Published February 8, 2023
As we continue to reimagine a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival seeks to ensure that the Progress Report we published in February 2022 remains a living document to keep us accountable. Click here to view the original Progress Report annotated with updates on actions we have taken to date, where we fell short, and learnings that will impact future work and action.
Here is a summary, including areas where we identified more room for growth to which we want to devote our attention in the coming year. We believe this work must be in alignment with our Strategic Planning process—a process established to endeavor thinking about a future iteration of WTF—which is underway.
In 2022 we were able to:
- Institute better work-life balance for all company members, including one day off per week for all, working hour caps, multi-day load-in and changeover schedules with no overnight calls, and tech schedules with no 10 out of 12s. All company members were compensated and provided access to company housing free of charge.
- Working with our new third party People & Culture consultant K+K Reset, the Producer & Director of Organizational Culture, and a seasonal HR Coordinator, we improved accessibility to People & Culture personnel, resources, and space for voicing concerns and grievances and the resolution or addressing of issues without fear of retaliation or concerns being silenced or going unaddressed. We strengthened company member feedback mechanisms for artists, staff, and trainees to share their experiences and for feedback to be incorporated into future planning and action items.
What we learned and where our short-term attention will be focused:
- Hiring and Recruitment – In order to progress in our commitments to anti-racism and anti-oppression, we need to focus on expanding our recruitment and strengthening our hiring processes. This includes developing deep relationships based in Radical Recruiting as described by artEquity, ensuring hiring managers feel confident, adequately trained, and supported to lead these efforts, hiring processes across the organization are consistent, and there is more transparency and expectation-setting about a summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival and what opportunities exist for work and experiential learning and professional development. This will be an area of focus in the next few years.
- On-Boarding – The past summer identified shortfalls in how we can better prepare and welcome artists, staff, and trainees to a summer at Williamstown. This includes more robust, supportive management training for seasonal and year-round managers as well as preparation for summer campus life and what to expect from their work responsibilities and opportunities for learning. This will be an area of focus in the next few years.
- Training – While we met certain training goals with the help of K+K Reset, the rolling nature of arrivals and departures coupled with shorter-length projects (readings, fellowship projects) provides some logistical obstacles in ensuring that all company members receive the same access to Anti-Harassment, Anti-Discrimination, and Anti-Racism training.
As we embark on a strategic planning process to reimagine the future of the Festival and create a sustainable operating model, the work we’ve done here and have committed to keep doing in this Progress Report will both inform that process and will inform short-term and long-term actions we take on building a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive Festival.
We want to take a moment to extend gratitude to everyone who joined us this past year to work with us, to help us implement these changes, and to provide us with such valuable feedback on what’s working and where we need to put more effort and attention.
We are so grateful for your trust in us as we continue this work and cannot do this without you. Thank you for being in community with us.
As always, we welcome feedback, questions, and comments as we learn and grow. Input and feedback can be emailed to Danielle King, Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Producer & Director of Organizational Culture, at email@example.com. The entire year-round staff’s email addresses are also available on our website. Alternatively, you may email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, an address that goes only to WTF’s third-party HR consultant and Jeffrey Johnson, Chair of the WTF Board of Trustees.
A more detailed in-line update on the original Progress Report is below.
Published on February 3, 2022
Annotated with updates in blue February 8, 2023
In 2020, Williamstown Theatre Festival made a commitment to anti-racism and entered a period of learning, reflection, analysis, and action. In the months since, we have heard from current and former Festival trainees, employees, and participants—in communications both public and private—about the need to dismantle old systems and build an organization that is structurally and culturally more equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive. Additionally, we have consulted with, listened to, and learned from individuals and entities who are experts in organizational transformation through the lenses of anti-racism and anti-oppression. We are grateful for these insights; they have informed our evolution.
