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Racial Justice Commitments

 

An Open Letter Regarding Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Commitments to Racial Justice

Approved by Pittsburgh Public Theater Board of Trustees on December 14, 2020

To our artists, audiences, and greater community:

Pittsburgh Public Theater aims to serve as a true public theater by creating diverse theatrical experiences in a responsible way to engage and elevate our entire region. In response to the powerful call to action and generous insights offered by the Black, Indigenous, and artists of color from our regional and national communities, especially the artists who have organized to create We See You White American Theatre and Black Theatre United, Pittsburgh Public Theater is proud to announce the next steps in our organization’s ongoing commitment to racial justice. 

In June 2020, we released a statement declaring solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists, audiences, and neighbors. In it, we said: “You matter to us. Your stories matter. Your lives matter. Justice matters.” These beliefs have not waned. In that statement, we promised to take a hard look at our own internal practices to identify and initiate steps to achieve greater racial equity and just representation throughout our organization. Since that time, we have launched a Racial Justice Task Force composed of Board members, artists of color, and community leaders to steer us in a year-long process to create meaningful improvements across our operations. The Chairperson of this Task Force now sits on the Executive Committee of our Board.  We have begun honest and rigorous conversations with our staff and have collaborated with our Board’s Executive Leadership to ensure these commitments are sincere and appropriately funded. 

We recognize this work will be ongoing and that we cannot do it in a vacuum. We will stumble, and we will get things wrong. We are dedicated to listening and learning from the communities of color in our Pittsburgh region, and to opening more channels for transparency so that we may continue to improve. We extend our earnest gratitude to the individuals and organizations who have already helped us shape this process and offered us a clearer understanding of what our role must be in addressing systemic racism in American theater and in our own community.

The Public’s first phase of Racial Justice Commitments are listed below. These steps have been reviewed, revised, and endorsed by the theater’s Executive Committee, the Racial Justice Task Force, the full Board, and the staff. Progress towards these goals will be available for review and comment on the theater’s website, to help us stay accountable and transparent, and to invite public review of our effectiveness and impact as we work to serve the Pittsburgh region as a true public theater.

Sincerely, 

maryasmall

Marya Sea Kaminski
Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Public Theater

lousmall

Lou Castelli
Managing Director, Pittsburgh Public Theater

courtney

Courtney CT Horrigan
Board Chair, Pittsburgh Public Theater

Statement of Solidarity


On June 1, 2020, Pittsburgh Public Theater issued the following statement:

At Pittsburgh Public Theater, we believe in the power of art to transform and connect us, and in our fundamental responsibility to serve our city and region as a true public theater for all people.

We are in a moment of reckoning, when we are all being called to face the persistent racial injustice and violence perpetrated against Black communities in our city and across the country. We stand with our Black colleagues, artists, audiences, and neighbors. We deepen our commitment to creating an organization and a world where you feel safe, seen, and loved. You matter to us. Your stories matter. Your lives matter. Justice matters.

Out of respect during this time of national crisis and grief, we will be postponing our annual gala, which was to take place later this month. We will also be pausing our PlayTime programming and postponing our reading of Bekah Brunstetter’s THE CAKE. We know many of you were looking forward to these events, as were we, but this is not a time for celebration, it is a time for thoughtful action.

We deeply believe in the work we do and in the way art and artists bring us together to realize a better world. Current events demand that we take some time to reimagine how our role in Pittsburgh’s cultural life can evolve in the months ahead. We feel a deep commitment to remain true to our mission and to our devoted community of artists and audiences, so in the coming weeks, we will be taking a hard look at our own internal practices and what we can do better – to create a place of sincere welcome, to practice equity and justice throughout our organization, and to support our Black artists and audiences.

Thank you for taking this moment with us. We hope you will join The Public in the fight against racism and in lifting up Black voices so we might all listen and stand in solidarity. We look forward to being in your company again and sharing ideas for how we can best serve you and our city in the future.

