Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Beginning in 2020, Theatre@First has engaged in an anti-racist change process. Believing that this is the best way for us to embody our commitment to radical welcome for all who love theatre, we embarked on a deep examination of our policies and operating procedures, identifying ways that we must change in order to create anti-racist theatre within our organization and to make equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and people with other gender and sexual identities (LGBTQIA+), people with disabilities, and members of other marginalized communities an explicit part of our theatre community. The following policies represent a starting point. We welcome your feedback.
GOALS: To increase participation of a diversity of actors and staff and to tell stories of marginalized communities to a wider audience.
The Season Selection Committee will prioritize creating a season of mainstage shows that includes a diversity of voices among directors, playwrights, actors, and other participants.
Directors must identify in their applications and interviews how their proposed production will contribute to increased equity, diversity, and inclusion at Theatre@First, commit to an anti-racist casting pledge and take part in anti-racist learning.
Every attempt will be made by Theatre@First to recruit a diverse production team and to provide opportunities for BIPOC to train in production skills.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Representative
GOALS: To ensure that principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion are followed at each step in the audition and casting process and to assist the director in meeting their pledged casting goals.
Each production must have a Casting Committee with one member identified as the EDI Representative.
Volunteer EDI Representatives will be recruited from the Season Selection Committee, past directors, and other Theatre@First participants with commitment to EDI principles and anti-racist theatre.
In general, the EDI Representative will be responsible for applying an EDI lens to decisions and issues that arise throughout the audition and casting process, assisting the director to fulfill their pledged EDI goals and the commitment to EDI principles outlined by Theatre@First.
For specific responsibilities, see below.
GOALS: To increase outreach to a diverse range of talent and expand visibility of opportunities at Theatre@First available to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities, and to track diversity of participants more accurately.
Character Descriptions: All character descriptions in the audition materials will include any requirements for gender, age, race or ethnicity, and physical requirements (e.g., running, combat, on-stage intimacy, nudity, etc). If a role does not include any of these specifications, the description will state explicitly that the role is open to all actors.
Announcements: Audition announcements will contain a brief synopsis of the play along with content warnings. Announcements will be posted to a wide range of online forums, including race/gender/sexuality-specific groups, for every production, except where script specifications dictate otherwise.
Sign-ups: Online signup forms will include space for actors to specify their pronouns. To track participation by people with disabilities, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ actors the form will include optional sections for auditioners to self-identify their race, gender identity and disability status, along with any requests for accommodations (e.g., disability, potential triggers, etc.).
This information will be handled confidentially by the EDI Representative, except in cases where it is specifically relevant to casting and this will be explained on the form.
The EDI Representative will inform the director of any requests and contact the auditioner whether or not such accommodation can be provided.
The EDI Representative will also be responsible for checking with the Artistic Director for any actors with known violations of the Code of Conduct and their current status with T@F.
A database of participants will be updated after each show, including data provided about race and gender identity.
GOALS: To ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all auditioners.
Every attempt will be made to recruit BIPOC as audition volunteers and casting committee members, while being mindful of the time and emotional labor being asked.
Directors will make a reasonable effort to comply with actors’ requests for accommodation.
Directors will provide opportunities for all actors to read for multiple roles and make a reasonable attempt to accommodate requests to read for specific roles. The EDI Representative will advise the director if they notice that an actor has not been given such an opportunity.
GOALS: To achieve casting goals stated in the anti-racist casting pledge and individual directors’ show proposals and to communicate Theatre@First’s anti-racist commitment to fairness in casting.
Theatre@First is committed to free and open auditions for mainstage productions. If a director wishes to pre-cast a role, they must include that information in their show proposal and discuss that choice with the Season Selection Committee.
The casting committee for each show will include an EDI Representative (see above) and may include additional members at the director’s request and the Artistic Director’s recommendation.
The EDI Representative’s responsibility during casting is to observe and make recommendations to the director to help achieve the casting goals stated in their proposal and anti-racist casting pledge.
Casting decisions lie ultimately with the director, however proposed cast lists will be submitted to the Artistic Director (AD)/EDI Coordinator (EDIC) for approval before offers are made. The AD will review the list for casting diversity in line with Theatre@First’s EDI goals and may consult with the EDI Representative in that process.
The EDI Representative may also confer with the AD/EDIC if they feel casting goals have not been met and may also choose to report on the process to the Steering Committee with suggestions on how to respond and improve our process.
If one or more roles remain unfilled after auditions, or if actors leave the production, the AD/EDIC will provide support to the director in filling the role. The EDI Representative is responsible for informing the director of these options.
Special Event Casting
GOALS: To create more explicit EDI policies for Special Events and ensure that T@F’s anti-racist principles are embodied in all productions.
Directors of Special Events should consider the policies stated above when determining how these productions will be cast.
This section is a work in progress and will be addressed in more detail in the future.