Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Access.
These are more than just words. They are guiding principles to lead us into a more just and anti-racist future. Racism, anti-Black practices, systemic ills, and inequity have no space in the culture of Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic Acting School. These principles anchor our foundation and give way to welcoming, nurturing, uplifting, celebrating, and investing in all. Inclusive excellence is our goal.
We recognize the transformational tasks ahead. In both the theater and the school, we are committed to doing the work to dismantle systemic oppression by listening, learning, taking risks, trusting, respecting, and disrupting any ways racism shows up at work and within ourselves, communities, and schools. We acknowledge that our country and our industry has a history built on white privilege and we recognize our place in this systemic oppression. We are a small kernel in an industry that needs change, but our commitment is large.
We are grateful for the courageous individuals and groups who labored tirelessly to bring about change to long-standing systemic inequities. We honor their work. Now we commit to doing our work. We will stand with our colleagues across the city and country to provide equitable support for Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color (BIPOC) within the entire theater community. We will carry our commitment to breaking structures including racism, anti-Blackness, sexism, religious discrimination, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and classism.
Last summer when We See You White American Theater (WSYWAT) reached out to theaters across the country, we responded with a letter outlining the important work we were doing internally and the work we pledged to do in the coming months. Our work began in 2019 with the help of a consultant who guided our strategy to examine and analyze our operations through a DEIA lens.
Since the onset of our work, the Atlantic staff has invested many hours in individual and group work sessions to delve deep into the internal operations of the organization to identify and dismantle systems and practices that may be intentionally and unintentionally facilitating a lack of equity and belonging. We used the WSYWAT list of demands in our discussions and after months of work, the initial assessment has been completed. Now the work to make those changes across our organization begins. We acknowledge that this statement is the beginning of a conversation with many of our constituents and that more steps are needed to make these changes a reality.
Atlantic Acting School recognizes that educational institutions have a special obligation to educate against racism and to foster learning environments that inspire learning of all kinds. We acknowledge that teachers and administrators must play a critical role in dismantling oppressions including the necessary work of helping students unlearn their own internalized oppression. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive curriculum with an approach based on an understanding of all students and their individual needs, their backgrounds, and their interests. We will continue to listen to and work with BIPOC students and faculty to enrich the academic experience for all. We commit to looking at new ways of teaching, to looking at whose stories get told and why, and to guiding students toward understanding racial equity and inclusion.
As a theater and educational organization, we are committed to ensuring that Atlantic is an environment where all are invited to work, train, study, create, perform, and thrive.
It is our intention to create specific, measurable, and achievable goals that are tied to our values and strategic DEIA planning. As a community of storytellers, we have the responsibility and privilege to not only make space for all stories, but also to create our stories together.
Atlantic Theater Company
Since our beginning, Atlantic Theater Company has been committed to telling stories simply and truthfully, giving playwrights, actors, students, and directors—in all stages of their careers—the freedom to be authentic and to tell their truths. For many years, we have committed to diversifying the stories and people on our stages. And though we have made important inroads, there is more to be accomplished.
We place great value in creating new work that fosters a greater understanding of our shared world. As a producer, presenter, and educator of theater, we are driven by the belief that theater can challenge and transform our ways of thinking.
In our committed journey to inclusive excellence, we will expand our organizational artistic team by September 2021 to represent more diversity and commit to never becoming complacent in giving space for diverse voices to tell their stories.
Atlantic Acting School
Atlantic Acting School is a conservatory committed to empowering students with technical and creative skills and a community that fuels success beyond our doors. We believe that diversity of voices, perspectives, and stories; equitable treatment and opportunities for all; an inclusive, open, and welcoming environment; and clear transparent access are essential to creating a learning environment for all students.
We recognize that we have work to do and are engaged in deep evaluation of our curriculum, pedagogical practices, and stories we traditionally explore in our classes. We are analyzing all of our classes, teaching practices, and assigned materials with the goal of decentering whiteness and providing a learning environment that is safe and encourages openness, rigor, vulnerability, and creativity for all of our students. We are in an ongoing process of self-evaluation of our systems and practices, and from this we are making changes and creating long-term plans so that this work will continue to lead to actions that reflect and impact our commitment to anti-racism.
Staff, Faculty & Production Artists
We recognize and acknowledge that we need to further our focus on equitable hiring and will continue our commitment to more targeted recruitment practices. We will remove barriers that dissuade under-represented groups from considering employment opportunities at Atlantic. In addition, we will actively promote greater access through our job posting placements and include salary ranges for each position. We will continually assess our hiring practices, job descriptions, and all recruitment initiatives.
As we move forward, we will foster and uphold our commitment to maintaining a safe, respectful, and collaborative environment for artists to work both on and off stage. Inclusion for all employees, faculty, students, and artists is our priority.