Now, in February of 2022, we offer a report on our progress toward building a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive Festival. The actions outlined below represent a shift in the model, practices, and culture of Williamstown Theatre Festival. They reshape many aspects of the Festival’s workplace culture, training programs, and approach to artistic development, programming, and production; they impact everyone who participates in the Festival, including year-round and seasonal staff, artists, trainees, trustees, and audiences.
Our work to identify and action necessary changes to our operations and culture is ongoing. We will publish updates on our progress annually, at a minimum. We invite and appreciate your input and feedback, which can be emailed to Danielle King, Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Producer & Director of Organizational Culture, at email@example.com. The entire year-round staff’s email addresses are also available on our website. Alternatively, you may email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, an address that goes only to WTF’s third-party HR consultant and Jeffrey Johnson, Chair of the WTF Board of Trustees.
WHO WE ARE
For more than six decades, Williamstown Theatre Festival has annually produced an ambitious season of theater, engaging established and early-career theater-makers and fostering the magic that happens when they have opportunities to create work side-by-side.
How and with whom Williamstown Theatre Festival chooses to engage has an impact that resonates far beyond the Berkshires. Productions developed at WTF often land on the stages of other prominent theater companies and venues throughout the country. WTF’s experiential training opportunities can have life-changing effects on career paths and on the makeup of the professional theater workforce in America.
In service of the responsible stewardship of this impact, Williamstown Theatre Festival is committed to ensuring a welcoming, respectful, and physically safe environment, reducing barriers to participation and access, and achieving greater equity, diversity, and inclusion by bringing a more anti-racist and anti-oppressive approach to every aspect of WTF’s operations.
The staff, board, artists, community partners, and volunteers of Williamstown Theatre Festival treat one another with respect. We find joy in collaboration, creation, and summertime. We believe in representation and diverse perspectives onstage and off. We aim to engage as broad an audience as possible while serving the vibrant local communities in Western Massachusetts.
Below is an outline of the actions we have taken or are preparing to take in order to ensure that Williamstown Theatre Festival lives up to the values above. We are re-allocating resources (financial and human) to achieve the following:
- Foster a respectful, responsible, and equitable workplace
- Beginning in 2022, the number and scale of Williamstown Theatre Festival’s programmatic activities will match its capacity to support the staff and trainees who make the Festival possible. WTF will no longer be mounting a seven-show season. This will lessen the intensity and sense of urgency once endemic to WTF’s workplace.
- For the 2022 season, we modified the Festival to a three-production season with two special presentations and the return of our Fridays@3 reading series, our Fellowship program, and a training program in partnership with Williams College. This level of programming was much more manageable in the context of our access to facilities and housing at Williams College and allowed for a schedule with the appropriate time to transition between productions and special events. Additionally, the Festival has adopted a no 10-out-of-12s policy for technical rehearsals.
- In 2022, WTF will lengthen “changeovers” to further support safety and work-life balance for the employees of the Festival.
- Changeovers between productions were multi-day and scheduled within a more traditional theater workday (8am – 6pm). There were no overnight calls.
- Employees will receive at least one day off per week. WTF will support all seasonal employees and trainees with hour-caps. WTF will appoint a full-time staff member, whose primary duties will include ensuring compliance with these policies.
- In 2022, all Festival employees and trainees had one day off per week. While we strove for Mondays to be a universal day off for the Festival, some departments, especially Company Management, needed to manage artist arrivals and departures on Mondays and so took staggered days off each week. We will continue the practice of at least one day off per week, as well as weekly hour caps.
- WTF will provide all employees and trainees with an on-campus housing option as a benefit free of charge.
- All 2022 company members, including seasonal staff and trainees, were provided housing on the Williams College campus free of charge. We acknowledge that seasonal staff and trainees are still expected to travel themselves to and from Williamstown, and that that presents an economic obstacle and hardship for some. We also acknowledge that, while there are some shops, restaurants, and amenities within walking distance of campus, access to grocery stores and other stores and activities that improve quality of life are not within walking distance. As we shift our operational model, we are thinking about the work-life experience of all company members and how we can address issues of access with travel and food options.
