Since spring 2020, the Department of Theatre has undertaken a series of initiatives in response to student and alumni feedback and related calls to action. We have grouped these initiatives into six groups or categories, although this grouping is somewhat arbitrary as many of these activities overlap and inform one another.
These initiatives include:
- Recruitment of racialized/ IBPOC faculty
- Revisions to courses/curriculum
- Policies & procedures
- Building awareness, transparency, and accountability through workshops and related events
- Season selection: Theatre @ York
- IBPOC alumni/community engagement
Further details on each of these can be found here:
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.
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.
- March, 2023: “Casting and Race” online magazine issue. Release of the winter Canadian Theatre Review issue, co-edited by York faculty Marlis Schweitzer, Jamie Robinson and PhD student Marilo Nūnez, and assisted by undergrad Theatre students. https://castingcanadiantheatre.ca/casting-and-race
- March 25-April 1, 2023: “Dance Nation” Theatre production. Live on the Faire Fecan stage, featuring diverse student creators on and off stage, this dark comedy about the trials and tribulations of a pubescent competitive dance team asks us to re-examine the inherent discriminatory practices imbedded in the live performing arts as a whole.
- April 30 & May 1, 2023: “(Re) setting the Stage: Casting Shakespeare” Symposium. Featuring moderated discussions with Theatre professionals and York faculty and students about the inclusion of EDDI initiatives in Shakespeare’s plays. https://castingcanadiantheatre.ca/