With a belief that theater can enrich the soul, challenge the mind and expand the heart of the diverse community in which it serves, the Yellow Springs Theater Company is committed to producing new and classic works of theater that fearlessly examine and illuminate the human condition: past, present and future. YSTC’s mission includes creating then following an anti-racist policy of theater to allow for equity, inclusion and opportunity for Black, Indigenous and POC theater artists.
YSTC Statement on Racism in Theater:
On June 6th, 2020, more than 300 theater artists — black, Indigenous and people of color published a blistering statement addressed to “White American Theater” decrying racial injustice in their industry.
“You are all a part of this house of cards built on white fragility and supremacy,” said the statement, which was published on the web. “And this is a house that will not stand.”
Please take a moment to read this referenced statement. It is necessary to what comes next. Here is the link: http://www.weseeyouwat.com
The statement is 100% correct. Theater is a White person’s business, designed for the privileged. Black people and other People of Color have long been largely left out and marginalized by it. This is not a secret, nor is it right.
Theater people make excuses around this all the time. “What do we do? I mean, there weren’t any black actors at the audition.” “Black directors don’t step forward or have the experience to helm a show.” “This play about race is awfully controversial and might upset the patrons.” “This play won’t draw –we can’t get an audience for that.” We in theater have heard all of these excuses. Personally, I’ve said a couple of them. It makes me ashamed to write it. I should be.
Rarely has the white theater community questioned the dominant narrative within the industry. We just say “it’s the way it is.” Far too often we fail to consider , “Maybe it’s us. Maybe our actions in theater need to change to create a welcoming and equitable and supportive environment for People of Color to make art, helm art and run art.”
We’re not doing that as an industry. And we’re not doing it as your community theater company. Change is necessary.
All involved with YSTC look to our mission statement to guide our “theater for our unique community” in all we do. It states:
“With a belief that theater can enrich the soul, challenge the mind and expand the heart of the diverse community in which it serves, the Yellow Springs Theater Company is committed to producing new and classic works of theater that fearlessly examine and illuminate the human condition: past, present and future.”
If indeed we are to embody this mission through our plays and artistic works, we must acknowledge we have not represented People of Color within the human condition enough. We must admit and own our own organization’s culpability and say we are part of the problem.
It’s not enough to just admit it, though. YSTC’s Board of Directors and Company members must put action, programming and resources where our mouths are. We must develop an anti-racist doctrine of theater to guide us from this moment forward. This means talking with People of Color and those of other identities who also experience oppression from the hands of the dominant society. We need to come together to shape what community theater is. We must collaborate and then implement theater that includes and represents them. This is crucial to find out what we’ve done wrong, what we’ve done right and how to correct where we have erred in our approach. It means listening to community leaders of color to help us understand how we must grow and how we can do better to deepen our relationships and collaboration with Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are artists in our Village.
It also means programming seasons of plays helmed, directed and performed by People of Color. It means committing financial resources to the development of new plays by and about Communities of Color, those in LGBTIQ+ communities and others who are marginalized by the status quo. We stand committed to lifting up the stories they want to share, the successes and traditions they want to celebrate and the issues they face. And, of equal and utmost importance, this means acknowledging these groups want to be included in the audience as well and we have not done programming to represent their experiences and lives on the stage.
We must change.
With this change in mind, the following amendment will be added to the YSTC mission statement:
“YSTC’s mission includes creating then following an anti-racist policy of theater to allow for equity, inclusion and opportunity for Black, Indigenous and POC theater artists.”
Now we need to walk that walk. We need to continue the dialogue we have started to put anti-racist policies in action starting now. This is not an “issue of the day.” This must be who we are as a Company and we must be held accountable for it going forward.
We welcome community input. We are not only listening and learning: we will move forward and take action to do our part to right this injustice that has always been within the American Theater.
Yours in Solidarity,
Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, YSTC Artistic Director
YSTC Board of Directors:
- Ellen Ballerene, Chair
- Thor Sage, Treasurer
- Lara Bentley, Secretary
Robert Campbell, Wendy Clark, Chuck Dunn, Sommer McGuire, Amy Wamsley
YSTC is a 501(c) charitable organization.
Edward Knapp and Thor Sage in the YSTC world premiere of “Killers”, October 2014.
The Yellow Springs Theater Company (YSTC)
Yellow Springs, OH 45387