- WTF will rethink designer compensation utilizing the USA Standard Design Agreement Not-For-Profit Theatre Rate Sheet as a guide.
- For 2022, we significantly increased our design fees, utilizing the USA Standard Design Agreement Not-for-Profit Theatre Rate Sheet as a guide. In subsequent seasons, we plan to budget so that all Design Associates and Assistants can utilize a USA829 Project Only Agreement, should they choose to.
- WTF will distribute anonymous digital surveys to encourage frank and open feedback from all Festival participants. These surveys will be conducted by third-party HR consultants and will be extended to artists and rehearsal room teams in addition to the rest of the summer company. HR consultants will provide feedback from surveys and exit interviews to year-round staff, who will then work to resolve issues or shift practices and procedures. WTF commits to a practice of internalizing feedback, shifting operations as necessary, and reflecting it back out to the community.
- We implemented anonymous feedback forms to all company members at the end of the season, encouraging everyone to complete during paid work hours and for managers to make space for employees to complete this feedback during the workday. Other methods of providing verbal feedback were offered by our onsite HR Coordinator. All feedback was compiled and presented in a report completed by the HR Coordinator and K+K Reset. That report was shared with all year-round staff, leadership, and the Board’s Executive Committee.
- WTF continues to commit to offering and providing resources for identity-based affinity groups during the summer season, as has been its practice since 2019.
- We continue to make space for identity-based affinity groups and are working with the Producer & Director of Organizational Culture, K+K Reset, and the seasonal HR Coordinator to better resource and support these spaces.
- Evolve staff, artist, and leadership recruitment, hiring, and onboarding practices
- WTF has created and filled a year-round senior staff position with a primary responsibility of serving as a steward and caretaker of the people and culture at the Festival. The individual in this position will regularly review and revise orientation and on-boarding procedures and workplace policies, including WTF’s Handbooks, Anti-Harassment Policy, and Code of Conduct, in order to build upon feedback and ensure the policies speak to and support an anti-racist and anti-oppressive environment. This individual will also develop and implement accountability mechanisms for this ongoing work, and future Progress Reports. This work will be in collaboration with WTF’s EDIA Staff Working Group, WTF staff and Board of Trustees, seasonal employees, artists, and other stakeholders, who will be compensated for their time and input.
- This individual, the Producer & Director of Organizational Culture, began full-time in March 2022. Since joining, she has worked with various staff to review and make adjustments to hiring, orientation, and on-boarding procedures, and workplace policies. Through this process, a need for deeper work on recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes has been identified to provide greater transparency around the experience of working at Williamstown, better prepare people for their travel and the unique work-live experience, and expand applicant pools.
- WTF’s EDIA Staff Working Group (now renamed Anti-Racism Working Group) has been meeting to administer an organizational assessment, a resource provided by artEquity, to identify WTF’s current gaps between anti-racist values and anti-racist policies and operations in order to identify short-term actions for the coming year connected to commitments outlined in this Progress Report and that will be reported on in subsequent Progress Reports.
- WTF has invested in human resources by engaging a third-party HR firm. It is a priority to continue to make HR a more robust component of all Festival activities and provide BIPOC representation on the HR team.
- We are very proud and grateful to be partnering with K+K Reset in this capacity.
- WTF will recruit for and hire people who have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and equal opportunity values and practices.
- In 2022, all job postings included this as a primary responsibility of positions at Williamstown. We continue to work on more radical recruitment strategies and how to incorporate these values into the interview and on-boarding process.
- WTF will devote more resources and make best efforts to communicate the Festival’s HR infrastructure, reporting procedures, and policies against retaliation to all staff, trainees, and artists.
- WTF will continue to strengthen its onboarding and orientation processes and provide all policies and reporting procedures in writing and verbally, as well as posted in the workplace.
