San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
We believe that Shakespeare experienced in a communal setting – whether it be outdoors, in a classroom or in a theater – elates the soul, inspires the mind and unifies those who sit beside each other. For the majority of our audiences, we are the first point of contact with Shakespeare and the performing arts. Our programming represents the plays in their finest light, demonstrates their relevance to today’s society, and inspires our students and audiences to seek out additional theatrical experiences. By lowering practical and perceptual barriers, the Festival encourages broad participation in the arts and makes these artistic activities an active part of community life.
The Festival plays a vital role in the Bay Area arts community, serving as a catalyst for audience development by reaching thousands of people who otherwise do not attend live theater or may have never experienced it at all. The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to arts education, using its programs to foster a life-long appreciation of learning and the arts.
The Festival is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to make the words and themes of Shakespeare accessible to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, financial status or level of education.
We, the board, staff, and artists of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, gratefully acknowledge that the home office of SF Shakes sits on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples who are the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula. As the indigenous stewards of this land and in accordance with their traditions, the Ramaytush Ohlone have never ceded, lost nor forgotten their responsibilities as the caretakers of this place, as well as for all peoples who reside in their traditional territory. We recognize that we have benefited from living and working on their traditional homeland, and we affirm their sovereign rights as first peoples. We encourage all who live and work on this land to educate ourselves about the Ramaytush Ohlone via their website, ramaytush.com, and to support their ongoing decolonizing and re-indigenization efforts.
As a Shakespeare company, we also recognize that the works of Shakespeare have been used to cause harm to indigenous nations and to eradicate and replace their native languages. We have a particular responsibility to address and repair this harm by naming it in our educational and performance work, and lifting up the voices that the dominance of Shakespeare’s work has displaced from our stages and our classrooms.
Updates on our ongoing efforts to be a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization:
Since our last update on December 20, 2022, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR TRANSITION
FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
SHAKESPEARE ON TOUR
QUERIDA SOR JUANA / DEAR SOR JUANA
Job descriptions for the Director-Collaborator and Conductora were co-created, as was a project timeline; the goal was for these artists to feel supported and accountable.
Since our last update on June 30, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.
FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
SF Shakes performed Free Shakespeare in the Park completely in person after a 2-year hiatus. We performed a fully virtual King Lear in 2020 and an episodic, hybrid Pericles in 2021 (with the final episode in the park).
What didn’t work
We took another step toward acquiring more inclusive, self-identified demographics, below:
Production team (stage management and crew)
We did not collect demographic data from directors and designers.
The Education Workgroup wants to acknowledge that we are in a state of transition as workgroup membership changes, and in anticipation of the departure of Artistic Director Rebecca Ennals (who will be sorely missed.) These transitions are orienting our group towards restructuring and redistributing responsibilities.
The Residency Subgroup has partnered with Shakespeare on Tour in order to help reinforce both post-tour playshop curriculums and pre-tour curriculums sent ahead of time to classrooms. The groups are planning a joint training session to take place in January with both Teaching Artists and Tour Actors in order to best prepare our entire educational staff for work in the classrooms.
Shakespeare’s Heartbeat continues strong at Francisco Middle School, and is thrilled to be adding a new year-long course at another SFUSD location of Everett Middle School. In addition, the programming at the College of Adaptive Arts has shifted to a fully virtual environment, allowing us to reach a larger number of students. SF Shakes hosted a virtual watch party of our production of Much Ado About Nothing for the students of the College of Adaptive Arts in order to create a space for the students to have easier access to the production, and found the captioning to be exceptionally helpful for accessibility.
BAY AREA SHAKESPEARE CAMPS
Bay Area Shakespeare Camps returned to in-person programming this summer for the first time in two years. We served 81 students among three camp venues, which required 15 SF Shakes staff.The Education Workgroup has made great progress experimenting with lateral leadership and creating a more equitable and creative working environment. Our summer camp curriculum and scripts have received much-needed updates, and a great deal of care and effort towards inclusion was taken in approaching hiring and teaching methods. There has been a nationwide staffing shortage for summer camps, and unfortunately SF Shakes was no exemption. However we did manage to engage several teaching artists and interns who were new to us and expand our teaching pool. Many new campers joined us this year as well. We had to re-establish relationships with many of the locations we previously held summer camps at and look for new ones due to staff turnover during the pandemic.After camps were over, the Education Workgroup conducted a thorough review of the summer and came up with some strategies to make the structure of the workgroup work more effectively for the in-person camp model. We also came to the conclusion that the camps are not financially sustainable on their own income. Paying teachers a fair wage and affording rent, while keeping the enrollment fees affordable, requires contributions/funding from elsewhere within the company to allow them to continue to function.
Free Shakespeare in the Park Literary Intern Violet Elisandre created a cast and crew welcome guide.We have reconnected with the Healing Well in San Francisco to deliver workshops to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. After establishing the relationship and beginning programming together in 2019 and 2020, the pandemic impacted our ability to collaborate. We reconnected at Free Shakespeare in the Park, with the Healing Well, bringing a group to see the performance. We then began to meet more regularly, learning that the Healing Well is building a new space for themselves and they are interested in adding “Shakespeare and Storytelling” workshop to their offerings. A 6-week pilot program of this workshop is being held Dec 9, 2022.