Truly yours,
Marya Sea Kaminski, Artistic Director
Lou Castelli, Managing Director

Phase 1: First phase of our Racial Justice Commitments

To increase accountability and deepen our learning about inequitable practices and systems, the theater will:

  • Hold space for a series of conversations with BIPOC artists and stakeholders to learn where we can do better and to inform the next phase of our racial justice policies and commitments.

Progress as of 9/1/21: After consulting with BIPOC artists and leaders in our community, we learned that “holding space” in his way could risk creating harm to the very people we are trying to serve and learn from; we have begun a discussion with our DEIA Consultant in order to establish the best framework for feedback, an effective procedure for reflection and response, and to revise the wording of the commitment to allow for this process to be defined by our BIPOC community members.

  • Hire a DEIA consultant to collaborate with the theater’s leadership team on facilitation and training, and conduct semi-annual racial justice training for all staff and board members, and prioritize micro-aggression and bystander intervention training for ushers and front-of-house staff upon returning to in-person programming.

Progress as of 9/1/21: Ron Idoko, Diversity and Multi-Cultural Program Manager for University of Pittsburgh’s Office for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion provided combined DEIA training for staff and Trustees.  Additional training is being planned for returning staff, artists, and volunteers.  Consultant Cecile Shellman has also been engaged to assist staff and the Racial Justice Task Force as we move forward with this work. 

  • Assess our vendor partners to encourage purchasing from local, BIPOC-owned vendors and allies

Progress as of 9/1/21: Websites have been identified that aggregate lists of local BIPOC businesses, and database options have been identified to assemble lists of BIPOC and ally vendors.  Evaluation of our current vendors has begun.

  • Build a system of public accountability by tracking these commitments, as well as the evolution of our organizational learning and actions, on our website and social media.

Progress as of 9/1/21: An information database within the Public Theater network has been developed for sharing information and documenting progress on our Racial Justice Commitments.  Progress updates will be generated quarterly, with an Annual Report in March.  The Theater’s website identifies our Racial Justice Commitments and our continuing progress.

To accomplish greater equity in our staff and board policies, the theater will:

  • Revise our guidelines and expectations for members of our Board of Trustees to reframe ‘contributions’ as more than just transactional and/or financial.

Progress as of 9/1/21: Trustee Expectations have been revised to prioritize ambassadorship and to recognize contributions that include cultural, social, and experiential assets Trustees bring to their governance role, in addition to financial contributions.

  • Prioritize recruitment of BIPOC leaders and artists to serve as Trustees to share in the governance of the theater and shape future policies and priorities.

Progress as of 9/1/21: Pittsburgh Public Theater has increased BIPOC representation on our Board of Trustees from 5% to 11% during the 2020/2021 season and increasing this number is a priority for the coming season as well.

  • Revise the theater’s hiring practices to remove barriers to attracting and retaining BIPOC candidates—this includes: adding our racial justice commitments and policies to every job posting, listing the salary range for every position, and eliminating any unnecessary educational attainment requirements for positions.

Progress as of 9/1/21: Job postings have been revised to include salary range for every position and all job descriptions now include fundamental expectations on applying DEIA best practices and a lens of racial equality in every individual’s work.  Hiring resources have been identified to help The Public reach a wide and diverse pool of candidates and database options have been identified for developing an in-house list of hiring resources.  Questions, including recommendations on hiring, have been submitted to the DEIA Consultant.

  • Begin building a pipeline within our organization to invest in historically under-represented arts talent, starting with a season-long fellowship for a developing leader to observe the theater’s operations across departments, paid at a living wage.

Progress as of 9/1/21: Our Inaugural Arts Leadership Fellow has completed their paid fellowship and has joined our full-time staff as Patron Experience Manager, reporting to the Director of Marketing. Season 47 includes a new Arts Leadership Fellow and three paid intern positions.

To promote meaningful change and equitable representation in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s artistic initiatives and programming, the theater will:

  • Create a consistent practice of honoring the tribal sovereignty of the Indigenous people and nations who stewarded and traveled through this region as early as 12,000 BC and still do today.

