Commitment to Action

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

To Our Community:

It is long past time for us at Goodman Theatre—as individuals and as a major Chicago not-for-profit cultural organization—to reckon with systemic racism, the deep divisions that exist within our society and the entrenched inequalities of our legal system.

Toward ending the brutality, oppression and violence that Black people have suffered since our country’s founding, it’s imperative that we assess our own role in the lack of progress to equity and justice. How can we demonstrate that Black Lives Matter and build on our longtime commitment to Black voices? In what ways can we uplift and center Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other marginalized and underrepresented voices—on stage and off? How do we signal to all who enter our theater that hate has no home here? As a predominantly white organization, what steps must we take to dismantle the systems that have kept us so?

We are in the process of addressing these questions and more in creating an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism action plan, essential to enabling Goodman Theatre to live its values for the foreseeable future. As a first step, we have begun an audit of our internal culture—on stage, behind the scenes, on our boards and among our staff—to ascertain inequities in processes and policies and root out systemic racism, from blatant acts of injustice to less visible microaggressions and manifestations of implicit bias. Despite the challenges of the current environment caused by COVID-19, our goal is to have this plan completed by the end of 2020.

Through this process, we will:

  • Review our Artistic priorities. Seek honest assessments from our Artistic Collective members and key creative collaborators of color regarding their Goodman working experiences and recommendations for improvement.
  • Deepen our internal commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism. We will strengthen our infrastructure by establishing a standing committee of the Board focused on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Human Resources and oversight of this action plan. Additionally, we will create a corresponding senior level director position dedicated to human resources, diversity and inclusion. We will provide continuous and ongoing EDI training, including anti-racism, to ensure a safe and respectful work environment for all. Throughout this process, there will be Black, Indigenous, People of Color voices at the table and they will be centered in a way that does not ask them to educate their white colleagues.
  • Assess procurement practices. We will work to ensure that our procurement policies support Black, Indigenous, People of Color-led businesses; businesses located in under-resourced communities; and small businesses hit hard by the current economic crisis.
  • Commit to emerging voices of color. Determine short- and long-term opportunities to center a new generation of theater makers (especially Black playwrights) who chronicle the spectrum of their experience and create works of art that facilitate understanding and empathy between people of very different backgrounds and experiences toward healing and restoration.
  • Expand workforce development programs for emerging leaders of color. Increased Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other marginalized/underrepresented voices across our organization is vital to enacting our new systems toward a better future of all. 
  • Eliminate barriers to arts participation. We will deepen existing relationships with community leaders, arts organizations and kindle authentic new connections with Black, Indigenous and People of Color-led organizations to expand the breadth of our work. At the same time, we recognize that for many who work on our stages and behind the scenes (and for Indigenous populations, in particular), the disruption of family life is a barrier to access. We will examine our work schedules and practices to assess how we can better accommodate all who wish to participate in our art form. 
  • Foster connection and conversation with our audiences. Though the circumstances of COVID-19 prevent us from opening our Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement, we are working to facilitate virtual programming and deliver resources to Learn, Support and Show Up.

Most immediately, we respond to our current moment with Stateville Voices this Friday, July 3. What is the real meaning of freedom and independence? This festival of short plays written by incarcerated students at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, IL is the result of a playwriting course taught by playwright and Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman as part of the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP). Sydney Chatman, the Goodman’s immediate past Maggio Fellow, directs the works, which range from comic to tragic and capture a wide range of human experience with honesty, intimacy, and clarity.

Scheduled around the July 4 Independence Day holiday, Stateville Voices is an invitation to reflect on what freedom and independence mean in a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation on Earth; in a nation where more than 90 years elapsed from when the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are created equal until Juneteenth, when the last enslaved person finally learned of their freedom; in a criminal justice system that is plagued by systemic racism which has resulted in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other unarmed Black Americans; and where mass incarceration has torn apart families and done immeasurable damage to communities for generations. 

Our work will be ongoing and will evolve. We will actively share updates here and encourage dialogue with our community throughout the process. 

We acknowledge we must do more to become the equitable, diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organization we aspire to be. In confronting our own prejudices, we will continue to learn through this process. We will make mistakes; but we will be active, listen and make corrections. 

The Boards, Artists and Staff of Goodman Theatre stand in solidarity against racism and hate. We intend to contribute to the building of a more just and equitable American society—and ask that you will hold us accountable to fostering a culture that promotes inclusion and opportunity for all.