We stand with our students, faculty, and staff as active agents against racism and all of the insidious ways that it has marred our disciplines, our campus, our department, our interpersonal relationships, and our own personal thinking and actioning.
We are eager to lend our voices and bodies to the transformative work that will bring about equal representation and change. Inspired by the power of what we have experienced, lived and learned, we thank the Black Lives Matter movement for galvanizing sharp focus on equitability. In our house, we are proud to say Black Lives Matter, and we are committed to dismantling structural inequities that have historically privileged specific ways of knowing and making over others.
We welcome partnership, collaboration, and dialogue to transform the trajectories of our fields and celebrate Change, Growth, and “Radical Re-Imagining.” In the spirit of John Lewis’ “Good Trouble” we say: Yes please!
Like you, many of us love this work and have re-arranged our entire lives for it. It is important that we create learning and working environments that feel healthy and celebrate the many vantage points and voices within the human experience.
2020 brought in challenges and opportunities; galvanized by a call to action from many of our students and alumni, we have spent the academic year examining and “radically reimagining” our curriculum, production season, and departmental culture.
Director's Apology re: HAIR, produced in Spring 2018
I applaud your collective efforts to make the Department of Theatre & Dance a better place, one that authentically embraces justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. As someone who is dedicated to being a life-long learner, I welcome this conversation and call to action.
It has always been my intent as a director and choreographer to create a rehearsal process that honors everyone in the room, so it was a wakeup call to me when I read in your Open Letter that some people found the casting and rehearsal process of HAIR to be racially discriminatory. Please know that it was never my intent to make any actor feel like they were cast only due the color of their skin, or to marginalize anyone in the rehearsal room. I sincerely apologize for causing harm. For anyone who was part of the HAIR company, please feel free to contact me as I welcome a follow-up conversation so that I can learn from this.
Thank you for your courage, passion and this thoughtful call to action. I vow to you that my apology is a promise to be an agent of anti-racist change: “Let the great work begin!”
Divisional Dean of Arts and Humanities
College of Arts and Sciences
Following are reports from each semester on our efforts toward Justice, Equity, and Diversity in our department and across campus.
Mission & Values Update
The theatre faculty voted to approve an updated mission and values statement that is aspirational, forward-looking, and inclusive, and will guide the revisioning of our curriculum and production season, decentralizing a Western-centric canon and embracing a multiplicity of ways of knowing and making throughout our department. The dance faculty has also recently updated their mission and values statement. For both programs, these statements will continue to evolve and be updated regularly.
We are in the process of revising our curriculum with an eye toward making our courses and degree programs more accessible to students across campus. For next year, we have removed many course restrictions for our classes, creating the opportunity to “de-silo” between our various degree tracks and allow more students to participate in more of our courses. Further, we have submitted applications for five of our courses to count for Global or U.S. diversity requirements.
By-Laws Revision, New Committees, and Student Organizations
Theatre & Dance faculty and staff updated and approved our departmental by-laws, which include the addition of a combined JEDI committee made up of faculty, staff, and students, and a Student Advisory Council made up of students from each of our individual degree tracks and programs. These new committees will be created beginning next academic year.
This spring, a new student organization, CU IDEAs, was created to encourage student engagement around inclusion, diversity, equity and access.
Season Selection Process Revision
We are revising our season selection processes to make them more transparent and collaborative, and more inclusive of student input. We will soon be announcing a 2021-22 season that includes many interdisciplinary projects, more original and devised work, and collaborations between our programs. We hope this season reflects movement in a positive direction towards diversity, equity and inclusion; this is a step, and we fully acknowledge that this work will take time. We began working with CU Dialogues to facilitate dialogues around the our season and its mission, and will continue this next year.
We produced virtual talkbacks alongside each production this year to bring company members, audience members, and guest panelists (including faculty from across campus and professional artists from across the country) together for discussion and dialogue about our productions. Guest panelists this year included theatre artists Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Barb Pitts McAdams, Mo Schell, Jedadiah Schultz, Eric Svjecar, and David Zellnik.
