June 28, 2020
Important and necessary conversations are happening right now in our world about systemic racism and oppression, and about the experiences of BIPOC in Canadian Theatre. Carousel Theatre for Young People (CTYP) strives to be an inclusive organization that reflects the diverse experiences of all our stakeholders – employees, artists, technical team, volunteers, and all of our patrons. We have not always been successful in this.
We recognize that as an organization we have biases, some we have worked through and taken steps to address, some we recognize and are in the process of working through, and some that we are not yet aware of.
We are reflecting on our own role in Canadian Theatre, and our own actions and inactions that may have upheld a culture of oppression. We are committed to dismantling systemic oppression, to changing and moving forward as an organization where all artists, audiences, staff and volunteers feel safe, respected and heard. This is necessary work, and we are dedicating resources to create an action plan to move us forward.
We will provide updates as this process develops over the coming weeks and months, and include opportunities for theatre artists, audience members, staff, volunteers and community members to participate. If you have any input you would like to provide, whether that is with respect to a particular issue or concern that you have noted with respect to CTYP, or the theatre industry more broadly (in terms of theatre for young people, the Lower Mainland or more broadly) we welcome your questions, comments and ideas. Please reach out to us in the manner that you feel most comfortable, including directly to our Artistic Director, Carole Higgins, at carole[at]carouseltheatre.ca. You could also contact our Board of Directors directly at board[at]carouseltheatre.ca, where your emails will be received and responded to by the Board of Directors.
We recognize that we may not have answers right now, and are looking forward to working together with other members of the theatre community to improve the system for the benefit of all. To that end, we also want to add more perspectives to our organization, and invite those who wish to join our volunteer Board to reach out to one of the above with respect to that possibility. We welcome new perspectives as we move forward.
As an outline of some of the steps we have taken and will undertake:
- CTYP has in place a comprehensive Code of Conduct for staff, contractors and Board members, and safe space polices and procedures, which includes a process for safe disclosure. These documents undergo an annual review, and are distributed at contract signings, and are available on callboards and staff bulletin boards. We are undergoing a further review of these policies and considering what others we should implement to help form a more inclusive and safe environment.
- We have created an Inclusive and Respectful Workplace Committee at the Board level who will be working with management to assess where we can do better and leading this process as we continue to evolve our organization.
- We chose to withdraw CTYP from consideration for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards prior to the nominations being released publicly. Any individual performance and design nominations for artists on our stage stand this year, but we removed CTYP’s participation in all other categories. We do not believe this is a time for our organization to congratulate itself, but to reflect on how to do better.
- Full-time staff have been receiving external training in Maintaining Respectful Workplaces, Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying and Harassment, and Bystander Training. During this current time staff are taking online course and webinars, and meeting to discuss learnings and ideas.
- We have contacted suppliers of some of the theatre products that we provide to our actors to ask them to expand their lines to include a spectrum of shades that reflect the diversity of the artists we work with, and informed these suppliers we want to purchase these new products as they come available.
- We are in the process of engaging an external professional inclusion expert to lead the organization through a transparent process as we work to recognize our privilege, biases and systemic issues, and address them. We will share more information on this process as it progresses.
This is an opportunity for us as an organization to reflect, and grow, as we challenge ourselves to do the work to move our organization, and our industry, towards more inclusive and safe practices.
Carole Higgins, Artistic & Managing Director
Sarah Hudson, Secretary, Board of Directors
Stephen Robertson, President, Board of Directors
Kathie Schwaia, Treasurer, Board of Directors
Susan Shank, Board Member
Fila Testini, Board Member
Roger Watts, Board Member