Our vision of a better future must first acknowledge what has brought us to this moment—including the salient historical milestones over the Goodman’s 40-year+ evolution as an arts and civic organization committed to quality, diversity and our Chicago community. Historically, diverse artistry on our stages—beginning in 1978 with Richard Wright’s Native Son
starring Meshach Taylor through the 2000s with our biennial Latino Theatre Festival and continuing today, with inclusive casting in our annual A Christmas Carol
—has helped open doors to our community, led to greater inclusivity and established the Goodman as the first major not-for-profit theater in Chicago. View our full history
, including our mission and commitments.
But we recognize that we must also continue to unpack our history as a predominantly white institution situated on stolen lands
, and actively work to dismantle systems that have kept us so. Greater representation of people of color in every aspect of our organization—from the artists on stage and behind the scenes, to our boards and among our staff—will help enact new systems that enable a better future for all. To do this work and promote social justice, we will work to examine our own institutional processes and root out any signs of systemic racism. We must speak up when we encounter all of racism’s expressions—from the visible acts of cruelty and injustice to the less visible micro-aggressions and manifestations of implicit bias—and confront our own prejudices. We are committed to justice not as a word, but as a value we practice through our actions. We will continue to learn through this process and we will make mistakes; but we endeavor be proactive, listen and course-correct.
We would be remiss to proceed without acknowledging the times. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated our industry in 2020—halting production in our theaters, closing our partner organizations, and effectively shutting down life as we knew it. Though it’s not yet possible to measure the long-rage impact, its damage to the American theater is significant and, in some circumstances, potentially irreparable. At the same time, the televised murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis—watched by millions, as we sat in our homes—focused our attention on the pestilential pandemic of racism that has plagued this country since slavery, and triggered racial justice activism around the world. The unending incidences of murders of Black and Brown people by police, along with the virus’ disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities, exposed the long-standing racial inequities in all aspects of American life. Including the American Theater.
We at Goodman Theatre chart our future course through the following Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Access (IDEAA). As we move through this process, we invite, welcome and center Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and all marginalized and underrepresented voices in conversations in a way that does not ask them to educate their white colleagues. The IDEAA Action Plan is the result of a six-month collaborative effort involving individuals at every level of our organization—artists, staff, leadership and boards. Key to our process has been the Goodman Staff Committee, a three-year-old body of representatives of departments theaterwide. The collective ideas, resources, diligence and dedication of the Goodman Staff coalesce as the foundation of our IDEAA Action Plan, which centers on the following four “cornerstone” areas of focus and goals: Policy
We will work to revise and establish institutional policies in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment; break the traditional barriers of participation; and enact equitable practices for all who engage with our organization. Programming
We will review our artistic priorities—as demonstrated in the plays we produce, the artists we champion, the works we develop and Education and Engagement programs we offer—and ensure that BIPOC voices are centered in all creative endeavors going forward, both in new opportunities as well as in our ongoing/established efforts. Communication
We are committed to creating new opportunities for partnership, mentorship and stewardship through revision of our internal and external communication processes. Along the way, we will work to establish a safe channel for honest dialogue with leadership. Research and Assessment
We will invest in creating a more equitable American theater by examining our internal systems with industry professionals who will help us analyze, measure and track our goals with our action plan.
A six-person cross-departmental writing team has drafted these actions into the IDEAA Action Plan, including: Marissa Ford (Associate Managing Director); Ken-Matt Martin (Associate Producer); Amber Porter (Production Coordinator); Denise Schneider (Director of Communications); Amy Szerlong (Manager of Institutional Giving); and Willa J. Taylor (Walter Director of Education and Engagement).
We express our appreciation for the diligence of our industry peers, whose work has helped to raise collective consciousness. In particular, We See You, White American Theater
(a collective of BIPOC theater makers); Design Action
(a consortium of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander and White theater designers committed to creating a more equitable future for emerging and early-career BIPOC artists); and Ten Chimneys Foundation
(which has curated ongoing topical discussions among American theater practitioners). In the following living document, we will continue to acknowledge groups and individuals whose contributions help light the way.
As we progress, we evolve.