Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A Message to the Theatre Arts Community

June 9, 2020

Together as a unified voice we express our outrage, pain, and grief over the heinous killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. We recognize that this is but the most recent chapter in our long history of unconscionable systemic racism and terror perpetrated against citizens of color. We mourn countless Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and LGBTQ+ members of society who have endured centuries of oppression and inequity, and those who have lost their lives due to racism. We unequivocally condemn White Supremacy and the institutionalized racism that perpetuates injustice.

Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with the black community, with the protestors in our community and across this nation and around the world who have risen up to demand change, to fight for the sanctity of black lives and for justice. We decry all acts of police brutality.

As a nation we have failed at providing equal rights and equal protection under the law. Racism, sexism and gender bias pervade every part of our society. We acknowledge that it is not enough for us now to just condemn brutality and inequity. For us, as a predominantly white institution, we have failed and it is past time to lay bare the individual, cultural, and systemic vestiges of racism and bigotry. Just like the Angel at the end of Part I of Angels in America, we must tear down to rebuild a better society. We must take this up as a central part of our mission. Things must change. We must change. We must begin anew.

We recognize behind every statement there needs to be a plan of action. We are heartened to know that theatre arts students and faculty have been engaged in protesting, meeting with and writing to elected officials, and learning how to further educate themselves, to further engage and to be instigators of institutional change at many levels. We, the collective faculty of the Department of Theatre Arts, commit to pursue racial justice. We commit to listen and to hold each other accountable as we move forward in this work together.

Below you will find critical tasks and action items from our Strategic Plan, which was developed by the faculty over the past academic year and submitted to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) in May. This is a working plan with critical benchmarks. We welcome input regarding the plan and will work with student reps to refine action items that will further improve the Department of Theatre Arts. Besides these items, we are also in the process of securing a workshop for the department that focuses on diversity/equity/inclusion, specifically in the development of new works. We will also form a committee who will draft a reporting policy. We will do better. You can hold us accountable.

Critical Tasks and Action Items
Critical Tasks Tactics - Action Items
Hire and support diverse full-time faculty and strengthen visiting artist program.

1. Create a Hiring Plan
2. Secure replacement lines for retiring/resigning faculty.
3. Identify qualified candidates through networking and outreach.
4. Utilize the Opportunity Hire initiative.
5. Develop and implement a support and retention strategy in collaboration with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and CLAS faculty.
6. Strengthen our visiting artist program to actively include diverse national and international guest artists for workshops and productions by collaborating with DEI at other Universities and with professional theatre/performance artists.

Recruit and support diverse undergraduate and graduate students.

1. Engage under-served communities in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids through outreach workshops and events.
2. Expand recruiting to urban areas in the Midwest
3. In collaboration with DEI, create an institutional foundation of support for faculty and students of color.
4. Develop mentorship programs for first-generation students and underrepresented minorities.
5. Create course and production opportunities that feature and engage BIPOC voices (e.g. Darwin Turner Action Theatre) and theatrical forms.
6. Create certificate/minor in theatre and social justice in collaboration with Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS), University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, and Theatre Without Borders.

Develop a deeper understanding of current DEI policies and procedures.

1. Provide DEI led workshops in department.
2. Require faculty to become BUILD certified.
3. Distribute and discuss DEI materials at faculty meetings.
4. Engage faculty and students in DEI led discussions.

Create the necessary cultural shift to support theatre and social justice at the curricular, programming, and community/performance engagement.

1. House Theater Without Borders collective and archive.
2. Host Theatre Without Borders digital theatre directory, global symposiums, and trainings.
3. Establish a certificate/ minor in theatre for social justice with GWSS and Center for Human Rights.
4. Create digital space for international connections and performance and connections (modeled on Culture Hub).
5. Create collaborative opportunities with social and eco-justice theatre partners (such as Climate Change Action Theatre), organizations and Universities.

Strengthen student engagement opportunities.

1. Rebuild Darwin Turner Action Theatre to produce 1-2 DTAT events per year.
2. Diversify student leadership in DTAT to include all underrepresented minorities.
3. Bolster collaborations with Arts Share to give varied opportunities for students to do outreach in the community.
4. Extend outreach and engagement to other underrepresented minorities in the area.

Increase the department’s community engagement efforts related to its extensive production offerings.

1. Create study guides for each production and encourage other departments and programs to include the production in their syllabi when appropriate.
2. Bolster public engagement activities for our productions. This includes: curated talkbacks; lobby displays; study guides; and student matinees for area high school students.
3. Increase the ways our auditions, which are open to the University and Iowa City communities, are shared with the public.