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Action Plan to enhance Decolonization, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion within the Department of Theatre

Action Plan

Since spring 2020, the Department of Theatre has undertaken a series of initiatives in response to student and alumni feedback and related calls to action. We have grouped these initiatives into six groups or categories, although this grouping is somewhat arbitrary as many of these activities overlap and inform one another. These initiatives include:

  • Recruitment of racialized/IBPOC faculty
  • Revisions to courses/ curriculum
  • Policies & procedures
  • Consciousness raising and transformative practices
  • Accessibility Initiatives
  • Theatre @ York

Recruitment of racialized/IBPOC faculty

Current

(2023-2024)

  • Welcome of two new full-time IBPOC faculty to department (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Jackie Chau)
  • Continued advocacy for new focused IBPOC hires for guest artists and directors.
  • Continued work to provide outlets for connecting with AMPD and university wide IBPOC initiatives (e.g., Tubman Institute)

Future

  • Ensure support for IBPOC outreach as new positions are posted.

Previous

(2022 – 2023)

  • Search for new hires, including a Tenure Track position in Design for Performance, and a CLA in Acting and Performance.
  • Continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion (of all kinds) in faculty complement requests.
  • Formation of a partnered accessibility group “Acting on Access”, embedded in production classes in 2022, and then in 2023 it will become a faculty-wide initiative supported by the AMPD DEDI committee and led by Theatre & Performance Faculty. Activities include training for Faculty and students, DEDI advice for search committees, accessibility audits, relaxed performances and connected access activities.

(2021 – 2022)

  • Welcome new faculty to department.

(2020 – 2021)

  • Priority: increase the presence of IPBOC full and part-time faculty in the department
  • Concluded searches for new hires in Theatre, Theatre History, and Dramaturgy (part of York’s university-wide commitment to hiring new Black faculty); Playwriting and Devising; Indigenous Performance/ Performance Art
  • A search for a CLA in Acting & Directing was conducted but the upper administration did not approve the hire due to financial concerns.
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Revisions to courses/ curriculum

Current

(2023-2024)

  • Implementation of core areas of development, including Decentering Whiteness and Indigenous Inclusion
  • Ongoing revision of individual courses with a view towards greater diversity and inclusivity in approaches/methodologies, play/scene selections and subject matter covered.
  • Ongoing invitation of IBPOC and 2SLGBTQQIA+ artists to speak with classes and lead workshops.

Future

  • Continue to share and assess impact and growth in core areas of development.
  • Find opportunities for feedback from students on inclusion of diversified curriculum.
  • Increased opportunities to connect racialized/IBPOC students to IBPOC professionals.

Previous

(2022-2023)

  • Integrating identified core areas of practice into self-study for Cyclical Program Review.
  • Implementation of core areas of development, including Decentering Whiteness and Indigenous Inclusion.
  • Dance artist/scholar Lisa Karen Cox (U of T) and vocalist Justine Owen were commissioned by Volcano Theatre to develop a presentation about the history of Black Opera. Currently in development, focusing primarily on the first fully staged production of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, which they presented as part of Danielle Howard’s Theatre History & Performance class.
  • Faculty continue to revise individual courses with a view towards greater diversity and inclusivity in approaches/methodologies, play/scene selections and subject matter covered.
  • Continued prioritization of inviting IBPOC and 2SLGBTQQIA+ artists to speak with classes and lead workshops.

(2021 – 2022)

  • Faculty have revised individual courses with a view towards greater diversity and inclusivity in approaches/methodologies, play/scene selections and subject matter covered.
  • Prioritize inviting IBPOC and 2SLGBTQQIA+ artists to speak with classes and lead workshops.

