Portland Playhouse practices anti-racist theatre.
Our goal is to continually create a community of care.
Racism is institutionalized in the American theatre industry. We are dedicated to changing these structures and systems of oppression. This dismantling is now and will always be a work in progress.
We resolve to carry out this work on all levels of our organization, and to advocate for change and help create this change in our larger community.
We will hold ourselves accountable and also welcome you to hold us accountable to living out these values in our large and small actions. Contact us here.
Portland Playhouse was founded in 2008 with a vision of using theatre to make social change and elevate the power of story and voice to build a more just world. Audiences have come to rely on us as a place for learning and exposure to stories that illuminate the complexity of the human experience. A vital part of our work is shining a light on stories of the Black experience. We are committed to continually deepening our connection to our immediate neighbors, community members, and our audience.
Our mission is to celebrate the complexity of the human experience.
Our audiences are of all races and backgrounds. The plays we stage reflect the diversity of our community and foreground Black voices and struggles. Our theatre is located in the King Neighborhood, a historically Black neighborhood that has seen the effect of gentrification on its people, businesses, and community organizations. We are housed in the former Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, where a Black congregation convened at this site for several decades and which remains culturally significant to many Black families.
We are deeply engaged with the question: How do we preserve and celebrate the legacy of the King Neighborhood? Through our selection of plays, the artists we engage with, our community and education programs, and our internal structures, we strive to more fully realize our role in the community. We are committed to ensuring that our staff, board, and teaching artists are empowered to drive the organization forward. We are dedicated to being an inclusive community art center.
On July 8, 2020, We See You White American Theatre released Principles for Building Anti-Racist Theatre Systems and a list of demands for white American theatre — a living document created by hundreds of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre workers through 25 committees. These demands are, in their words, “comprehensive but by no means exhaustive.” This document welcomes us to urgently review, refine, and rededicate ourselves to anti-racist theatre making.
To the many individuals, artists identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color, who contributed to this document – Thank you for catalyzing this next step in the process of creating a more equitable industry. With the following commitments, we seek to honor your work.
Our Commitments to Anti-racist Practices
These commitments are a synthesis of Portland Playhouse’s existing antiracism practices and our response to the We See You White American Theatre statement and de
- Committed to prioritizing the cultural care and feeding of BIPOC artists.
- Uplifting stories of joy and portraying the full array of human emotions. BIPOC actors are not just hired to play trauma or tell traumatic stories.
- Incorporating Land Acknowledgements and Anti-Racism statements into the first rehearsal, first day of tech orientation, board meetings, and all performances and events.
- Following the leadership of BIPOC staff and artists in the event that exceptions or changes need to be made to these commitments in practice.
- Hiring culturally specific facilitators for BIPOC stories at talkbacks, to reduce harm and prevent white individuals from harming audiences of color and other marginalized individuals.
- Centering the experience and voices of individuals from marginalized communities in talk backs.
- Providing opportunities for BIPOC audiences to unpack stories in depth and with care.
- Honoring and valuing the lived experiences of BIPOC folx/artists.
- Establish consistent, meaningful, long term relationships with BIPOC artists.
- Not make decisions about staff, artists, audiences, or community members that hold a specific identity without people of that identity involved in the decision-making process.
- Prioritize our antiracist commitment when seeking new Board Members and review this work together to ensure alignment.
- Include a review of our antiracist work and policies as part of the onboarding process for all new Board members.
- Recognize that antiracism work is intersectional and as we continue to do the work of dismantling white supremacy we will examine how it is impacted by ableism, sexism, homophobia, gender bias, and other areas of oppression.
WORKING CONDITIONS AND HIRING PRACTICES
- Diversifying the makeup of our company’s workforce at all levels of responsibility and authority.
- Continually evaluating our hiring practices through an anti-racist lens and adjusting or developing new organizational standards accordingly.
- Committed to hiring leadership and making structural leadership changes through an equitable and transparent process.
- Including salary ranges, omitting mandatory education requirements, and using language that is free of bias in all our job postings.
- Eliminating the 6 day rehearsal week and no longer holding “9 out of 11” or “10 out of 12” rehearsals.
- Developing intervention and disruption protocols for harmful moments in all the spaces we operate (ex: the rehearsal room, with our audiences)
- Provide supportive onboarding so that staff who are BIPOC or from historically marginalized communities are set up for success in their roles.
- Prioritize the safety, health, and well-being of staff who are BIPOC or from historically marginalized communities, connecting them to dedicated resources and external support.
- Promote a clear and confidential process of reporting and responding to problems companywide.
- Provide anti-racism training for all employees and volunteers of Portland Playhouse.
- Provide mental health support during rehearsal and production run for cast/crew/creatives working on stories dealing with trauma.
- Plan enough time for hiring processes to cast a wide net for candidates in order to recruit beyond the Playhouse’s previous relationships and existing networks.
- Hire costume and wardrobe staff with training in styling and consultation of Black hair and makeup or pay to provide that professional training.
- Institute anti-racism statements that must be read at all first rehearsals, volunteer orientations, board meetings, and quarterly staff meetings to continue to hold our theatre accountable.
ARTISTIC AND CURATORIAL PRACTICES
- Centering voices of the global majority in our play selection and applying a critical antiracist lens to all scripts considered.
- Casting at least 50% of all roles for the season with BIPOC actors, keeping cultural specificity and other relevant considerations in mind.
- Building relationships with and hiring artists of the global majority from the Portland area and also around the country to support cross cultural exchanges
- Hiring culturally specific directors for every production.
- Writing radically inclusive casting notices and character breakdowns, avoiding microaggressions.
- Identifying and recruiting BIPOC and marginalized designers and artists and creating more opportunities for them to join Portland Playhouse production teams, aiming ultimately for genuine equity of representation.
- Collaborating with local BIPOC business owners to build prosperity and promote the success of their businesses.
- Work to engage, learn about and connect with Indigenous artists and communities.
- Hire cultural consultants for any knowledge gaps directors may have around specific experiences of oppression and marginalization.
- Have equitable representation of BIPOC and marginalized persons on our casting team and in the room at auditions.
- Distribute a list of confirmed artists involved in the production to actors and creative teams at the time they are offered a role/job.
- Provide all cast, crew, and creative anti-racist training at the beginning of their process.
- Welcome and incorporate critiques from the BIPOC artists we ask for cultural consultation.
- Create pathways to prosperity by providing living wage jobs, paid contracts, and commissions to Black Portlanders (artists, performers, designers, directors, playwrights) in the King Neighborhood and beyond in recognition of the harm done to the Black community throughout the history of the city and country.
FUNDING, RESOURCES, AND MARKETING
- Identifying and working to remove various barriers audience members, especially BIPOC audience members, may experience when accessing the work of Portland Playhouse.
- Researching radically inclusive pricing models and funding for other projects that remove barriers to participating in Portland Playhouse events.
- Continuing to diversify the way we market our productions, including hiring marketing professionals and community members outside of traditional media who know how to engage potential BIPOC audiences with care.
- Envisioning and applying an approach to all communications and visuals that is inclusive and culturally sensitive and avoids centering a white, Eurocentric voice.
- Transitioning from a fundraising model that centers the donor experience by offering exclusive access in exchange for tiered, project based support, to a community centric model that includes a racially and economically diverse donor base that can support our work in the long term.
- Provide regular anti-racist, implicit bias, and bystander training for all front of house personnel, and develop proper intervention protocol for racist conflicts with audience members.
- Identify and secure funding and other resources to support Portland Playhouse’s anti-racism commitments.
- Diversify our donor base in order to earn meaningful support for our long term sustainability. We will begin by surveying the demographics of our current donors to identify gaps in diversity, then research and implement practices of effective relationship building and healthy donor stewardship with the goal of reaching a diverse balance of donors that fairly represent our community.
- Develop an intervention protocol for racist conflicts with donors.
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy for accepting donation dollars from individuals, foundations, or companies which knowingly uphold racism or racist practices, and develop proper intervention protocol for racist conflicts with audience members.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
- Growing our community and school partnerships to expand the diversity of the population we serve by our Education and Training programs.
- Dismantling the sense of urgency and “the show must go on” mentality that is deeply rooted in our industry, exchanging it for student-first education programming with a focus on emotional literacy and deep listening.
- Planning programing around student/apprentice needs, interests, and curiosities rather than prescribing preset curricula.
- Empowering and equipping students to tell their own stories.
- Training our teaching artists to be trauma-informed and consent-centered leaders.
- Evaluating all existing curricula with an anti-racist and culturally competent lens.
- Using an anti-racist and culturally competent lens when creating new curricula.
- Creating apprentice companies that are 50% or more BIPOC artists.
- Center the needs of BIPOC students and prioritize programming and resources at their schools.
- Prioritize hiring BIPOC teaching artists.
- Align schools and classrooms with teaching artists who best reflect the racial and cultural identities of the student body.
- Create more accessibility and transparency around our teaching artist/director hiring process and cultivate a wider network of teaching artists from the community.
- Collaborate with at least one local social justice oriented community organization in our education programming per season. We believe education work is stronger when directly influenced by the communities our students belong to.
- Build a network of anti-racist, culturally competent mentors who are diverse in race, gender, ability, etc.
- Pair apprentices of marginalized identities with mentors who reflect those identities.
- Grow the budget for our Apprentice Company Program so that all apprentices are given access to free housing as well as a larger monthly reimbursement that more accurately reflects the cost of living in Portland.
- Ensure appropriate anti-racism and cultural competency training for our apprentice program’s community hosting partners, our teaching artists, and our educational program directors.
- Center anti-racism and anti-oppression practices in all teaching artist trainings with ongoing feedback channels for curriculum improvement.
- Allocate more time for teaching artist training.
- Scrutinize contracts to ensure compensation accurately reflects project hours including all training time.