Arts Education Programs
Atlantic has been committed to giving access to theater for students through the following focused programs for maximum impact.
Staging Success is a cross-curricular theater residency for Title I partner schools that has grown from a single-grade residency program for 90 students in 2011 to a multi-school partnership serving over 600 teenagers annually today, most of whom identify as people of color.
In 2019, Atlantic welcomed a record 4,652 public school students to experience live theater through Discover Success, our student matinee program. For many of the students, this was their first time witnessing live performance. This program provides students with free or subsidized theater tickets and includes post-show discussions. In advance of their attendance, students participate in individualized workshops in their classroom conducted by Atlantic teaching artists.
Access Success is a program developed to offer engagement, opportunity, and theater programs for neurodivergent individuals. We offer Relaxed Performances for our Atlantic for Kids productions, administrative internships, and participation in our Storytellers theater program.
In the fall of 2020, we piloted the Storytellers drama program in collaboration with AHRC New York for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our first session was held virtually in the fall of 2020 and is continuing now with our 2021 winter/spring session. The workshops include: socialization and community building through ensemble activities and theater games; an introduction to basic theater terminology, acting, and performance; and creative writing prompts and exercises that lead to character creation, monologue development, and scene work.
Over the years, BIPOC artists have been integral partners in reaching the communities that are reflected in their stories on our stages. To support and continue these efforts, Atlantic launched the Community Audience Partnership (CAP) in spring 2019 through generous support from the JL Greene Arts Access Fund. CAP is a multifaceted program that attracts new audiences by making our shows accessible to theatergoers of all backgrounds, particularly from NYC communities of color as well as individuals from low and middle-income backgrounds. Most immediately, CAP offers up to 4,350 free or $25 tickets across every public performance of our annual productions. Tickets are either distributed online or directly through partnerships with NYC organizations serving these communities.
We’ve also brought on a dedicated team of BIPOC staff to manage CAP, including a full-time Community Outreach Coordinator and 2-3 part-time ambassadors who help us forge and foster partnerships directly with NYC community organizations.
Atlantic is committed to creating more inclusive and equitable spaces. Diversification of the work on our stages has been a big part of that. To help build a welcoming home at our company, we program two special nights for each production at which theatergoers from similar experiences (LGBTQ+, Middle Eastern, Gen Z, etc.) can engage with one another, our staff, and artists. We’re providing community members with additional access to our work with an average of two community-based events per show, offering presentations, discussions, or performances at community centers, churches, or street fairs citywide.
Atlantic acknowledges the importance of sustaining these programs long-term as part of our ongoing work to be more diverse and inclusive. We will commit financial resources beyond the grant term in our annual operating budget to continue these community-based programs.
Board of Directors
Creating greater diversity on the Board is a priority, and engaging them in our DEIA work is our commitment.
Education and training will be an ongoing part of our Board development. Board sessions began in May and will continue in June. We will present our commitment to being a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible organization in all new member orientations; create workshops exclusively for our Board that are moderated by our professional consultant; and include DEIA updates as a repeating agenda item for every Board meeting. In addition, we will pair Board members with staff to participate in external training programs to give broader perspectives and deepen their engagement.
As part of our diversity strategy, the Board voted to change the by-laws of the organization to redefine qualifications for up to 10% of the total Board membership. Qualifications have been expanded from solely financial commitments to include skills and interests. With our Board, we will continue to make DEIA work a priority in all areas of the organization.
Atlantic has made a commitment to support all. To do so, we have committed financial resources to advance our important DEIA work both internally and externally. We will work with our internal DEIA consultant and continue to engage in outside training programs such as the Diversifying Our Organizations cohorts at A.R.T./New York, the Theater for a Young Audience National Roundtable, and Undoing Racism led by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
We will create a dedicated budget line to provide the necessary funds for ongoing training to faculty, staff, students, and the Board of Directors. All faculty are also required by New York University (NYU) to complete its DEIA training program annually in order to teach in our NYU Studio. The training programs came out of the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs (CMEP) and are additionally handled by The Office of Diversity Initiatives at NYU.
Atlantic aims for a culture in which everyone feels valued, respected, and encouraged to contribute to the Atlantic community. All perspectives are welcomed, acknowledged, and considered.
We believe that fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and access is key to achieving our mission. The Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic Acting School buildings are on the traditional lands of the Lenape people. We pay our respects to the Lenape and to the Indigenous caretakers of these lands and will continue to acknowledge Indigenous communities with land acknowledgement in all of our spaces.
Atlantic will always remain active in creating and implementing anti-racist policies and practices. We will continually evaluate, adjust these changes for effectiveness, and publicly report on progress. Our work with a DEIA consultant will continue, providing ongoing training for staff, faculty, and Board members to develop a comprehensive and consistent understanding of our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access.