(2020 – 2021)

  • Faculty conversations about individual courses and broader curricular emphases in response to student feedback.
  • In May 2021, the Department of Theatre identified the following core areas where we seek to consciously develop both our institutional practice and the learning opportunities offered to students. It is hoped and expected that by outlining these areas and how they will begin to manifest in our work in individual course outlines, students will have a beginning framework to engage with this work as well. The intention is to walk and determine this path together, learning from each other and allowing each other to make mistakes and grow. If students have feedback to improve or further build on this work throughout the course, time will be made to further the dialogue in class:
    • Ecology and Environmental Sustainability
    • Decentering Whiteness
    • Decolonizing practices and approaches to curriculum
    • Indigenizing the curriculum
    • Digital Performance and Creation – Virtual Production, Media Design, Online Platforms, New forms of fabrication, Fabrication, Physical manifestation of ideas, prototyping; mediated performance/Acting for Media
    • Health & Well-being / Work-Life Balance/ Safer Spaces – encompasses all aspects of wellness: physical, vocal, emotional, spiritual.
  • Rethinking crew assignments to better acknowledge student realities (work/life balance)
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Policies & procedures

Current

(2023-2024)

  • Continued to liaise and strengthen connections the AMPD DEDI committee through committee Chair.
  • Departmental DEDI committee convened with a mandate to support and facilitate ongoing conversations about anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the Department of Theatre & Performance. The committee will include representation from graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty, and will report to the department. At least one member of the committee will liaise with the AMPD-wide DEDI committee (and any subsequent standing committee at the Faculty level) and the IBPOC Artists Association.

Future

  • The committee will work to identify pathways to hear and support resolution to incidents of racism and discrimination that happen within the Department.
  • The committee will continue to develop recommendations for area-specific policies to acknowledge and address past harms and work towards harm reduction.
  • The committee will continue to track the progress of DEDI within the Department in realizing the Action Plan.

Previous

(2022 – 2023)

  • Ongoing work of EDDI committee
  • Continue to liaise and strengthen connections with IBPOC Artists’ Association and the AMPD EDI seed committee.

(2021 – 2022)

  • First formal meeting of EDI committee
  • Continue to liaise and strengthen connections with IBPOC Artists’ Association and the AMPD EDI seed committee
  • Revisit department mandate and mission statement
  • Participate in workshops and related sessions run by KOJO Institute (initiative led by AMPD Dean’s Office)

(2020 – 2021)

  • Motion to form a department committee to support and facilitate ongoing conversations about anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the Department of Theatre. This committee will include representation from graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty, and will report to the department. At least one member of the committee will liaise with the newly formed AMPD-wide seed committee (and any subsequent standing committee at the faculty level) and the IBPOC Artists Association.
  • Department EDI committee defined mandate and governance structure.
  • Student associations involved in selecting student representatives to serve on search committees (a new practice)
  • Re-evaluating approach to Land Acknowledgments – supporting statements with concrete action.
  • re-evaluating approach to making contracts and other formal agreements with Indigenous artists and scholars. Consulting with Indigenous artists and theatre companies to better understand existing practices.
  • Area-specific policies to acknowledge and address past harms and work towards harm reduction. See Acting Area documents and Production Area “ad hoc” agreement.
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Consciousness raising and transformative practices

Current

(2023-2024)

  • TRC Reading Challenge has continued with a reading of the Report of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
  • Workshops, lectures & public events centered on IBPOC experience, and Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression training made available to Department students, faculty, and staff.

Future

  • Recommendations for continued Anti-racism/Anti-oppression training.
  • The DEDI committee will work to create opportunities for the work and experiences of IBPOC students, staff and faculty to be centered and shared through and beyond the department.

Previous

(2022 – 2023)

  • Partnership with Volcano Theatre to workshop choreography and set components for Scott Joplin’s opera, Treemonisha in December 2022 and February 2023 on the stage of the Faire Fecan Theatre with choreographer Esie Mensah and director Weyni Mengesha.

(2021 – 2022)

  • Two workshops with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion scheduled for Prime Time (September 2021)
  • Participation in TRC Reading Challenge in Recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Preparations for additional workshops, lectures, public events, such as Black and Free: Theatre and Conversation with Quincy Armorer, Naila Keleta-Mae, and Djanet Sears.
  • Engaging guest artists for 2021-22 season (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster; Nina Lee Aquino; David Yee)
  • Hosting Dr. Naila Keleta Mae’s panel, “Black and Free: Theatre and Conversation” with Quincy Armorer, Naila Keleta-Mae, and Djanet Sears.
  • Build existing relationships; seek formal partnerships with artists/companies.