Moving away from “Grind Culture”
“Grind Culture” is not uncommon in Theatre & Dance programs, in which the calendar is packed and students, faculty, and staff are so busy there’s no time for community-building, reflection, self-examination and dialogue. Further, exclusively producing large-scale productions with 5+ week rehearsal processes and 24+ hours a week of rehearsal affects accessibility for students who are not already majoring in Theatre or Dance.
Consequently, we are moving to a model in which we fully produce 5 productions annually in our University Theatre and Loft Theatre. Rather than selecting shows for the Acting Studio, students will be empowered to select and produce inclusive work for that space. Projects will range from including smaller-cast shows to readings and workshops, creating more access points for students across campus.
Radical Re-imagining Series Recap
This semester's Radical Reimagining Series (RSS), led by the deaprtment's Dance Program, was built upon the Fall 2020 series that was anchored in Practicing, Doing, and Imagining. By committing to showing up and through gaining insights about our Dance Program’s history of decolonizing work, Allyship in Action, and Microaggressions, we created a foundation for a deep dive into the work of personally and collectively navigating how to become “radical” in our “reimagining.” Drawing on outcomes from the fall series, for the Dance Program’s spring 2021 series we anchored ourselves by 3 questions relative to the “me” and “we”: What am I learning? What am I actioning? What are my gaps? Our sessions were designed to bring in a multiplicity of representation including from African-American and Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus (LBGTQIA+) communities to lead us in actioning by doing.
We engaged in practices with national guests Ya Ya Fairley (Utah), Matthew Cumbie (Washington D.C.), and members of Angela’s Pulse (New York City) – Christine King, MK Abadoo, and Paloma McGregor. The intent was to participate in varied practices that allowed us to learn by doing while also illuminating considerations toward building our own community agreement. Our final spring semester session of this 5-part series centered working in breakout groups and as a whole on creating a community agreement blueprint – a living document, if you will, that we will carry with us into our summers to reflect upon as well as into the start of the 21-22 academic year to build upon, toward adopting as our guiding principles.
With every RSS, we have been guided by the agreement of “showing up in generous and generative ways.” This agreement expanded to include honesty – honesty with self and honesty with others. We found it important to name and hold space for remembering that we cannot do this work without being honest with ourselves – without self-reflection. We cannot do anti-racist work and make the change we want to see if we are available to language-ing anti-racist work but not available to the actioning of it. In this sense, we embraced the charge to step into the “agency” we often seek. The members of the Dance Program came to understand an aspect of building a community agreement is to create a greater union between language and actioning.
Tracking Progress in 2020-2021
Hopes, impacts, and needs from all past Radical Reimagining Series:
- Continued anti-racist training for faculty/staff
- Potential collaboration, communication, and anti-racist work across the ampersand
- Center student ideas and perspective by continuing to collaborate with student groups such as CU Dance Connection and CU Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access
- Radical Re-imagining Summer Working Group
- To build upon this year’s radical re-imagining sessions
- To develop actionable steps, we can take as a community to move ideas forward in measurable/felt ways
- To ensure we keep developing in this and do not reset back to zero in the Fall
- Meet to brainstorm, identify, plan and implement actionable steps/plans for the Fall and Spring semesters
- Identify ways to measure the impact of those actions/plans so we know whether we are being effective
- Once-monthly Zoom meetings (May, June, July, August), plus additional smaller-group planning sessions as needed
- You! Faculty, staff, and students, if you are feeling resourced, available and interested…
- For more information, contact group organizer Ondine Geary
We created a graduate assistantship this semester, in which a graduate student worked with our Associate Chair in Theatre to engage in examining and revising our syllabi, course readings, class projects and guest artists towards incorporating more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) texts/artists and discussions of race, multicultural, and gender studies.
