Commitment to Anti-Racism

ROUND HOUSE AND ANTI-RACISM
A Progress Report | January 2021
 
Round House updated its mission in March 2020 to be a Theatre for Everyone—a theatre of and for our community. Our organizational values, adopted at the same time, include a commitment to be an anti-racist, anti-sexist organization. In early July 2020, Round House published a Commitment to Anti-Racism that outlined what we had already implemented alongside the new initiatives and procedures we would take on to address inequities at our theatre. As we noted at that time, the work of anti-racism must be active and ongoing and our commitments continually updated.
 
Later that month, a collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatremakers issued a set of demands following the We See You, White American Theater (WSYWAT) testimonial letter addressing the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and racism in American theatre. To those artists, and to artists everywhere who spoke out about their experiences: thank you. We hear you and we recognize the systemic harms perpetuated by the theatre industry.
 
Round House’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA) Staff Workgroup and executive leadership have undertaken an item-by-item review and discussion of the WSYWAT demands to thoughtfully assess our current practices, recognize where we have failed, and decide what changes we need to make. Part of this process included holding listening sessions with our full-time staff, part-time staff, Round House artists, and members of the Black Artist Coalition to learn more about their experiences directly. All participants were compensated for their time.
 
Based on the feedback shared in these conversations and our assessment of the WSYWAT demands, Round House has added several new and significant commitments to our initial list. This document reflects the most current set of programs and policies aimed at furthering our anti-racist goals—some already in place, some currently in progress, and some soon to be implemented. Each of the following sections lays out our prior commitments and progress thus far and then outlines our new commitments.
 
This list will continue to evolve as Round House emphatically pursues our mission to be a Theatre for Everyone.
 
ORGANIZATIONAL FRAMEWORK & PROCESSES

Round House Theatre is committed to breaking down racial barriers through our promotion of dialogue and understanding, building bridges within our communities, and engendering empathy in our audiences. We recognize that the values of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility must be a fundamental part of every aspect of our work, starting at the administrative and organizational level.
 
In January 2020, our full-time staff and board participated in three days of racial equity training with artEquity, an organization that provides resources and training to support the intersection of art and activism. In early 2020, we formed Staff and Board EDIA Workgroups to guide our efforts to transform our organizational culture into one that is fully inclusive and equitable. The individuals on the Staff EDIA Workgroup represent all Round House departments and comprise a diverse mix of identities, staff levels, and tenure. Recognizing a need to decentralize our hierarchical power structure and to ensure BIPOC staff voices are heard and valued at Round House, the EDIA Staff Workgroup advises on all policies and procedures. In February 2020, Round House expanded our Senior Staff to a larger and more inclusive Management Team, and we are continuing to explore shared power structures throughout the organization.
 
New Commitments
  • We are building systems to ensure that all staff (including part-time staff and volunteer ushers) and board receive ongoing anti-racism, anti-bias, anti-oppression, and bystander intervention training. We have also invested in the training of EDIA Staff Workgroup members to become EDIA facilitators equipped to lead continued conversations, trainings, and onboarding.
  • We will establish a permanent line item in our annual organizational budget dedicated to EDIA training​ and initiatives.
  • In Fall 2020, we began publishing salary ranges in all full-time job postings. Moving forward, we will review all hiring practices through an EDIA lens, actively work to diversify our recruitment channels (including hiring search firms with a proven track record of finding and recruiting BIPOC talent), changing the qualifications and requirements in job descriptions to remove unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to entry, and cultivating an inclusive organizational culture in an effort to hire more BIPOC staff.
  • As a predominantly white and white-led institution, Round House is committed to cultivating and nurturing BIPOC leadership. In addition to our commitment to actively recruit BIPOC talent, we are invested in training, mentoring, and creating clear pathways for professional development for BIPOC staff.
  • Round House’s Land Acknowledgement has been published on our website and in all programs beginning with the 2020-2021 Season and will be displayed physically in the theatre when we are able to return to live performances. We are committed to continued research and learning and to cultivating a relationship with the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, the American Indian tribal community on whose traditional lands our venues sit. 
  • We are working with other theatres nationally and in the DC region to determine where we can mutually strengthen our commitments to anti-racism by working cooperatively and collaboratively.
 
PROGRAMMING & PRODUCTION

Round House is invested in diversifying the voices that are amplified through live theatre. Launched in 2017, our Equal Play commissioning program is commissioning and developing 30 new plays written exclusively by female-identifying playwrights and BIPOC playwrights to create a new body of work that will help reshape the face of American theatre. Additionally, beginning with the 2019-2020 Season, we committed to staffing our shows with at least 50% BIPOC artists (actors, stage managers, designers, directors, and crew) in an effort to address inequities in our field, to enrich our storytelling by better reflecting the diversity within our community and our country, and to hold ourselves accountable. In 2018, we implemented Equal Play, a non-negotiable, equitable pay scale for all contracted artists.
 
We believe that engaging in the arts is essential to the human experience and actively work to break down barriers to attending, learning, and creating theatre. We offer affordable ticket options, including a range of standard and discounted tickets. Our community ticket access programs Free Play and On the House, respectively, provide free tickets to all Round House productions to students age 13 through college and to the staff, volunteers, and constituents of community serving nonprofit organizations in the DC metropolitan area.
 
