July 2021 Update
The discoveries of the remains and unmarked graves of Indigenous children who were victims of residential schools have opened our eyes to what Indigenous communities have been telling us for too long. Residential schools attempted to “kill the Indian in the child”, but in many cases robbed them of life all together. We also recognize the devastating emotional, physical, sexual, and cultural abuse inflicted on Indigenous students, and the enduring effects of intergenerational trauma that continues to impact Indigenous communities today.
As we reflect on the truth of our history, we invite you to reflect on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the residential school system an opportunity to tell their stories. In 2015, the TRC shared their Final Report which included 94 Calls to Action to further reconciliation between Indigenous and Canadian peoples. Beyond 94, an interactive website created by the CBC, is continually tracking the progress of those recommendations. As of July 26 2021: 20 Calls to Action were not started; 37 are in progress with projects proposed; 23 are in progress with projects underway; and 14 are complete.
In our statement made earlier this year, the Playhouse committed to providing regular updates on our anti-racism initiatives to share our steps forward. Since our last update, the Thousand Islands Playhouse has:
• Formed an Advisory Committee composed of Indigenous and Black industry leaders hired as consultants to help guide the planning and execution of our anti-racism work. With their advice, we have prioritized mentorship in our 2021 season;
• Launched an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Working Group comprised of staff and board members who meet monthly to continue putting plans into action;
• Launched Creative Catalysts, a new play development program alongside Black Theatre Workshop (Montreal) and Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto) which will support the work of emerging Black and Indigenous creators;
• Featured our anti-racism work in our July 2021 Playhouse Podcast episode to share our work with our community (click here to listen);
• Created a new ‘Inclusion and Anti-Oppression Policy’ which promotes emotional, physical, and cultural safety in our workplace. We shared this policy with our full staff and facilitated a collaborative conversation with our management team about how we can uphold this policy;
• Launched a weekly staff newsletter launched to foster belonging and communication;
• Hosted a full staff collaborative conversation on the value of inclusivity and what that looks like at our workplace;
• Booked anti-racism training for our board and staff this summer and fall.
Thank you for championing the Playhouse by supporting these initiatives. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Brett Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing more updates with you soon.
We hold a great privilege in being storytellers. The stories we choose to tell shape, inform, and impact our community. We recognize that we have an opportunity to actively dismantle systemic racism in the work we do, the artists we collaborate with, and the policies we uphold.
The Thousand Islands Playhouse stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour across Canada and Turtle Island.
As an organization, we have made only limited attempts at building an anti-racist, diverse, and inclusive theatre in our 40-year history. The truth is: we have prioritized the voices of white playwrights, the work of white artistic leaders, artists, staff, and board members, and the experience of white audiences. In operating this way, we have contributed to the systemic marginalization and oppression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. We recognize that we are at the beginning of our journey to fully understanding the ways in which we have perpetuated and been complicit in white supremacy and racial injustice
Black Lives Matter, the murder of George Floyd and countless Black and Indigenous people, and the worldwide protests have been an overdue wake-up call. The Thousand Islands Playhouse can do much better and we are committed to long-term change.
Oppression is intersectional and our work must reflect that. The goals listed below focus on cultivating greater racial diversity and inclusion across our organization. We will follow up with more updates regarding our work towards the inclusion of artists and audiences who self identify with historically underrepresented groups, including but not limited to D/deaf, disability, neurodiversity, gender, and LGBTQIA2S+.
We have always aimed to make outstanding theatre and achieving the following goals will enrich our artistry and build a more welcoming, dynamic, and conscientious Playhouse. In our commitment to amplifying marginalized and oppressed voices, we are:
• Launching a Black and Indigenous Playwrights’ Unit in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Black Theatre Workshop to propel the voices of Black and Indigenous playwrights at the Playhouse and beyond;
• Prioritizing collaborations with Black, Indigenous, and Artists of Colour;
• Hiring an Anti-Racism Advisory Committee to help guide our goals and growth.
In our commitment to increasing representation on our stages and beyond, we are:
• Engaging Black, Indigenous, and Artists of Colour who have previously worked at the Playhouse to learn about their experiences and identify what specific actions we can take to create a more inclusive work environment;
• Prioritizing Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in audition calls, casting, staff hiring, and on our Board of Directors;
• Creating mentorship opportunities for emerging Black, Indigenous, and Artists of Colour.
In our commitment to offering a welcoming and safe environment, we are:
• Creating an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity, and Anti-Racism Working Group comprised of the Managing Artistic Director, staff, and Board Members;
• Providing Playhouse staff with anti-racism training;
• Including anti-oppression clauses, resources, and open lines of communication with the artists we engage;
• Communicating these goals to our audiences, community, and stakeholders with transparency and vulnerability.
We ask our community to help us stand up against racism, hold us accountable for our growth, and help us build a brighter and more equitable future.