In accordance with the “Accountability” section of our Antiracism Action Plan, Artistic Director, Nell Bang Jensen, will hold virtual “office hours” on the second Monday of each month from 10am-12pm. During these hours, anyone who wishes to discuss anything related to Theatre Horizon or who seeks personal support in terms of fundraising, marketing, or producing is welcome and encouraged to meet with Nell. To schedule a meeting during office hours, please email Nell at Nell@TheatreHorizon.org.
Our Antiracism Work
June 2020: We Assembled an Antiracism Action Committee
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, in June, Theatre Horizon leadership assembled an action committee composed of Board members and staff to create an antiracist action plan with measureable goals and clear, public systems of accountability. We seek to shift Theatre Horizon’s culture from one that has prioritized values of inclusion and empathy in the past to one that goes further to be actively and explicitly antiracist.
Also in June, a collective of over 300 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) theater makers known as “We See you White American Theater” issued a letter addressing the systemic racism in our field. In July, a list of demands was published for institutions across the theater world.
At Theatre Horizon, we have heard the call. We recognize that we are part of White American Theatre that has caused harm to the BIPOC community and we accept the call to transform. The list of demands identified in “We See You W.A.T” is an opportunity for our industry that we hope leads to radical change to dismantle white supremacist systems. We want to be part of that change.
September 2020: We Publicly Shared Our Antiracism Action Plan
In the name of transparency and accountability, on September 30, 2020, we publicly shared our plan of action. We are committed to the hard work necessary to be an antiracist theater for our community. If you would like to talk more about this work with us, feel free to email Nell at Nell@TheatreHorizon.org. We will continue to publish updates on this work at the increments of time identified in the plan.
Thank you for being with us in this important work.
This antiracist action plan is a living, breathing document that will be edited and expanded overtime as we continue to learn.
Our goal in doing this work is to shift Theatre Horizon’s culture from one that has upheld the institutionalized centering of whiteness to one that actively works to dismantle it.
Theatre Horizon was founded with a belief in producing art for a diverse population, with inclusion and empathy at the core of its mission. Compelled by a desire to support a renaissance of Norristown’s cultural and economic health, these values have guided us in forming relationships with community partners, ancillary programming that has brought attention to food scarcity and homelessness in Norristown, and using our performances to activate social change through voter registration and census outreach. We continue to offer $2 tickets to Norristown Neighbors and ACCESS Card holders, and conduct “Relaxed Performances”: two initiatives designed to create a welcoming space for more people. However, we now recognize that values of inclusion and empathy are not enough.
We need to work to be actively and explicitly antiracist. We have fallen short in creating true racial parity among our staff (currently 20% BIPOC) and among our board (currently 12% BIPOC). While we have featured diverse artistic teams in our rehearsal rooms, this diversity has not extended to Executive-level positions. We recognize that we have (often unwittingly) upheld white supremacist culture1 in the ways that we fundraise, our governance structures, and our hiring practices. We need to do better.
The creation of this document is an active process that consists of several phases. In early June 2020, the Theatre Horizon staff began brainstorming antiracist actions we could take to move the institution forward. We brought the Board of Directors into this conversation on June 8th and developed an Antiracist Action Committee of Board and Staff that began meeting weekly. In August, this committee produced a draft of the plan and hired anti-oppression facilitators, BIPOC artists, BIPOC board members and BIPOC audience members to review and give feedback. Edits were made by the committee in response to this feedback and discussed by the full board in early September 2020.
We acknowledge that we need help. In order to hold ourselves accountable to change, key action items include making new systems for anonymous feedback, regular antiracist action committee meetings to incorporate what we’ve learned into this document, and hiring a third party to assess and revise this plan, as well as creating more long-term actions beyond 2023.
We recognize that antiracist work is never done. There is no checklist. We follow the belief of Ibram X. Kendi that the terms “racist “and “antiracist” are “like peelable nametags that are placed and replaced based on what someone is doing or not doing, supporting or expressing in each moment” (Kendi, Ibram X, How to be an Antiracist, p. 23). The goal of this plan is to make more of what we do, support, and express, explicitly antiracist and to build in opportunities for persistent self-examination.
This document was inspired by the work of: Nicole Brewer for her Conscientious Theatre Training, ArtEquity facilitators Faith Jones-Jackson and Amy Smith, the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) collective of artists who created “We See You, White American Theatre” (referred to as “We See you, W.A.T.” in this document), Michael Bobbit and his antiracist action plan for New Rep Theatre, Ibram X. Kendi, adrienne maree brown, and the creators of the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia.Many people contributed to the making of this document including: Nell Bang-Jensen, Ang Bey, Kareem Brantley, Bryan Buttler, Rachel Camp, Zaina Dana, Matt Decker, Rebecca May Flowers, Cara Frisina, Tamanya M. M. Garza, Noelle Diane Johnson, Emily Jolley, Zandra Maffett, Hallie Martenson, Zuhairah McGill, LaNeshe Miller-White, Amanda Morton, Dawn Navarro, Rebecca Noon, Erlina Ortiz, Gina Pisasale, Diane Reilly, Erin Reilly, Mydera Taliah Robinson, Gabriela Sanchez, Jim Schneider, Deanna Shelton, Tabitha Stewart, Robert Vogel, and Andrea Wikerd.