- WTF will provide mandatory management training for management positions, and technical safety training will be a central component of onboarding for anyone in a technical direction supervisor position and/or anyone supervising or participating in builds or installations.
- WTF began to develop management training in conjunction with K+K Reset and will continue to expand and formalize this training for subsequent seasons to build confidence in and skills for managers in hiring, leading, and supporting their teams.
- We will continue to prioritize the hiring of a seasonal Health & Safety Manager who will be at the forefront of identifying and expanding our safety policies and procedures. WTF will continue to develop a safety training program that ensures safe working practices in accordance with all OSHA regulations.
- WTF will engage a pay equity consultant in 2022 to contextualize and calibrate compensation and benefits.
- This study, including the development of a compensation philosophy and framework to use going forward, is in progress and is projected to be completed by the end of February 2023.
- With the guidance of artEquity, WTF is exploring a co-leadership model that engages and empowers a BIPOC leader at the Festival.
- WTF will assemble diverse creative teams, reflective of various perspectives and backgrounds, for all productions.
- WTF will ensure that creative teams discuss racial and/or sexual sensitivities raised by a play or musical prior to the casting process, and will emphasize the core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility throughout the production.
Grow unconscious bias and anti-racist training for existing, new, and seasonal staff (including managers)
- In 2020 and 2021, WTF year-round staff and trustees attended Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA) trainings with artEquity. WTF commits to requiring EDIA training for year-round staff annually.
- WTF year-round staff’s next training is scheduled for February 2023.
- In the summer of 2021, WTF seasonal staff were invited to participate in an EDIA workshop alongside year-round staff. WTF commits to repeating this annually and making it mandatory.
- WTF worked with People & Culture consultant K+K Reset to offer this. We are looking into ways we can better include and offer this to those artists who join us on a rolling basis or for a very short amount of time.
- WTF commits to continuing to provide cultural competency training to front of house staff (including volunteer ushers), as has been its practice since 2017, and COMMUNITY WORKS participants annually. WTF commits to continuing to provide mandatory anti-harassment training to year-round and seasonal staff, as has been its practice since 2017.
- K+K Reset administered our Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination training to the Festival company this year and implemented an Anti-Bias Training to Front of House staff, including volunteer ushers. Through the Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination training, KK Reset helped to lay the foundation for the culture expectation for WTF through grace, dignity and respect for all.
- Beginning in 2022, unconscious bias training will be required for all Festival employees and rehearsal room teams (all cast, crew, and creatives of every production).
- We were not able to meet this commitment in 2022 and are examining how we can best provide training consistently to all company members.
- WTF will continue to compensate seasonal employees for time spent in trainings that fall outside of their scheduled hours.
Build a more diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist Board of Trustees
- In 2019, the Board created a Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee within the Governance committee, charged, in part, with efforts toward diversifying the Board’s membership. Recognizing the need to emphasize and formalize the pursuit of initiatives to increase diversity on the Board, in early 2022 the Governance Committee recommended that the Board establish a separate committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in place of the existing subcommittee.
- In 2022, the WTF Board formed a separate committee for matters regarding Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and added Cultural Transformation as a pillar of this new DEICT committee. The purpose of this committee is not only to increase diversity, equity and inclusion on the Board but also to work with and oversee the transformation of WTF into an organization that is more anti-racist and anti-oppressive.
- The WTF Board has committed resources to engage several consulting firms to provide expertise, expand access, and identify BIPOC candidates and candidates from other under-represented communities.
- The WTF Board has welcomed BIPOC and female trustees and are working with the Governance Committee to expand our search for more BIPOC trustees.
- The WTF Board is also looking to include additional theater makers as Trustees to ensure an expansion of best practice knowledge and expertise-sharing.
- The WTF Board continues to identify candidates who are theater professionals in order to have more industry voices on the Board.
- The WTF Board Nominating Committee will seek assurance that candidates for the Board share a commitment to anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive values and practices.
