Theatre EDI Initiatives (2021 – 2022)

  1. In May 2020, the department approved a list of Guiding Principles to inform our season selection process. These principles, as well as a list of next steps, can be found here:
  2. Here’s a link to a communication I sent our students at the end of last summer, which details some of the initiatives we’ve been undertaking this year, with links to various other pieces.
  3. We’re in the process of drafting an Action Plan that reflects current and future activities. The document has been reviewed by the department exec and has been circulated to faculty. A next step may include a review by the seed committee but that’s still TBD. My hope is to share the final Action Plan with the Theatre department no later than May 2021.

Community Update Apr. 14, 2021.

Dear Theatre students, faculty, and staff,

Congratulations on reaching the end of this very long and difficult academic year. Words cannot express the intense challenges many have experienced, both as individuals and as members of the larger Theatre community. I also recognize that the burden of identifying problems, calling out racism, and carrying forward change within the department has often fallen to racialized students, faculty, and staff. This historical pattern is something we are collectively working to address.

For me, one of the key take-aways from last week’s “community consultation” with Ethical Associates was the importance of clear and consistent communication. With that goal in mind, I’m writing to update you on several projects that are underway, all of which aim to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion in the Department of Theatre. Many of these activities echo the recommendations put forward by Ethical Associates in their “shared narrative” report, though obviously the work is far from over.

Recruitment of new faculty

This semester, department faculty, staff, and students have actively participated in searches for FOUR new faculty members to join us in Fall 2021. One of these searches (for an Assistant Professor of Theatre, Theatre History, and Dramaturgy) is part of the university’s effort to actively recruit a cohort of 14 new Black faculty members across the university. Another search (in collaboration with Visual Art and Art History) is for a joint tenure track position in Indigenous Performance/ Performance Art. The remaining two searches are for three-year Contractually Limited Appointments – the first in Performance Creation, Playwriting and Devising and the second in Acting and Directing. Both of these searches required applicants to demonstrate recent, ongoing work with IBPOC artists and companies.

At this point, two of the searches are concluding and two are ongoing. I hope to introduce the new faculty members to everyone before July 1. Many thanks to the students, staff, and faculty who have supported these searches, especially the students who served (or are serving) on the committees and participated in “demonstration classes.”

EDI “seed” committee

The department is in the process of forming an EDI “seed” committee with representation from students (grad and undergrad), staff, and faculty. The committee is actively crafting its mandate and it should be in place before the summer term.

Season-building committee

The season-building committee is composed of faculty members Jamie Robinson, David Jansen, and 12 undergraduate students, who represent the acting area, production/design, and performance creation. Over the course of the year, they have worked diligently to identify exciting plays for the next Theatre @ York season. The committee recently circulated an update (I’ve attached it here), in which they emphasized “the importance of sharing information with the wider York Theatre community and will continue to be transparent about our process with you. What emerged from our early meetings was a keen desire to create a season featuring predominantly IBPOC writers, offering casting opportunities appropriate and/or flexible enough to fit the acting classes, while presenting exciting design/production and dramaturgical opportunities.” A formal announcement will be coming soon.

Ongoing dialogue and learning – resources and upcoming events

In addition to the events above, I will be working with a Research Assistant this summer to expand this existing list of resources to include more recent publications on anti-Black racism and theatre as well as sources that address anti-Asian racism and anti-Indigenous racism, among others. This list is intended as a community resource, so please feel free to add titles to articles you come across in your own reading this summer.

There are also several exciting events taking place in April and May, organized by members of the York U Theatre community.

  • April 21, 2021 –Intimacy in Theatre Education: A roundtable conversation. Intimacy director Siobhan Richardson will lead a conversation with Nina Lee Aquino, Peter Hinton-Davis, and Michaela Washburn. This event is part of the Performance Studies (Canada) Speaker Series, co-curated by Jamie Robinson, Laura Levin, Sunita Nigam, and Marlis Schweitzer.
  • May 3, 2021 – IBPOC Theatre Grad Fair.The department is thrilled to be one of the sponsors of this event, which will bring together graduating IBPOC students from across the country to connect with professional IBPOC artists. Registration for graduating IBPOC students or IBPOC students entering their final year.
  • May 6-9, 2021– A Decolonizing Activation. This free online event is hosted by students in the MFA and PhD programs, including Denise Rogers Valenzuela, Esteban Donoso, Mariel Belanger, Marilo Núñez, and Philip Jonah Logan Geller. Guest artists include Donna Michelle St. Bernard, Aisha Bentham, Jill Carter, Madeline Terbasket, Justine Woods, and Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais.
  • May 31/June 1(exact dates TBD) – (Re)Setting the Stage: The Past, Present, and Future of Casting Practices in Canada. Co-curated by Jamie Robinson, Marlis Schweitzer, Marilo Núñez, Dante Jemmott, and Cassandra Henry, this event will bring together professional directors, playwrights, and actors to discuss the past, present, and future of casting practices. Stay tuned for more information in the days ahead.