Racism is endemic in the United States, and predominantly white theatres continue to benefit from the marginalization of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). As a historically and predominantly white legacy theatre with institutional power and privilege, Berkeley Repertory Theatre benefits from the perpetuation of White Supremacy Culture. We acknowledge that we have profited from the knowledge, stories, and bodies of Black and brown people and must become a safe and inclusive space where everyone thrives.
We are deeply thankful to our staff, artists, and the people who created We See You, White American Theater and the SF Bay Area Living Document of BIPOC Experiences in Bay Area Theater for calling us up into the work of racial justice. We regret how long it has taken us to fully understand the impact our actions have had on so many BIPOC members of our community. We are actively exploring ways we can hold ourselves accountable for our choices, both past and ongoing, and work to repair harm.
Berkeley Rep is committed to becoming an antiracist organization through the efforts of our Board, management, and staff. We are working to become a place where we welcome, support, and honor the fullness and complexity of all people’s identities. We will become a place where BIPOC are holistically represented throughout all levels of our organization: on our Board, in leadership roles, on- and back-stage, and in our offices, rehearsal rooms, production facilities, and audience. Through a lens of antiracism, we will continue to create ambitious theatre that entertains and challenges our audiences, provokes civic engagement, and inspires people to experience the world in new and surprising ways.
We recognize that we aren’t there yet. There is a lot we don’t know, many questions to be asked, and behaviors to unlearn. We recognize that being antiracist is an active, intentional, lifelong choice and that we will make mistakes. We wholeheartedly embrace this opportunity to be, and do, better. We find joy in making the deep and necessary changes to transform the experience of making and seeing theatre at our organization.
With the support of our staff and Board, we have started the process of identifying and rooting out where interpersonal and institutional racism thrive in our organization.
Here are some of the actions we have taken so far:
In June 2020, our Board started working with a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) professional and established a Board antiracism task force. The task force centered We See You, White American Theater and the SF Bay Area Living Document of BIPOC Experiences in Bay Area Theater in its discussions of antiracism and JEDI. The Board has made a commitment, in a formal statement, to the work of antiracism and charged the Theatre to take action to address systemic racism within our organization.
Over the last year, 50 percent of each Board meeting was dedicated to discussions of antiracism. The Board Governance Committee reviewed and amended board policies and the Board nomination process to affirm that financial obligations are not a barrier to Board participation. Two-thirds of new trustees who joined us this fiscal year identify as BIPOC. Our Board antiracism task force has transformed into an ongoing Board/staff antiracism task force. The Board/staff antiracism task force is comprised of equal numbers of Board and staff, and serves as a space for ongoing JEDI dialogue, education, and planning, while creating a structure for internal accountability.
Members of our staff came together and created an Action and Accountability Roadmap that led to a series of staff-wide conversations and resulted in the creation of an ongoing BIPOC Affinity Space and a White Action/Learning Space, among other outcomes.
Our staff created a staff-led education committee to program and facilitate weekly staff-wide antiracism discussions and trainings. These ongoing discussions are providing a space to analyze current and past practices and experiences to identify opportunities for change.
We have increased the stipend for the participants in our fellowship program by 40 percent and removed the written reference requirements with the intention of reducing barriers to access to professional development.
We have created a new position, the Director of Patron Experience, which will be empowered to reimagine our front-of-house practices, policies, and procedures to create a radically inclusive space. This position will partner with our Director of Human Resources and Diversity to create a more welcoming, accessible, and inclusive environment for our audiences, beginning with the hiring of eight new paid usher positions for the full season. All of our ushers and front-of-house staff receive anti-bias and bystander intervention training.
We are expanding the artistic staff to ensure that more voices are represented in discussions of season planning.
We have committed resources for cultural advisors and consultants for productions where their presence will ensure that the intentions of the writer and the needs of the artists in the room are honored. We will work with the creative teams of the productions to understand and respond to their needs.
Artists will be compensated for participation in donor, press, and community events.
We understand the challenges that 6-day work weeks and 10 out of 12 technical rehearsals place on participating artists and staff. In the coming season, we will experiment with modifying rehearsal schedules, seeking opportunities to move toward 5-day work weeks and reduce the number of 10 out of 12 technical rehearsals.
We acknowledge that Berkeley Rep sits on the unceded ancestral lands of the Ohlone people. Moving forward, we will conduct land acknowledgments. Additionally, we are establishing a relationship with the local Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and are making payments to the Shuumi Land Tax in recognition of our occupation of this land. We are working to partner with artists from Sogorea Te’ to create a mural in the heart of the Downtown Arts District that honors and values the aesthetic traditions of the Ohlone people.
We have created a new programmatic division within our Theatre that places the capacity of our theatre-making skills in service of community, “In Dialogue.” These initiatives will be led by our new Associate Managing Director and Associate Artistic Director.
We believe that a commitment to antiracism requires a commitment to changing policies, practices, and procedures, thereby creating a set of tools that make it harder for individuals to activate their bias. We created the position of Director of Human Resources and Diversity to help align our institutional policies to our antiracism commitments. We intentionally selected a candidate with a long-standing commitment to antiracism and JEDI to serve as a strategic partner to our leadership team.
We established a new partnership with a local BIPOC-owned and -led organization to facilitate ongoing JEDI trainings and conversations. We will continue these organization-wide trainings and have created a dedicated budget line to support this work each year.
We have conducted an in-depth audit of our recruitment, selection, and hiring practices and are in the process of formalizing a new hiring policy. We have revised job postings with a critical eye toward eliminating language and requirements that may result in gatekeeping, and we’ve reconfigured our hiring committees to be at least half BIPOC. We also conducted a wage analysis and will continue to publicly post salary ranges for all open positions.
These are just the first steps we have taken in a long journey of becoming an antiracist organization.
We commit to doing this work with intention, with rigor, and with joy. Berkeley Rep can be a place of growth and change, within our organization, in dialogue with our field, and in service to our community. We are in the process of more change, and in the spirit of accountability, we commit to posting an annual report on our progress on our website.
If you have something to share with us, we welcome your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The murders that took place in Atlanta were violent acts of racism, a hate crime that reflects the anti-Asian rhetoric and prejudice that is deeply rooted in the United States. While violence against the AAPI community has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, we know it is rooted in long-standing anti-Asian racism and white supremacy culture. We must actively root out the structures that continue to perpetuate hate and violence against BIPOC communities.
We are outraged by the violence against the members of our AAPI community and condemn these acts. We stand in solidarity with the AAPI community here in the Bay Area and around the world.
For additional ways to support, uplift, and protect our community, Berkeley Rep staff recommends that you visit: