Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Releases Open Letter on Racial Justice to Colleagues in the Field

By: Jun. 18, 2020
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Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Releases Open Letter on Racial Justice to Colleagues in the Field

Stage Directors and Choreographers Society today released the following letter to the field:

To Our Colleagues in the Theatre,

The call for racial justice by Black Members of our Union, and by our Black colleagues across the American Theatre, compels the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Executive Board to own our responsibility and use our influence to end racist policies and practices in our field. In keeping with our principles, we will work to ensure an anti-racist workplace for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Members and fellow theatre makers. The anti-discrimination and harassment policies embedded within our collective bargaining agreements protect our Members from harassment and discrimination based on race as well as age, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We will make certain all our Members understand this and hold our employers to account. Similarly, SDC Members are themselves accountable for upholding standards that create an inclusive and empowering environment. As we find ourselves in the midst of a health, economic, and racial justice crisis, we recommit today to unite, empower, and protect our Members, working together to build a just and equitable future.

Sharing Information: empower

In the 2010/11 season, two Black directors filed Broadway contracts; no Black choreographers. Ten years later, in the 2019/20 season, one Black director filed a Broadway contract; no Black choreographers. A decade ago, SDC began requiring employers to report hiring statistics capturing patterns in the contracting of directors and choreographers. At that time, we chose to use this information to engage directly with individual theatres and producers believing it would lead to change. It has not. In July, as part of the Next Stage research project we launched last year, SDC will publish detailed hiring statistics for the 2019/20 season for each of our jurisdictions. We will continue to do so annually going forward. Our research clearly demonstrates that SDC Members' employment and pay is inextricably tied to their race. Facts are levers for change. We pledge that we will make public this annual data on hiring trends and other markers of discrimination in our field, so that the truth is there for all to see, and to act upon. Knowledge is power.

Creating a Safe Workplace: protect

As a Union, we have not appreciated the depth of alienation that our Black Members experience. For far too long-working in largely white-staffed theatres-they have endured isolation, marginalization, objectification, and worse. Our Black Members are asked to engage in personal artistic work while their own humanity is constrained by structures of power and privilege. We pledge, first and foremost, to listen better and more deeply to our Black Members, to educate our Members and ourselves, and to engage with theatres and producers to create and sustain the safe spaces every BIPOC artist needs if they are to speak their truth to power and have the freedom to create their best work.

Coming together: unite

The SDC Board-40% of whom are artists of color-is elected by the Membership-at-Large. This representation exemplifies the inclusive aspirations of our Union Members, offers invaluable perspective as we fight for the artists we serve, and will continue to spur the Board's anti-racism efforts in a post-pandemic field where employment for directors and choreographers will be scarcer than before. We have heard the call of our Black Members. We commit to standing shoulder to shoulder together to protect and further the rights and employment opportunities of our BIPOC Members-to live up to the definition of union as an association that exists to further the cause of economic and social justice for all Members.

In solidarity,

SDC Executive Board

Evan Yionoulis, President

John Rando, Executive Vice President

Michael John Garcés, First Vice President

Michael Wilson, Treasurer

Melia Bensussen, Secretary

Seret Scott, Second Vice President

Leigh Silverman, Third Vice President

Saheem Ali

Christopher Ashley

Anne Bogart

Jo Bonney

Mark Brokaw

Desdemona Chiang

Liz Diamond

Sheldon Epps

Lydia Fort

Leah C. Gardiner

Liza Gennaro

Joseph Haj

Linda Hartzell
Anne Kauffman

Dan Knechtges

Mark Lamos

Pam MacKinnon

Kathleen Marshall

D. Lynn Meyers

Lisa Portes

Lonny Price

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Bartlett Sher

Casey Stangl

Seema Sueko

Eric Ting

SDC is the theatrical union that represents 4,300 professional stage Directors and Choreographers throughout the United States protecting the right health and livelihood of all its Members working in jurisdictions including: Broadway and National tours, Off-Broadway, Association of Non-Profit Theatre Companies, New York City (ANTC), League of Resident Theatres (LORT), Council of Resident Stock Theatres (CORST), Traditional Summer Stock (TSS), New England Area Theatres (NEAT), Dinner Theatre (DTA), Regional Musical Theatre (RMT), and Outdoor Musical Stock (OMS).