Mission & Values Update
We have formed an ad hoc committee of theatre faculty and staff to update our Mission and Values statements to be aspirational, forward-looking, and inclusive, and we will share our draft with students for feedback and contribution. We want these statements to guide the revisioning of our curriculum and production season, decentralizing a Western-centric canon and embracing a multiplicity of ways of knowing and making throughout our department. As part of a Research 1 institution, our charge is to innovate, and we’re deeply considering this charge in our process of radical reimagining.
We are in the process of revising our curriculum with an eye toward making our courses and degree programs more accessible to students across campus. We are looking to create more menu-driven options for students, to provide more flexibility and agency in course selection.
In our productions this year, we've been deeply concerned about the safety of all involved and have implemented strict COVID-related protocols and regular check-ins with cast and crew. We hope our season reflects movement in a positive direction towards diversity, equity and inclusion; this is a step, and we fully acknowledge that this work will take time.
Season Selection Process Revision
We are revising our season selection processes to make them more transparent and collaborative, and more inclusive of student input.
We’re revising our by-laws and will be adding a combined Theatre & Dance JEDI committee that will be made up of faculty, staff, and students.
We hosted a Zoom listening session on Oct. 27 with The Listening, a New York based group specializing in helping theatre departments decolonize their curriculum and production seasons. This Spring, we will work with our Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement to set up meetings intended for BIPOC students and other underrepresented categories of identity to work together to create systems that incorporate antiracist policies and practices within our department, strengthen communication, and build trust between students, faculty and staff. These conversations will include how best to make space for more student-driven work in our production season, that supports and empowers student leadership in the selection and creation of theatre and performance.
Radical Re-imagining Sessions
In the Dance Program's continued efforts toward causing "good trouble" and doing the work of decolonizing the university and imagining new futures for dance, we are meeting this particular moment of actioning by transforming our Friday Town Halls to Radical Re-imagining Sessions.The sessions center collaboration, listening, and practicing.
We are in part inspired by the Open Letter that came from students. Although the history of the Dance Program reflect significant strides, resulting from a nearly 18-year process that was initiated by Onye Ozuzu (a former Director of Dance and a forever extended family member and mentor) and Dance Program members participating in The People’s Institute Undoing Racism training through now (where we are the most diverse and inclusive house on the CU campus, and a committed body of individuals to continuing the work), the Open Letter reminded us that there is much more work to do.
The goal is to create a space for faculty and students to engage in the work together as a practice – a way of becoming vs an exercise to fulfill a requirement. Our process will include inviting outside individuals to contribute in the conversations and will permeate many lanes within our house. For example, this year’s [un]W.R.A.P. (Undoing Writing, Research, & Performance) symposium will include guest artists, scholars, and thought-leaders who are making in this pandemic reality but who are also leaders in undoing racism cultural organizing, Racial Equity, Arts, and Culture Core members, and Creating New Futures founding members (a national movement started by performing artists to address inequities and social justice within our field, and to create new guiding principles that will interrupt more common practices that supported white body supremacy pre-COVID).
Another example of the ways we are doing the work will be reflected through the multifaceted and diverse season programming and our 10 Am Technique Friday sessions. An added note: Because we find tremendous value in teaching by doing, all sessions of our 5-part Radical Re-imagining series will reflect various modeling of collaboration. No session will be guided by only one individual.
Informational & Training Sessions
We've been working with our Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance to set up informational sessions on reporting incidents of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct or retaliation. Additionally, we’ll work with OIEC to create trainings and additional resources for our student non-Equity deputies to help ensure safety and prevent further harm in our rehearsals and productions.
Arts Community Involvement
We’ve begun conversations with professional artists and theatre companies in our community, to build more pipelines between our organizations and work together to make these important and much needed changes throughout our field.
New JEDI Webpage
We created a JEDI page on our website, to help make public our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts.
Below is a list of ways to get involved with our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) efforts.
Diversity Requirement Courses
Clubs & Organizations
- Theatre Season Planning Committee
- Dance Season Planning Committee
- Curriculum and Program Support
- Please share your JEDI efforts through this news submission form