New Commitments
  • Beginning in Spring 2021, we are eliminating needlessly long workdays such as “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals and are piloting a five-day work week for rehearsals of all productions.
  • We created a new Associate Artist position who, as a part of our efforts to decentralize power and include more voices in artistic decisions, will be the producer of our annual new play festival. 
  • EDIA policies and resources will be offered to all guest artists throughout the entire production process, and artists will be proactively supported by staff who are trained to disrupt harmful interactions during donor and patron events. We will provide artists clear mechanisms to safely report any racist and other unacceptable behavior throughout their time at Round House.
  • We will hire and compensate cultural consultants for productions and culturally competent facilitators for discussions and talkbacks when appropriate. We recognize that, while we have hired cultural consultants in the past, we have not always included fair payment for this vital work in the production budget.
  • In addition to continuing our practice of hiring intimacy coordinators when appropriate or requested, we are committed to finding ways to specifically support BIPOC artists working with material that deals with racialized experiences and racialized trauma.
 
BOARD DEVELOPMENT

Round House proactively and intentionally recruits BIPOC members to our Board of Trustees. BIPOC Trustees represent 23% of our current Board, and we are committed to furthering our efforts to increase BIPOC Board membership to accurately reflect and represent the diversity of Montgomery County and the DC metropolitan area. Artists are represented by two Artist Trustees on the Round House Board, which has been a part of Round House’s bylaws for 15 years.
 
New Commitments
  • As of January 2021, the Round House bylaws were amended to establish the Board EDIA Workgroup as a permanent standing committee, elevating it to the same priority level as Development, Finance, Governance, and Nominating. 
  • The Board has established a task force to explore the decoupling of governance and fundraising, in order to reduce barriers to Board service.
  • The Board has established a Code of Conduct to ensure that the Trustees are held to the same standards of behavior as staff and artists.
  • The Board has committed to EDIA being an essential and significant component of the upcoming strategic plan.
 
EXPECTATIONS & ACCOUNTABILITY

Round House is a people-first organization committed to fostering a safe, supportive, and equitable environment for our staff, artists, and patrons. We have reviewed and expanded our Code of Conduct for Staff and Artists and ensured its broad distribution to full-time, part-time, and contracted employees​.​
 
We will apply an anti-racism lens to all major organizational decisions and all current policies and procedures, recognizing that if a policy is not anti-racist, it is inherently racist. We will also review our vendor relationships, giving preference to companies who actively and publicly work toward EDIA objectives. We are committed to auditing our progress on these anti-racism commitments on—at minimum—an annual basis, publishing our progress each year in our Annual Report. 
 
New Commitments
  • We are in the process of implementing the EthicsPoint Incident Management Reporting System to allow artists and staff to confidentially report incidents of harassment or bias. ​ 
  • As a theatre, we recognize that many of the people we work with are part-time staff, guest artists, and teaching artists, and we are committed to creating community rules and guidelines for donors and patrons that will protect all Round House guests and employees and empower them with policies, procedures, and training to enforce these rules. 
  • We commit to creating structures that allow staff and artists to safely provide accountability feedback​, and to making space for affinity groups within the organization. 
  • We are grateful for the rigor and comprehensiveness of the WSYWAT demands, and we acknowledge that this set of commitments only begins to address the issues outlined. The EDIA Staff Workgroup and executive leadership will continue meeting regularly to reexamine practices and policies across all departments through an anti-racist lens.
 
ONGOING EDIA INITIATIVES

While the harms of racism—especially anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous oppression—must be addressed and repaired in American theatre, we recognize that racism is not the only system of power and oppression in our society, professional field, or institution. Individuals and groups are also marginalized and discriminated against based on identity factors including (but not limited to) gender, sexuality, ability, class, age, religion, and citizenship. We also recognize that these systems do not operate independently, but compound and intersect with one another, as first described by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.
 
The WSYWAT demands were instrumental in guiding Round House’s antiracism work as outlined above. We also want to detail some of the other ongoing commitments and initiatives that address EDIA more holistically or were designed to combat other systems of oppression.
 
New Commitments
  • Starting in our 2019-2020 Season, Round House began regularly offering open captioned performances in addition to our previously offered audio described performances and assistive listening devices. In the fall of 2019, the entire Round House full-time staff participated in a training with Roger Ideishi, an accessibility consultant and leader in developing arts programming for people with sensory and cognitive processing disabilities. This allowed us to offer our first Relaxed Performance in March 2020. This was an important next step in Round House’s work to improve inclusion and accessibility for all patrons regardless of ability, and Round House’s plans for returning to live performances in the future include programming more Relaxed Performances. 
  • Steps have already been taken to improve gender inclusivity in our systems and our theatre facilities, including adding the sharing of pronouns for those inclined to in meetings and rehearsals and encouraging patrons in our theatre to use whichever restroom—including a unisex single stall restroom—best fits their own gender identity or presentation. We are committed to exploring further ways to remove gender bias and disrupt the gender binary across our organization. 
  • We are in the process of developing a self-identification system for all employees and patrons. We need this information to properly assess the demographics of our staff, artists, donors, students, and audiences, and to satisfy many of our stated anti-racist and EDIA objectives. We recognize the complexity of this issue and are committed to a thoughtful exploration of how to most accurately and ethically collect this personal information.
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