Published February 3, 2022
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 expert 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The entire year-round staff’s email addresses are also available on our website. Alternatively, you may email feedback to email@example.com, an address that goes only to WTF’s third-party HR consultant and Jeffrey Johnson, Chair of the WTF Board of Trustees.
For more than six decades, Williamstown Theatre Festival has annually produced an ambitious season of theatre, engaging established and early-career theatre-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 theatre 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 theatre 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.
- In 2022, WTF will lengthen “changeovers” to further support safety and work-life balance for the employees of the Festival.
- Employees and trainees 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.
- WTF will provide all employees and trainees with an on-campus housing option as a benefit free of charge.
- WTF will rethink designer compensation utilizing the USA Standard Design Agreement Not-For-Profit Theatre Rate Sheet as a guide.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- WTF will recruit for and hire people who have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racist, anti-descriminatory, and equal opportunity values and practices.
- 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 will engage a pay equity consultant in 2022 to contextualize and calibrate compensation and benefits.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 is also looking to include additional theatre-makers as Trustees to ensure an expansion of best practice knowledge and expertise-sharing.
- The WTF Board Nominating Committee will seek assurance that candidates for the Board have a demonstrated 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 theatre-makers in all areas of the field.
- 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 theatre 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.
Edits have been made following the publication of this report, in order to clarify language and intentions. Substantive additions or changes to our plans will be reflected in future reports. 1) Added “trainees” to “Employees and trainees will receive at least one day off per week.” 2) Added “demonstrated” to “WTF will recruit for and hire people who have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and equal opportunity values and practices.” 3) Replaced “share a commitment” with “have a demonstrated commitment” to “The WTF Board Nominating Committee will seek assurance that candidates for the Board have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive values and practices.”