- The WTF Board is updating its Standards of Service to ensure consistent, active, and engaged support from current Trustees, to clarify expectations regarding Trustee engagement, and ensure shared commitments among Trustees to WTF’s broader institutional values.
- In order to assess Board culture and commitment to the Standards of Service, each Trustee must complete an annual self-evaluation, as well as participate in a third-party assessment, to be determined.
- The WTF Board commits to requiring ongoing EDIA training for current and future trustees.
- The DEICT committee is working with Governance and K+K Reset to create mandatory and ongoing diversity, unconscious bias, and anti-harassment training for all trustees.
- We have implemented Restorative Practices – including Circle Discussions- to address conflicts and build a culture of dignity and belonging.
Build diverse audiences and serve diverse communities
- WTF has allocated resources and engaged an outside, independent firm to support the development of Black audiences from the Berkshire region.
- Since 2021, the Festival has worked with audience development consultant Marcia Pendelton and Walk Tall Girl Productions to engage Black business, civic, and social leaders in the Berkshires and the Albany/Capital Region.
- Developing Black audiences requires sustained meaningful actions underscored by investments in time and resources. We must go beyond short-term transactional ticketing initiatives and continue to investigate how the Festival can have an ongoing presence in these communities.
- WTF continues to participate in the EBT Card to Culture and ConnectorCare Card to Culture initiatives created by the Mass Cultural Council in partnership with the Executive Office of Health and Humans Services’ Department of Transitional Assistance and the Massachusetts Health Connector, respectively, which offer significantly reduced priced tickets to eligible households.
- For the 2022 Season, WTF piloted an affordable ticketing program called AccessTix. The program provided an entry-level price point of $30 to every production. 286 households participated, 44% of which were first-time WTF ticket buyers.
- WTF will expand COMMUNITY WORKS efforts to build and grow meaningful partnerships with Berkshire-based organizations that serve constituencies historically underrepresented at WTF, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities and people with disabilities.
Reimagine and rebuild WTF’s training programs to be fair and equitable
As we continue our strategic planning process, the unique opportunity WTF provides for experiential learning and professional development for early-career theatermakers and how to do this rigorously, robustly, equitably, and sustainably is a core goal and value in our thinking. This includes providing educational opportunities to seasonal staff members. We heard loud and clear that the 2022 season lacked sufficient opportunities for professional development and training, particularly in the Production departments, and we seek to revisit how this component can be more robust in future seasons.
- In 2021, WTF suspended the Apprentice Program and Internship Program, which previously charged participants for tuition, room, and board. These programs are currently being reimagined as opportunities for learners where cost is no longer a barrier and where work/life balance is a priority. The goal is to offer experiential training, networking, and career-building opportunities for early-career theatermakers in all areas of the field.
- WTF took a step towards reimagining these programs with the Summer Intensive Training Program, which was a first-time partnership with Williams College. The program supported 20 emerging theatermakers, 10 from the Williams College student population and 10 identified through an application process from across the country.
- WTF will continue to classify members of its non-Equity program as employees and will continue to provide them fair compensation in the future.
- In all of WTF’s professional training programs, WTF commits to ensuring representation among cohorts.
WTF acknowledges that the work of becoming a more equitable, diverse, inclusive, accessible, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive institution is ongoing. Meaningful structural and cultural change happens over years and decades, not weeks and months. This Progress Report is a reflection of priorities in this moment in our evolution. We know that in this evolution, we will make mistakes, and we commit to learning and growing from them. This is a practice: working with discipline and diligence, guided by and accountable to our communities, creating structural and cultural change.
As we grow, we welcome input from all stakeholders—employees, trainees, artists, technicians, administrators, audience, Trustees, volunteers, the Williamstown community, and the theater community at large. We have been absorbing the valuable feedback to date, and the door is open to hearing how we can better foster a safe, respectful, and welcoming environment for all.