1 white supremacy culture—or the systemic, institutionalized centering of whiteness
March 2021: We Released a 6-Month Progress Report as Outlined in Our Plan
THEATRE HORIZON ANTIRACISM ACTION PLAN
6-MONTH PROGRESS REPORT
On September 30, 2020, we published an antiracism action plan: a living, breathing document that will be edited and expanded overtime as we continue to learn how the implementation of antiracist initiatives resonate within our organization and community. Our goal is to ensure ongoing commitment to the evolving conversation surrounding equity, inclusion, and access.
Inspired by “We See You W.A.T” our goal in doing this work is to establish a culture at Theatre Horizon that dismantles the institutionalized centering of whiteness. Over 30 people contributed to the creation of the antiracist action plan. Their names can be found here.
The first timeframe in which we promised to update the public about our actions is 6-months since the plan’s initial publication. The purpose of this progress report is to provide external accountability for where we are in achieving these goals.
If you would like to talk more about this work with us, feel free to email Nell at Nell@TheatreHorizon.org. We will continue to publish updates on this work at the increments of time identified in the plan.
In the name of transparency, the list below details what we said we would accomplish in the first 6-months of the plan, and where we are now. The original action items are listed with information in italics about what has been accomplished:
Create an anonymous, safe-reporting system for when harm is committed in our space. These reports will have the option of being sent to a third party (not staff and board)
We have created three new reporting systems that include options for anonymity and third party reporting. They also include options for reporting in-person, by writing (in Google form or hard copy), and phone. These options are now listed on our website as well as in our employee handbook, and will be given to every contractor who begins working for Theatre Horizon.
Revise sexual harassment and abuse reporting policies to protect anonymity (and include option of going to a third party)
Create racial harassment and abuse reporting policy (will also have the option of going to a third party)
We expanded our sexual harassment and abuse reporting policies to include all types of abuse and harm, including antiracist incidents.
In addition to an anonymous reporting system, Artistic Director will hold monthly virtual “office hours” in which anyone who wants to discuss anything related to Theatre Horizon (or seek support in terms of fundraising, marketing and producing their own projects) is welcome to show up. Dates and times will be publicly available on our website.
Office hours began in January, 2021 and are the second Monday of every month between 10am-12pm. In addition to these open office hours, Artistic Director has begun biweekly with two artists from smaller companies who wanted fundraising support for their organizations and projects.
Devoted time at each Board Meeting to update full Board on whether we are fulfilling our commitments in this document (this is a regular practice moving forward).
Each Board Meeting since the publication of this plan has included time on the agenda to discuss our antiracist efforts and progress. This will continue to be common practice moving forward.
Antiracist action plan is read and discussed by full Board and Staff. Through individual meetings, Board and Staff commit to mandatory EDI training and prioritizing these policies in decision-making moving forward.
Each staff and board member has read the plan and continues to participate in the execution of these tasks and the questions surrounding them.
Post public updates on our website and social media as we continue to execute these policies and plans at the intervals specified in this plan (6 months, 1 year, 3 years).
This is what you are currently reading. We will publish another progress report at the 1-year mark.
STAFF CULTURE & HIRING
Devote time at staff meetings (quarterly) to check in on where we are with antiracist action steps
We have discussed progress on the plan at two staff meetings over the past six months and will continue to check in about it as a group at quarterly intervals
Establish department-specific antiracist metrics for staff to meet in their work. Achieving these goals will become part of every staff member’s job description and assessed at annual reviews
Annual reviews took place in February 2021 and antiracist goals for each staff position were established
When hiring positions, explicitly named an antiracist environment (this will continue to be our practice moving forward)
Since the publication of this plan, we have posted two job descriptions. Both have emphasized the antiracist environment and culture we seek to create.
Because systems of higher education substantiate racial inequities, we removed barriers such as education requirements or a certain number of years of experience in postings (this will continue to be our practice moving forward)
In the two job descriptions we have posted since the publication of this plan, we have not listed education requirements or a specific number of years of experience required.
When hiring for a staff position, we conducted intentional, individual outreach to BIPOC arts administrators (this will continue to be our practice moving forward)
When hiring a Manager of Institutional Giving & Communications in the Fall of 2020, we reached out to BIPOC arts administrators to encourage them to apply and hired a Latinx candidate. We are continuing to reach out to BIPOC arts administrators for the Producing Director position we are currently hiring.