To ensure an inclusive and equitable organization, we will assess working conditions for all employees and artists to create a better work/life balance. We value inclusion as a core strength and as an essential element of our mission.
At its most basic understanding, access is about the right of entry. While access is often thought of as the beginning, we understand that access expands beyond. There are various points within the theater industry that serve as barriers. ALL have a right to not only enter (diversity) and to have their participation examined and measured by standards that do not promote and support inferiority (equity), and to have their experience not be othered, but embraced so they can wholly participate (inclusion). So many BIPOC, disabled, economically under-resourced individuals, and those who have been simply ignored because of identities and experiences that do not fit the mold of American theater to date have been intentionally and unintentionally denied access.
Access is necessary at every step along this inclusive excellence journey. Atlantic desires to be a gateway, not a gatekeeper, to American theater.
We remain fully committed to this journey toward inclusive excellence by beginning to take the necessary steps to activate change. We pledge the following:
- We pledge to continue growing and building strong and lasting relationships with BIPOC artists and to honor their stories in all of our spaces.
- We pledge to expand and diversify the organizational artistic team with greater representation by September 2021.
- As part of our pay equity examination, we will evaluate work conditions including an audit of each position to determine and balance workloads.
- We will examine “10 out of 12” tech days and evaluate new production schedules developed by a staff ad hoc committee.
- As part of our ongoing staff training throughout the year, we will create general info sessions to discuss topics relating to organizational structure like budgeting, fundraising and marketing strategies, and operational needs.
- Through the CAP program, we will work to broaden our partnerships with BIPOC community and arts organizations. We pledge to make dedicated budget allocations that will sustain this program long-term.
- In both of our theaters and in our offices, land acknowledgment will be permanently recognized.
- We pledge to complete a full audit of our internship program. We will restructure the program to create paid internship positions and redirect recruitment initiatives to reach more BIPOC students. We will place a priority on raising funds for the program to make it sustainable.
- We pledge to create a working DEIA Committee. Its membership will be comprised of well-rounded organizational representation including staff, faculty, and Board at select times. We will work with our DEIA consultant to create the structure and guidelines. We will activate the committee within the next eight weeks.
- Atlantic Acting School’s goal is to create a safe and equitable learning space for all students. To this end, we will review our policies and protocols through a DEIA lens and revise them, streamline forms of communication through new student and production handbooks, and create clear channels and protocols to expose harassment and discrimination of all forms, and promote healing.
- Atlantic pledges to strengthen targeted recruitment strategies to continue growing our BIPOC student body. Each year, Atlantic Acting School awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to BIPOC students in order to make our programs accessible.
- Atlantic Acting School BIPOC students in our NYU and Conservatory programs formed an Atlantic Students of Color (ASOC) affinity group. Students meet weekly and have access to school administration to discuss concerns, suggestions, and ideas for changes that would help support the BIPOC community.
- Atlantic Acting School recently created a Practical Aesthetics (Atlantic’s unique acting technique) Teacher Training program for BIPOC alumni and teachers interested in teaching Practical Aesthetics. Members of the BIPOC community are paid to train and then given opportunities for Teaching Artist and Teacher positions.
- A play database that expands histories, different identities, cultures, and countries has been created to help students access diverse material more easily. We will continue to update this annually.
- Atlantic Acting School will compensate students, alumni, and faculty for the generation of blog posts, and for any participation in recruitment events outside of their regular curricular or job duties.
- Atlantic Theater Company will compensate artists for their participation in special promotional and fundraising events outside of those contractually agreed upon.
- Atlantic will fully assess all hiring practices and recruitment initiatives and actively seek ways to reach BIPOC and under-represented groups for all employment opportunities.
- Atlantic will review job descriptions through a DEIA lens and revise them for all positions.
- Atlantic supports wide representation and aims to have staff members of color in all departments.
- Atlantic will revise the employee handbook with our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access.
- Atlantic will orient all new hires and new Board members to its DEIA commitment. Current employees will be updated as changes to policies are made.
- Atlantic will review all external communications to improve accessibility and inclusivity.
- Atlantic’s Board is committed to engaging in training with our DEIA consultant and will stay informed on the internal initiatives throughout the organization. Atlantic’s Board will continue to be involved in external DEIA work with staff.
- We pledge to continue our DEIA training and education and to make it an ongoing priority in all areas of the organization. We will create a line item in our annual budgets to support the work financially.
We recognize that statements of solidarity are not sufficient without action. We developed these actions to strengthen Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic Acting School as an organization. We strive to be more collaborative, more welcoming, and a trusted place to work, study, teach, express your talents, and experience truthful storytelling. These actions will hold us accountable to evaluate and measure our progress and evoke change.
We will report publicly on our progress and challenges beginning in September 2021.