(2020 – 2021)

  • Faculty workshop with Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion on anti-racist teaching practices
  • Prime Time workshop (1st year students) on discrimination, micro-aggressions led by Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Guest lectures and workshops as part of Performance Studies (Canada) speaker series:
  • Developing and sharing resources for faculty and students — e.g. expanded list of plays/monologues for IBPOC actors; list of plays by women of colour; bibliography of articles that address systemic racism/ Black theatre in Canada
  • Fundraising and donations-in-lieu of box office to support community activists and socially minded organizations (for some performances and festivals)
  • Participating in EDI conversations with community partners, arts institutions, and other university Theatre departments across Canada
  • Continuing to support Accessibility efforts through training, workshops, curricular development.
  • Rebooting Surprise! Surprise! to privilege companies that that centre IBPOC artists and narratives
  • PS Canada Speaker Series talks and workshops (visits by Sadie Berlin, Dylan Robinson, and others)
  • “(Re)Setting the Stage: The Past, Present, and Future of Casting Practices in Canada” (May 1-June 2021), featuring artists from throughout the GTA and beyond. Panel 1 video available here; panel 2 video available
  • Support for newly established IBPOC Alumni Theatre Hub (guest visits by Weyni Mengesha, Anand Rajaram, Jani Lauzon)
  • Funding to support Canada-wide student participation in Seeding the Future, a creative response project connected to 21 Black Futures. Partners included Obsidian Theatre, CBC Arts, Brock University.
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Accessibility Initiatives

Current

(2023-2024)

  • A report summarizing recommendations for improving accessibility for the future is being reviewed by the department. It will be shared publicly in Winter 2024.
  • Starting September 2023, “Acting on Access” group has changed its name to “Creating Access” and widen to consider accessibility across all arts, performance, media, and design at York and look at working on recommendations from the Acting on Access report. It will meet in person monthly with additional online meetings to work on initiatives.

Future

  • Ongoing integration of access measures and training in our production processes.

Previous

(2022 – 2023)

  • A report summarizing recommendations for improving accessibility for the future is being written to be presented to the Department in Fall 2023 and will be shared publicly in Winter 2024.
  • With the return to in person classes and performances, the department is reviewing the work done in partnership with the British Council on accessibility in the 2019/2020 year which was truncated by COVID19 closures.
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Theatre @ York

Current

(2023-2024)

  • The department continues to work on refining and implementing our Guiding Principles in shaping our season of public presentations.

Future

  • We are exploring new ways of integrating our guiding principles with departmental priorities and how this may be reflected/supported with changes to performance programs.

Previous

(2022 – 2023)

  • Ongoing work for the season building utilizing Guiding Principles for season play selection.
  • Coordination with Acting on Access student association around accessibility initiatives.
  • Presentation of David Yee’s new commission of his play, love in the time of werewolves, produced as part of Theatre @ York (Fall 2022)

(2021 – 2022)

  • Ongoing work for the season building committee; developing a catalogue of all plays being read as potential for future seasons, with notes for each based-on committee discussions.
  • Investigate funding potential for developing an artists-in-residence program.

(2020 – 2021)

  • Guiding Principles for season play selection.
  • Documenting/archiving past Theatre @ York shows to improve transparency and accountability in season planning.
  • Ongoing work with the newly renamed “Season Building” committee, including frequent community updates on selection process. This committee includes students from all areas of the department.
  • Ongoing conversations about creating safe, inclusive spaces for theatre creation, including panel conversation on Intimacy in Theatre Training with Siobhan Richardson, Nina Lee Aquino, Peter Davis Hinton, and Michaela Washburn.
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This is very much a living document, one we are committed to using in the interests of transparency to track progress and hold ourselves accountable. This work will unfold in concert with broader efforts led by the Dean’s Office, which will involve all AMPD students, faculty, and staff.

If you have comments or suggestions for revision or inclusion, please forward them to the department’s Equity, Diversity, Decolonization, and Inclusion committee at EDDItheayork@gmail.com.