Live Theatre Cancelled - Program Policy Updates and Create Artist Ethics Statements.
Yo theatre companies! Maybe now is the time to do an organizational review of your strat plan and update your policies and procedures.
You know that binder you got when you first started working at the company...or for fuck's sake that binder or onboarding system you should've received, when you started working at an arts organization.
Or the one ya didn't read because there rarely is a culture of accountability in the arts and we use being busy and underpaid to rationalize this deeply problematic ethical disposition.
Go ahead, pick it up, take a peruse.
Also, while you're at it, add anti-racists and anti-harassment policies because I know through experience, not enough of you got those. In a time when independent artists are struggling to work, I offer you hire racialized artists to do consultations with you and your team via Skype.
Now is a great time to invest in an organizational capacity rehaul to strengthen artistic dexterity and endurance. We are experiencing the fragility of the live arts sector and I believe this to be an opportune time to decentralize the ejaculatory framework of power that western theatre puts on stage performance, and take a deep dive into our internal capacity to perform.
With weeks of live programming being cancelled, I think we'd be remiss to not direct our attention to the fraying and sometimes non-existent organizational policies and procedural documents.
Some of us have been using performances, to excuse ourselves of not having these in place already. Ya got weeks now. Your BOD and all your employees, got nothing but time to learn and embody these organizational ideologies in full.
If I had to learn all 22 ingredients in the Jambalaya rice bowl at Cactus Club, plus all their drinks and food menu items in 2 weeks to become a server, I believe ya’ll up for the task to make theatre less racist.
"Oh Kim, she doesn't run an organization, and doesn't get that we are in a financial crisis because our mode of income is being prohibited."
Sure, sure. Now stop giving that all your attention and wasting everyone's time with a week of panicking, when we could be looking at the transformational opportunity this present moment is providing. We can choose to panic, which only contributes to a frenetic and ineffective workplace environment or we can harness this opportunity, double down and get canadian theatre's very unstable procedural foundation steadied.
We also aren't going to solve the problem by looking at the fixed parts of it, live theatre is cancelled. The opportunities and possible financial solutions to ignite economic generators are now inside our organizations and selves.
So, maybe take today off, take a knee :) and come at it refreshed on Monday but come at it. We're a sector of innovators and I believe we have the ability to use this moment to create a large transformation that includes more of us, nourishes inter-relational bonds and strengthens the stability of the ecology.
How many org's have values statements? Mission statements? How many employees actually know them? Because having values and actually embodying them, activating them in your workplace are 2 very separate paradigms.
In 2017, when I was doing the Banff Cultural Leadership Program, in one of our sessions, actually the very first one, because they are so fundamental and foundational, we looked at the power of values. Really troubled what they are for and how they function and how underutilized they are. How some use them as a prop, a box to tick and they are never adopted and thus embodied.
I remember the teacher showing us a list of values statements that hung on the walls of organizations and they seemed legit, the usual suspects were up there.
The teacher zoomed out and said where do you think I got these values lists from? Which organizations?
The cohort collective shrugged, and she paused and responded with "Wall Street. These are pictures of the plaques on the wall of the 9 banks that got bailed out in 2008 that caused the financial crisis."
Anybody can have values, not everybody embodies them or holds themselves accountable to them.
If you're an organization or an employee that doesn't embody or for that matter know your values, that's a problem. And not having time, or rather not making time to entrench them into your work is a real disservice to the sector. It perpetuates the history of unethical art practices in the theatre sector. Appropriation, disclusion, racism, harassment are all very alive and well in our community and without values, policies and procedures with teeth in place, your positioning and perpetuating violence in the community.
I make this offer to take the time, to seriously look at these documents for the health of the community and the safety of all community members. I have been at the receiving end of many violent experiences in theatre and I know for a fact, it's because of incompetent leaders, with not enough training and the intelligence to have create, sustain and organize sturdy policies, mission statements and procedural documents.
So if you haven't done this because of ignorance, I'm serving you notice, the conscious awareness that your organization's policies and procedures, as they currently exist, aren't good enough. Use your artistic inventiveness to self-boost our gig economy and hire artists to share their experiences with you, skype, surveys, emails - come up with a modality and get that information to inform your refresh.
It's vital work that serves to protect the most vulnerable, so get it done.
Also, the granting bodies and juries are going to fucking love it. Like are you kidding me, fuck reading all the same wah wah reports that your season got cancelled. Artistic innovation is a metric and anyone innovating outside of live performance and applying that rigour to internal organization capacity building - FULL POINTS!
Now, Independent artists, while our organizational arts leaders are doing some necessary internal work, what can we do?
One catch up or do our taxes, ha! This is me getting all my T4's
Two, create your website. I get asked about artists and or I want to forward your incredible prowess around and then when I go to search for you....nothing. Just random show articles and interviews from the last show you did, talking bout how you got into your character Sally's head.
It's not the greatest look, so go and find a platform, I use Wix, pay the fee's, and get learning, I taught myself and I'm basically tech illiterate. I believe in you.
And to be honest, when I don't see the investment into something as fundamental as having a website, it's really hard for me to invest in you. This is a business, I'm a runner of my own business and I want us to run theatre independency, like a flourishing fucking bizzznesssss.
We also can't absolve ourselves from contributing to theatres ethical ethnosphere. If all these theatre org's go away and do their values and policy work, we want to meet them with our own and not just be assimilated into theirs.
Write your values statement, your artistic mission statement or your artistic ethics statement. You can take a look at mine here. Take the time to create and compose something that guides your work. I found that in the earlier part of my career, when I wasn't clear on the impact I want to have on the community, my values and ethics we're murky, def not written down or clarified and not embodied with any consistency.
Which puts us in vulnerable situations because we have no ethical protection. I put mine up on my website, so when I meet challenges with organizations, which always happens, there is no "but we had no idea." I do my due diligence to transparently communicate who I am as an artist, so when I get contracted, organizations can do their due diligence to support the execution of the work. If they aren't supporting us, they can't blame us because of lack of clarity of pedagogy, it's all on ma website.
If organizations are asked to put their mission and mandates on grants, I think we as independent artists have to hold ourselves accountable to a similar standard. Clarity on who we are investing in as a community, is incredible important for us to make equitable decisions.
Without a website, or this personal ethical artistic statement and values making, I don't know who you are, how you make decisions and what your pedagogical approach is - that's problematic.
So let's all take the day off :P and do some deep work, listening and thinking on how we can mobilize a inter-National theatrical movement to invest into our organizational and ethical performances. Because if there is one thing we know in theatre, a performance of any kind that isn't rooted, clarified, specific, well thought through and embodied, it's always a disaster.
With deep love and hoping you see the urgency of this work,
p.s Fractured Atlas has a lot of incredible anti-racism and anti-harassment policies, check them out here. Don't reinvent the wheel, look outside of the theatre sector and pull, curate and embed other org's policies into yours. I also just got a pop up form them about "planning your next creative innovation" with their Theory of Change Workbook, so so so many resources out there. Racist policies and undeserving procedural documents is a fucking choice.