TRAINING & EDUCATION
Create a plan for Executive Leadership training with an EDI specialist to be completed before the start of the 2021-2022 season.
Artistic and Managing Directors have completed (or are in the process of) antiracist/equity, diversity and inclusion training through both Nicole Brewer’s Conscientious Theater Training and the EDI series led by Keva White through the Independence Foundation. Members of our antiracist action committee have also interviewed three different potential EDI consultants and made a plan for Board, staff and creative team antiracist training that will begin in September, 2021.
Create a plan for how antiracist training (including bystander intervention and de-escalation techniques) will be disseminated to all patron-facing volunteers
A subcommittee of staff and board is creating an antiracist training video for our volunteer ushers that will include definitions and examples of microaggressions and reducing harm in the moment.
Executive leadership begins an open group of staff, board and audience members to meet weekly as they engage with Lalya F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” workbook
The antiracist action committee decided that a more effective, accountable approach to engaging the staff and board with antiracism and restorative justice concepts would be through training by paid professionals. We are committed to fostering growth on both institutional and individual levels, and determined that the workbook may be an important companion piece to more formal guidance through EDI education, rather than an open group.
PROGRAMMING PRACTICES & CULTURAL COMPETENCY
Redefine our partnerships with BIPOC-led arts organizations to ensure these partnerships are mutually beneficial and sustainable. Work with our partners on creating partnership agreements and budgets collaboratively that equalize power and eliminate institutional hierarchy. Offer opportunities to listen and reflect on past partnerships.
No formal partnerships have been formed during the pandemic but we hope to resume past partnerships and begin new ones when our in-person programming for the 21/22 season is decided. We have spoken with several artists from past partnerships to reflect on their experiences with Theatre Horizon and how to make these relationships more mutually beneficial.
Research and begin relationship-building with culturally competent dramaturgs with lived experience that coincide with the shows originally in our 2020-2021 production season.
We have worked a Dramaturg position into the production budgets we are creating for in-person, full productions next year. We are continuing to research the most culturally-effective fit for each show as our season continues to grow and change in the wake of the pandemic.
In our originally scheduled 2020-2021 season, the majority of shows programmed were by BIPOC artists. We will continue this commitment, pledging that at least 50% of the work on our stage will be written by BIPOC playwrights/creators.
While our 2021-2022 season is still being developed, we will maintain this commitment
PROGRAMMING PRACTICES & CULTURAL COMPETENCY
Refine our grant writing procedure (which includes a voice edit, a vision edit, and a proofread) to include an antiracist edit that removes any language that upholds racial hierarchy by tokenizing marginalized groups
Our Manager of Institutional Giving & Artistic Director are currently researching best practices for working against white supremacy in grant language and challenging questions from funders that maintain this dynamic. We are currently crafting a document that defines what an “antiracist edit” looks like for Theatre Horizon that will be in practice by the summer of 2021.
Institute a practice in which Board Members pledge a percentage of their annual gift to Theatre Horizon to be put in a restricted Antiracist Action Fund
While this will formally go into effect when Board Members make their pledges for the new fiscal year in the Summer of 2021, some have already chosen to contribute to the fund. It currently totals $6,750. Over the next year, this money will primarily go towards DEI training for staff and board, as well as towards a no-strings attached residency for Black artists that is currently in development.
Continue monthly meetings with antiracist action committee to assess if we are fulfilling our commitments outlined in this plan
Monthly meetings have continued.
Appoint EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Officer on our Board who sits on the Executive Committee and who all Committee Chairs are accountable to to ensure their work is being done in compliance with this document
Amanda Morton has joined Theatre Horizon’s Board of Directors and is serving as our EDI Officer. We have also updated Theatre Horizon’s by-laws to recognize this as a formal, long-term position.
Note: At the time of the plan’s publication (September 30, 2020), 12% of Theatre Horizon’s Board Members identified as BIPOC. As of this 6-month update (March 30, 2020), 16% of Theatre Horizon’s Board Members identify as BIPOC.
We are committed to creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive and respectful work environment that supports all of our artists and staff, regardless of the length of time they will spend with us.
We encourage anyone working with us to address behavior they experience or observe that does not uphold our commitments to each other as we do not tolerate any kind of discrimination, harassment, bullying, or behavior that creates a hostile, unpleasant, or an uncomfortable working environment from anyone working for or with us.
Please use our anonymous hotline or Theatre Horizon’s Incident Report to report any behavior that doesn’t support a safe working environment:
- Anonymous Reporting App, Keyword: theatrehorizon
- English speaking USA and Canada: 833-401-0002
- Spanish speaking USA and Canada: 800-216-1288
- Spanish speaking Mexico: 01-800-681-5340
- Make sure to include company name (Theatre Horizon) with report.
- Make sure to include company name (Theatre Horizon) with report.