Progress as of 9/1/21: The Public has researched the indigenous peoples who stewarded the land specific to the Confluence of the three rivers and drafted a declaration on land acknowledgement and tribal sovereignty.  The Theater will be collaborating with the Native American Community on the final statement.

  • Redesign our tech process to more fully value and promote a culture of holistic health for our artists and staff, including the elimination of 10-out-of-12 hour days.

Progress as of 9/1/21: With input from artists and staff, a new Performance Schedule and Production Calendar have been developed that balance the ability to mount quality productions without overtaxing personnel or demanding unreasonable work hours.  Orientation materials related to our new approach have been developed for staff and artists. 

  • Catalyze the tactics in our strategic plan to prioritize more diverse perspectives in our artistic programming by expanding the theater’s artistic staff over the next five seasons, beginning with the establishment of a new Resident Director position this season.

Progress as of 9/1/21: The Public has created a Resident Director position; Justin Emeka now serves in that capacity and consults on artistic planning and organizational staffing, in addition to directing8 in the mainstage season at least every other year.

  • Prioritize collaborations and partnerships with BIPOC-led organizations in order to share our staff and financial resources to elevate and amplify the voices of BIPOC artists and leaders in our community.

Progress as of 9/1/21:
Collaborations during 2020/2021:

  • Creative Workshop: “Making Shakespeare Black” with Justin Emeka 
  • Public Town Hall: “Seeing Shakespeare through Brown Eyes” 
  • Demeatria Bocella, as an artist-in-residence, exhibited her “Free to Be Me: A Portrait Series Celebrating Black Girls”
  • Empty Space Project’s film, “Empty Space Shakespeare” screened during our Shakespeare Monologue and Scene competition

Sharing our Resources:

  • Empty Space Project’s work and our partnership with them were featured on our social channels in February and in May 2021
  • All proceeds from our Bard in Bloom event on May 22 went to Empty Space Project

Planning for Season 47: 

  • The August Wilson Monologue Competition will take place on the stage of the O’Reilly in spring 2022, and the Bill Nunn Theatre Project staff will be supported by the Public’s Education department to streamline and increase registration in the competition
  • A commission to support the development of a new play titled “The Coffin Maker” by Playwright, Mark Clayton Southers, including an invited reading in spring 2022
  • Developmental support for a new musical by Annalisa Dias and Ronee Penoi titled “The Carlisle Project”
  • Season-long conversations with Black leaders and artists to strategize ways to use our Spring 2022 production of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” as a platform to serve and amplify Pittsburgh’s Black communities, beginning in July 2021

Strategic Plan: Overview of 5-Year Strategic Plan Goals

In December 2019, the Pittsburgh Public Theater Board of Trustees approved an organizational strategic plan to guide our artistic and business priorities over the next five years, including the following six primary objectives:

  • Produce artistically diverse theatrical experiences of the highest quality
  • Attract more people to come to the theater
  • Reflect the diversity and richness of the region in our audiences, in our staff and Board, and on our stage
  • Build a vibrant, robust network of partnerships and learning opportunities across the community
  • Resource the organization to thrive by investing in staff, our brand, donor relationships, and an endowment campaign
  • Develop a culture of experimentation and learning to achieve new successes

Racial Justice Task Force: Staff, Trustees, & Community Stakeholders

  • The Pittsburgh Public Theater Racial Justice Task Force is chaired by Trustee, Dot Davis
  • Pittsburgh Public Theater's Artistic Director, Marya Sea Kaminski, Managing Director, Lou Castelli, and Director of Institutional Support, Ryan Ferrebee will serve as members of the Task Force
  • Other members of the Task Force shall include the following Pittsburgh Public Theater Board members: Jerad Bachar, Karen Greb, George Heigel, Lynn Hyde, Krysia Kubiak, Mike Martorella, Miriam Shapira, Joe Smith, and Jason Suslak
  • The task force also includes the following artists and community leaders: Doris Carson-Williams, Justin Emeka, and Malic Maat

Submit a Suggestion and/or Report a Concern

If you have questions or suggestions regarding Pittsburgh Public Theater's Racial Justice Commitments and/or if you want to bring a concern to our attention click HERE.