Dear Artists, Friends and Community,
For thirty years, Theatre Projects Manitoba has gathered artists and audiences together in the heart of downtown Winnipeg on Treaty One Territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. We gather here and strive to tell stories that help us know one another – to build connections and empathy. The theatre often sparks conversations around our culture, revealing uncomfortable truths which we experience together as a community. We are learning we have not always succeeded in our intent to advance equity and social justice through our work on the stage and behind the scenes.
This summer we listened to the voices of Indigenous, Black and global majority artists* as they shared their experiences and we grappled with the difficult conversation concerning systemic racism in our society and sector. We are deeply grateful for their honesty and patience as we reflected on the changes needed to create a more equitable theatre community.
Our mandate is to develop and promote the skills of Manitoba writers, directors, actors, designers, technicians and craftspeople by presenting theatrical works of local origin or local relevance- this must include artists of all age, ancestry, colour, caregiver status, access needs, gender identity, gender expression, ability, place of origin, race, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
TPM acknowledges the deep roots of systemic racism that exist in our community and industry which is in conflict with our company’s own mandate. As a theatre with a history of white leadership, we acknowledge that TPM is complicit in these systems and has benefitted from the privilege it provides.
As stewards of this fiercely local theatre company, it is our job to share stories that matter to the people who live here- all people who live here. We are committed to the work ahead so that we can collaborate with, celebrate and amplify IBPOC artists – indeed, the full diversity of voices in Manitoba’s artistic communities; and so that TPM is a place where all citizens see themselves reflected in the programming, leadership, board, staff, and audience.
In our first statement this summer , we referenced a community working group to ensure the range of voices in this conversation. We spoke of a consultant to help facilitate these conversations.
We have not moved forward in the way we had first anticipated. We first needed a period of reflection – to expand our knowledge and understanding of systemic racism so that we had a foundational shared analysis and vocabulary. We are committed to forwarding these conversations with care and received guidance towards next steps through cultural competency training.
We commit to transparency in our process and progress of creating an anti-racist theatre ethos at TPM. We will update you on our progress at minimum, twice per season. Our next update can be anticipated in the spring.
What have we done so far in furtherance of our stated commitments?
· The TPM Board has formed the Transformation Committee to assess the impacts of all of our decisions and seek the best ways we can to ensure that anti- racist/oppression values are inherent in the company’s priorities and activity.
· Leadership and staff have attended Anti-Racism & Anti Oppression workshops and training opportunities including Nicole Brewer’s A.R.T. Anti –Racist Theatre – a Foundational Course and Working Among Racial Difference on Colonized Land, facilitated by Jackie Hogue and the United Way. The leadership team is engaged or has recently completed further training programs through the University of Alberta and the Banff Centre for the Arts.
What will we do in the future in furtherance of our commitments?
· Community Consultation: The Transformation Committee will invite, consult with and seek guidance from our Indigenous, Black and global majority artists and community. (Consultations will usually be compensated, depending on the length and depth of each exercise).
· Strategic Plan – We begin work on a new strategic plan this winter. The Transformation Committee is committed to guide this process with IBPOC consultation to ensure an equity and anti-oppression framework – this is paramount. Identified priorities and key areas of accountability include policy development, board diversity and succession planning, and examining staff and leadership structures.
· Cultural Competency: We are planning further cultural competency training for the Board of Directors, artistic leadership, staff and artists (as appropriate to each project)
· Policy Development: We commit to embedding anti-racist and anti-oppressive values and practices in our policies with the support of appropriate consultants, where necessary. This includes a review and updating of current policies as well as a commitment to Safer Spaces and Conflict Resolution policies.
Programming – commissions, production, mentorship, training.
Our main programming through to July of 2021, is The Chautauqua – Interlake Trail.
1. Through Chautauqua programming, TPM is continuing to explore new ways of working- project based and artist driven, methods and models of working that are centered on equity and social justice. In the Chautauqua we investigate and reimagine shared narratives as Indigenous, settler, urban and rural citizens collaborating together on Treaty 1 and Treaty 2 territories.
2. The process we use to do this, our “Chautauqua way of working”, is how we envision the future of Theatre Projects Manitoba’s relationship with our colleagues, and community- intentional, personal and built on open and honest dialogue. This manifests in the diversity of culture, ages, experience and art practices in our artistic team; paid mentorship and training for both emerging and established artists; and the artist driven approach- with each artist holding artistic autonomy of their projects. We prioritize storytelling, and community building. Theatre Projects’ role in the Chautauqua is to be responsive, flexible, and doing all we can to make each artist’s vision successful.
Announcement of the full Chautauqua team and their projects will be released on our website and social media platforms next week.
Updates on additional winter activities will follow. These will be published on our website, in our newsletter and on social media.
We are plotting the future direction of TPM and examining our place in the community. Our board, staff and leadership are all activated in this process of learning. As learners we will stumble, we will make mistakes, but we are committed to this process and welcome your feedback as we move forward. In this way, we hope to create a better TPM; building good relationships with artists and communities we have underserved. We see this as foundational for the path forward.
Please reach out with any questions or concerns about TPM’s plans. If you would like to participate in TPM’s re-visioning, board initiatives or committee work in any way – as an artist, a volunteer or a consultant – we welcome your thoughts and ideas!
Rea Kavanagh – [email protected]
Ardith Boxall – [email protected]
Board Executive – [email protected]
*We are using IBPOC – Indigenous, Black and People(s) of Colour with the understanding that this term does not adequately represent all the ways artists in our community may identify. We also use the term global majority to acknowledge that the artists we are referencing make up the majority of people(s) in the world today and are acknowledged to hold a rich diversity of cultural communities. We understand that these terms are not perfect, and we will continue to work towards more inclusive language by listening to our community and seeking guidance as we move forward.
With respect and love,
Ardith Boxall, Artistic Director
Rea Kavanagh, General Manager