In 2020, the Roadmap created by members of the Berkeley Rep staff; We See You, White American Theatre; and the Bay Area Living Document called for a radical transformation of the American theatrical ecosystem. In response, Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s staff, Board, and management committed to the intentional interrogation of Berkeley Rep’s practices, culture, and policies to become an antiracist organization. We have experienced both successes and failures in the year since our last update. Like many other theatres across the nation, Berkeley Rep has been challenged in multiple ways as we have re-opened our doors to audiences in this first post-pandemic season. While much remains uncertain, we remain steadfast in our commitment to transforming our theatre for the better. We are both humbled and grateful for our community members who continue to challenge our assumptions, support our growth, and believe in our capacity for change.
Here is what we’ve been up to since our last check-in:
Our Board of Trustees provides meaningful oversight over organizational governance, and we know that greater diversity on our Board leads to greater diversity in thought, knowledge, and perspective. Therefore, our Board has renewed its focus on growing the racial, socioeconomic, and generational diversity of the Board. Today, 25% of our Board identifies as BIPOC. The Board is exploring ways to support BIPOC folx on the Board through affinity spaces or other support mechanisms.
Over the last year we have continued to invest in opportunities for the Board and staff to come together in dialogue and community. Through conversation and feedback, we adopted Board/staff community agreements. The process of creating shared community agreements provided us with an opportunity to challenge our assumptions and create shared intentions.
The Board continues to invest time at every Board meeting to increase the cultural proficiency of its members through training and dialogue.
Training & cultural competency
With the full support of our Board, Berkeley Rep’s leadership has reinvested in a dedicated annual budget line to support equity, diversity, inclusion, access (EDIA), and antiracism trainings and staff development.
Based on feedback we received from patrons, we reexamined how we staff our front of house operations. We recognize that our volunteer ushers have a direct line of contact with our patrons and impact the experience of community members in our spaces. We created and staffed eight paid Patron Experience Representatives to foster greater accountability and alignment with our organizational values. In addition, our volunteer ushers receive ongoing antiracism and EDIA trainings throughout the year.
Words have power and the capacity to perpetuate oppression. With that understanding in mind, we conducted an audit of organizational titles and removed the term “master” from every title across the organization.
Over the last year, we have deepened our relationship with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. Through our partnership with the leaders of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, we have developed a new land acknowledgment that can be found here. We are in the process of installing the land acknowledgment in our theatres to continue to educate our community members about the history of the lands we occupy. We share our land acknowledgment at every first rehearsal, company meeting, Board meeting, and community gathering.
Last year we committed to creating a mural in the heart of Berkeley’s Downtown Arts District that honors the presence of the Indigenous people of the Lisjan Ohlone tribes. Over the course of this season, we have worked in close collaboration with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and the members of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan to develop the mural. Two members of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust served on an artist selection committee, reviewed designs, and engaged their tribal members as a part of the feedback process to ensure a mural was developed in which they could see themselves reflected. The resulting mural by artist Cece Carpio was completed in October of 2022. Further, Carpio was assisted by artist ShiShi Madriz and mentored Indigenous youth artist Kahalla, who was selected by Sogorea Te’. We held a community celebration to unveil the mural on November 3, 2022.
The harm and erasure caused by colonial genocide continue to impact Indigenous people across the United States. In solidarity with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust’s commitment to ensuring that current and future generations of Indigenous people thrive in the Bay Area, we continue our contribution to the Shuumi Land Tax to support rematriation. To join us in supporting the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, please visit their site.
Juneteenth is often referred to as the day that marks the end of enslavement in America. While we recognize that slavery did not end on June 19, 1865, our staff feels it is important to center Juneteenth as an official company holiday. Therefore, in 2021, we added Juneteenth as a company holiday.
One of the conversations we continue to revisit is the role of “10 out of 12” rehearsals in our organization. In 2021, we committed to reducing our use of 10 out of 12s to create a safer and more sustainable working practice for theatre-makers. We utilized a 10 out of 12 once during our last season. We do not intend to use 10 out of 12s in our upcoming season.
Maintaining company culture is challenging for any organization; in our experience, it is especially challenging in theatre arts organizations. Our culture is influenced by the amazing theatre-makers who cycle in and out of the organization, with each creative team bringing a unique energy to the space. To create greater shared intention, we have committed time at every first rehearsal to discuss organizational culture, antiracism, access needs, and community agreements. Beginning each rehearsal with an intentional conversation has allowed for the surfacing of ideas earlier in our creative process.
We have continued to partner with cultural consultants and intimacy coaches for shows, as determined by the specific needs of each project. We have chosen to work with casting agencies with strong BIPOC representation on their teams, and in the future will look to doing so exclusively.
We committed to compensating artists for participating in donor and community events. Over the last year, we have honored our commitment and will continue to do so.
In 2021, we committed to creating greater equity in our recruitment and selection strategies. Our commitments included creating hiring committees that are at least half BIPOC and eliminating unnecessary college degree requirements for positions across the organization. Since shifting our approach, BIPOC representation among our senior leadership team has increased from 10% to 40%. While we have made progress, we acknowledge there is still more work to do. We continue to evaluate our recruitment and selection strategies. We recently committed to partnering with BIPOC Executive Search, a BIPOC-led and -owned search firm, to fill two specific leadership roles that historically lack BIPOC representation. Learn more about BIPOC Executive Search.
When evaluating our structures, we realized we do not have a mechanism by which to collect vendor data. Given the lack of data, we do not know what percent of our vendors are BIPOC owned or operated. Our Finance department is actively developing a vendor portal to intake vendors, which will store voluntary demographic data. Having a better understanding of the demographic makeup of our vendor relationships will help us better focus our efforts to diversify our relationships with vendors in our community.
Before 2022, Berkeley Rep utilized an employer-funded vesting schedule for its retirement plan based on years of service. However, we reevaluated our vesting schedule and decided it did not align with our commitment to equity. Therefore, we have changed our vesting schedule, and employees are now 100% vested in all employer-funded contributions from date of hire.
In 2022, we conducted a wage assessment and found that some departments and positions reflected greater wage compression than others. In response, we intentionally increased the hourly rate in production, facilities, box office, and front of house. We also increased our institutional minimum hourly rate by 40%.
Our commitment to antiracism is a commitment to action. Every day we recommit, with joy and intention, to the transformational change required to become a more equitable, inclusive, and antiracist arts organization. We cannot do this work without our community. We continue to welcome your suggestions, feedback, and questions at email@example.com.
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 acknowledgements. 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:
- stopaapihate.org to report hate crimes and for additional resources
- compassioninoakland.org to support safety in the Oakland Chinatown community
- ihollaback.org for bystander intervention training and information