100+ Theaters Have Committed To Diversity Efforts Inspired by #WeSeeYouWAT

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Photo Source: Courtesy We See You, White American Theatre

We See You White American Theatre has released its ”We See You White American Theatre Accountability Report.” It is a compendium of over 100 responses from theaters around the country to its BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre, a document the group released last year detailing ways that the theater industry can be more diverse and equitable.

WSYWAT began with an open letter last summer, which was initially signed by over 300 BIPOC theater practitioners, including Cynthia Erivo, Sandra Oh, Billy Porter, and Lin-Manuel Miranda; that letter now has 104,600 signatures.

This was followed by the BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre and Principles for Building Anti-Racist Theatre Systems, which was created by an anonymous group of artists. The demands include having production teams be made up of 50% or more BIPOC, and fair wages for BIPOC artists—including actors with equal billing being paid comparably. 

Said the Accountability Report: “In the 7 months since the release of our Demands, there have been considerable actions in the industry toward equity, anti-racism and the dismantling of white supremacy in the American theatre. What follows is a list of predominantly white institutions across the country, in varying sizes—theatres, training programs, talent organizations, PR offices, union locals, etc. They are responding to our Demands, communicating with us and/or publicly acknowledging the labor by WSYWAT and as a result are in various stages of their anti-racism journey.”

The Report also says: “If these institutions are in your region, keep yourself updated and keep them accountable. These are their words—hold them to it.”

The theaters that have responded include Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Workshop, the Goodman Theatre, as well as training programs such as the Yale School of Drama and the agency William Morris Endeavor. The full report is here.

One of the larger institutions to respond was Manhattan Theatre Club, which produces both on Broadway and Off-Broadway. In its statement, it said that in the last nine months, it has hired Tony-winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson as artistic advisor, have completed one round of anti-racism training for its staff, and has committed to increasing the presence of BIPOC artists on and off stage. 

Said MTC’s Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Director Barry Grove in a joint statement: “We are aware that our commitment to help transform our industry and to build a more hospitable and inclusive climate within our own organization requires a sustained effort. We are prepared to devote time and resources to endeavor to bring about these outcomes. Ours will be an ongoing process, and we look forward to being back producing live theatre, to welcoming artists and audiences back to our theatres, and to all the exciting work ahead.”

Despite the presence of some Broadway producers in the Accountability Report, WSYWAT has pointed out that the Broadway League, the trade organization of Broadway producers, has not responded. 

The collective has taken to calling out the League on Instagram, saying, “You have played a critical part in upholding the systemic racism that has harmed so many in our industry. If you value our black lives, join the hundreds of other theaters, universities & institutions who responded to our demands and are fighting to make our workplace more equitable.”