board, will redouble its commitment to finding ways to dismantle systemic racism and inequalities in our society while providing a place for diverse voices to be heard. Evaluating equity policies and procedures companywide will include listening carefully to our BIPOC cohorts and audiences and will consist of ongoing examination and dialogue to discover methods that will assure accessibility and equity in every area of the organization, and for those we serve.”

Kimberly King, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Teenage Youth Performing Arts Theatre Company, or TYPA.
Kimberly King, co-founder and executive director of the Teenage Youth Performing Arts Theatre Company or TYPA.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

TYPA

TYPA, an acronym for Teenage Youth Performing Arts company, has an anti-racist statement on its website that says the company, co-founded by Black theater artists Kimberly King and Imahni King-Murillo, was started out of a love for San Diego’s youth, and the “continuous, unchecked violence upon our Black youth is an active destruction of their futures and an affront to all youth.”

“TYPA stands against racism, against police brutality, against anti-Blackness, and against all systems that stand to keep systemic oppression alive. We mourn the lives lost; we say their names as they join the ancestors because their lives were taken prematurely by the persistent weaponization of racism. ... We stand with the Black theatre community and all anti-racist organizations that are working to combat anti-blackness and racism. We are resolute against hate. It must be undone. TYPA will advocate, disseminate and provide a platform for Black theater artists to be seen, heard and celebrated,” the statement reads.

For the full statement, visit typatheatrecompany.org.

Wildly Successful Theatre Co.

This fledgling company, which in the past has been dedicated to helping train rising theater artists, has yet to produce its first full season of plays. As a result, artistic director Siri Elena said she has spent the past year developing a plan of action in the wake of We See You W.A.T.

As she plans her first season, Elena said she’s been reading more scripts by LGBTQ and BIPOC playwrights and networking to recruit more diverse voices to determine “what our post-pandemic seasons will look like, with a mind on bringing people to the table and letting them have their work seen, heard and celebrated.”

Kian Kline-Chilton is artistic founder of Patchwork Theatre Company in San Diego
Kian Kline-Chilton is artistic founder of Patchwork Theatre Company in San Diego.
(Courtesy photo)

Patchwork Theatre Company

Patchwork Theatre was created last March as a way for idled theater artists to collaborate during the pandemic. Founded by Kian Kline-Chilton and two fellow recent college theater graduates, it is still formulating its plans. But Kline-Chilton, who is Black, said Patchwork is dedicated to diversity.

“It is celebrating size, gender, race and all the qualities that make us unique,” he said, in an email. “In championing that thought, we continue to create a space where young voices of color can begin to shape and flourish who they are meant to be as artists. We challenge and question, not to create conflict, but to raise awareness as to how we can continue to better ourselves. In doing so, we begin to shape a better and brighter future. We are a collective dedicated to championing its young and uprising community of artists and embracing new forms of theater. We are committed to advocating for inclusion in the arts and creating during a time when conventional theater isn’t being made. It’s a chance to dive into the new and imaginative. It’s a celebration of innovation. It’s a reminder and dedication of passion.”

Trinity Theatre Company

Trinity Theatre, which offers youth and adult theater productions and training, has been working to present more inclusive programming over the past year. Associate artistic director Kandace Crystal said the company has partnered with Kitabu Club Adventures, a Black-owned book club for children that offers diverse titles so kids can see themselves in the stories they read. Another way Trinity aims to make all children, including those who are nonbinary, feel welcome is changing the name of its recent “Jack and the Beanstalk” play to “J. and the Beanstalk.”

“That one change lets kids know that we’re here to include you in this conversation, that we see you,” Crystal said.

— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune