I recently attended the annual board meeting of Bag&Baggage Productions in Hillsboro, OR. I’m an Associate Artist with this organization and have been involved with them as an actor, director, former board member and more since 2008.
Last year they opened their new theatre called The Vault and launched into their first season. A few of the season’s shows very pointedly attempted to highlight problems in our culture with long embedded racism and silencing of people of color, women and other marginalized groups. It was tremendous to see these stories being told.
But the theatre realized that they needed to do much more. They need to actively work to bring about change within the organization, as an example to the community in which we share our work, and hopefully let that spread out by inspiring others.
At the recent meeting it was discussed as a key part of their new 5 year strategic plan, and a new committee of the board was created specifically for EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion).
Already the theatre has gone about launching programs dedicated to telling more stories of women and people of color. They have hired a number of new staff to oversee various programs from these groups and more programs are planned. Prior messages and policies already welcome and express support for people of different sexual orientations and gender identity. The organization, from the Artistic Director on down, is completely on board with these clearly defined plans and efforts and while this type of work will be very much ongoing, developmental and a great effort, it’s also such a great feeling to see these efforts taking shape so quickly, with such talented and passionate individuals joining the team to lead the way.
EDI is something that we as a culture must all work to embrace in order to uplift our community members that in the past have been silenced, ignored, belittled or worse. We as performing artists have a unique opportunity to bring their stories to light, to help educate our communities on the value and joy in the diverse members of our society and learn to welcome them to the team as equals.
Will we as the privileged make mistakes along the way? Of course. But if we make the effort with an open heart and with full intent on learning and improving our interactions with others, that effort will be appreciated and can create a doorway toward a richer community.
What can you and the organizations you work with do to become more equitable, diverse and inclusive? It starts with that question.
Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com