Artistic Program Support
SHAKESPEARE ON TOUR
CASTING / HIRING
Overall the hiring/casting process for Tour has reflected the reality that this program has been on hiatus for 2 ½ years, with an uncertain re-start time. Auditions were held in a hybrid mode with the director on zoom and auditioners either in person or on zoom. We were not able to fully realize the goal of having all actors at in-person callbacks.
Casting for the Tour proved to be particularly challenging this year, due to a shorter planning timeline (still recovering from pandemic schedule uncertainty) and ongoing issues with finding a diverse group of non-union actors.
The casting team (Schwindt, Grahn, Ennals, Morones) has identified the following ways to improve the diversity of those auditioning:
QUERIDA SOR JUANA / DEAR SOR JUANA
Artist Carolina Morones and SF Shakes are partnering to develop and present a staged reading of Morones’ new play Querida Sor Juana/ Dear Sor Juana in May, 2023.
Originally conceived for the Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival (BAWTF) in March 2020 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Covid-19 led to the cancellation of this event. Morones preferred not to present the work virtually, and SFSF honored her choice.
This play represents Latin American characters of historical importance played by Latinx actors, and centers Latinx artists as writers/directors/collaborators.. We will explore how best to create a supportive writing and research process.
Querida Sor Juana offers the opportunity to expand the canonical expectations of a Shakespeare theater company and represents a step in decolonizing Shakespeare-centered theater companies by making discursive space for diverse voices from the same era.
In November, Morones and SFSF’s Artistic and Executive Directors, Rebecca Ennals and Toby Leavitt, followed guidance from a workshop hosted by Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to co-create an MOU.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR TRANSITION
The search for SFSF’s next artistic director is being conducted by an Artistic Director Transition Team. Team membership includes Board Chair Cynthia Francis, Education Workgroup member Evan Held, Executive Director Toby Leavitt, Resident Artist David Moore, and Production Manager Pratiksha Shah.
An open invitation was extended to each area of the Festival to self-nominate for team participation, and the diversity of the team – particularly gender and race/ethnicity – were also taken into account in team formation.
The choice to conduct the search via this team was informed by many conversations, both within SF Shakes, and with several search firms and artistic directors at other theaters, particularly those who were the first artistic directors of color at their theaters. After much consideration, SFSF decided to maintain the existing position and reporting structure, and to commit to a strategic planning process that looked at both in context of many other strategic questions. This was transparently disclosed in the position’s job description, to which many gave input, including a human resources professional and a DEI consultant. A detailed dissemination plan was also developed, with care to extend invitations to apply and requests for referrals from BIPOC individuals with whom the company has relationships.
Some statistics on the search, which remains ongoing:
We are learning from some issues we have encountered:
We had hoped to conclude the search process by October, and now believe January is a realistic goal. To facilitate onboarding, the current Artistic Director is being contracted for additional training time in early 2023.
STRATEGIC PRE-PLANNING TEAM
Concurrent with the launch of the Artistic Director Transition Team, a Strategic Pre-planning Team was launched to prepare the organization to start a strategic planning process.
An open invitation was extended to each area of the Festival to self-nominate for team participation, and the diversity of the team – particularly gender and race/ethnicity – were also taken into account in team formation.
The Strategic Preplanning Team membership includes Artistic Director Rebecca Ennals, Board Co-Vice Chair Roshni Jain, Education Workgroup member Charlie Lavaroni, Executive Director Toby Leavitt, Resident Artist Carla Pantoja, and Production Manager Pratiksha Shah.
Activities of the team included:
Updates on the status of the strategic planning process are being provided to those in the organization on a regular basis; additionally, team members are available to address individual questions and receive feedback.
Since our last update on December 20, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.
Accountability Update Processes
The process for holding company meetings and publishing accountability updates has been updated, documented, and disseminated. In advance of the next update, expected in December 2022, we are planning a process that is more efficient while also being mindful of the appropriate amount of time that said process will need. We intend this process to allow for more communication and co-development among more teams, and be a step towards making accountability an active ongoing practice throughout the organization.
This update is more focused on accountability and less on programmatic activity. While programmatic updates are important, they are to be shared in different ways outside of this accountability update.
Free Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare on Tour
The Engagement Team is lacking diverse racial and ethnic representation, and recognizes that in order to attract and retain diverse team members, we must first take a look at our internal culture. The Engagement Director is currently engaged in several strategic listening sessions, and will strengthen the team’s onboarding and recruiting process thereafter.
SF Shakes’s next strategic planning process will begin at the end of the calendar year. It will examine, among other things, the organization’s leadership structure and how best to rebalance capacity as it transitions from covid-related government subsidies. A pre-planning team is being formed, with representation from its board, staff, EW, and RAs.
Since our last update on June 7th, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work to make SF Shakes a more equitable, just, and anti-racist organization.
FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
• Intern Company: 85% BIPOC; 100% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Acting Company: 75% BIPOC; 55% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Designers and Directors: 40% BIPOC; 80% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
• Production team (stage management team and the crew): 44% BIPOC; 72% trans, female, and/or non-binary identifying
We didn’t meet our 60% BIPOC goal in the hiring of the designers and crew. We are actively seeking to foster relationships with BIPOC artists through Facebook groups and other affinity spaces. We partnered with SF Youth Theatre to identify and welcome BIPOC interns.
Our demographics lack information about Disabled company members. We did invite folks to share access needs each day as a regular practice. We plan to address this in the future.
In 2021, SF Shakes offered paid internships for the first time, which led to greater access and inclusion. We were able to hire a total of 7 interns over the course of the production.
Because of the virtual aspect of our hybrid Pericles, we received over 400 audition submissions from across the country. This year, our acting company zoomed in from New York, Texas, New Hampshire, Oregon, and here in California. Each actor received a tech kit to be used during the entirety of the virtual performances.
For audiences unable to join us live in person, we filmed the last episode and ran all four episodes on YouTube for free until November 1, 2021. All recordings included closed-captioning for additional access.
As is our practice, Company Culture training was held in the first week of virtual rehearsal in June, for all involved in Pericles. Company Culture training introduces the group to SF Shakes’ values, norms, policies, and establishes agreements for going forward in rehearsal. Part of the training is also going over conflict resolution and reporting structures. An anonymous feedback form was available to the entire company for the duration of Pericles, reviewed by two ombudspeople – one in cast, one outside of cast.
Additional Company Culture training was done in August as we transitioned from virtual to in-person rehearsals and performances, including in-person agreements, Covid safety, intimacy training, and a presentation by a mental health expert.
A Review & Reflect process happened in October, including an anonymous survey & open Zoom meetings. The survey had solid participation but meetings were lightly attended.
Despite our intentions to do so, we did NOT do a midpoint survey; this is a goal for 2022.
Some of our learnings from the Review & Reflect process included:
• The addition of full-time paid understudies was enormously valuable and we will likely do this sooner and more extensively in the future.
• The decision to hire 3 sound crew instead of 1 for the in-person performances added capacity, reduced burnout, and led to success.
• The span of the day during virtual and in person rehearsals/performances was reduced, with a 8-hour maximum for crew and no 10 out of 12s. We continue to refine our humane scheduling practices to fewer hours per day and fewer days per week, acknowledging that if the cast is working 8 hours per day, the creative and production teams are still working 10 or 12.
• The smaller set and pared down storage required less strain on the production team and less of a footprint in local parks. Each actor had their own private dressing room built into the backstage area, which reduced the need for site services and increased equitable privacy for all cast members.
• The AQI/Heat policy wasn’t sufficient for coping with multiple consecutive days of moderate/unhealthy for sensitive groups AQI. In the future we need stronger mandates about all wearing N-95 masks on smoky days. On the plus side, we let go of the “show must go on” mentality and delayed opening in favor of caring for actors’ health.
• In the future, we need to look at how to care for the caregivers (ombudsfolk & staff) when they are holding space and dealing with crises.
Since our last update in June, the Education Workgroup further developed its non-hierarchical structure, with the Leadership sphere of Education being more representative of available time to manage projects. Most spheres overlap, but consist of Education, Leadership, Residencies, Camps & Classes, and Outreach. Meeting time management was evaluated by the whole of the workgroup with the conclusion that taking time and allowing for additional space fostered a creative and productive environment. The group was given a paid week off November 22 – 26 for both salaried and hourly members of the group.
The workgroup currently has 11 active members with varying amounts of time commitment: Rebecca Ennals, Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held, Regina Morones, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, Marie Morley, Brittany Villars, Charlie Lavaroni, Michaela Stewart, and Rainier Pearl-Styles.
• Virtual Summer Camps continued successfully through July and August. A Review & Reflect process was held to see what aspects of the camp process can be improved. We received uniformly positive feedback from the few families that responded, as well as from our teaching artists, who found the shorter days and longer sessions conducive to effective teaching with less burn out.
• An education menu was developed to further engage with schools as they transitioned to in-person learning and provide a more consistent means to communicate our educational offerings. A postcard was sent out to teachers and schools featuring commissioned artwork from student Nina Mccambridge. A collaboration between Education Workgroup members and Marketing reached out to schools to engage directly with educators, including John Western, Joshua Waterstone, Bidalia Albanese, and Brittany Villars.
• The outreach team surveyed schools regarding readiness for in-person Shakespeare on Tour performances. Based on their input, there is a solid plan to return in Fall 2022. A cross-functional team was established with inclusion across the Education, Artistic, and Engagement spheres; the team will examine past work practices and reimagine what tour could be, upholding organizational practice to consciously interrupt assumptions and not assume we should return to what was. The team currently consists of Akaina Gosh, Ayelet Schrek, Carla Pantoja, Evan Held, Maryssa Wanlass, and Robyn Grahn.
• Residency partnership expectations and agreements were documented along with a form for residency requests and intake. Curriculum is currently in development for these residencies. A Romeo and Juliet specific residency was developed in response to community interest in core curriculum.
• The Shakespeare’s Heartbeat program (developed from the works of Kelly Hunter to support students on the Autism Spectrum) has expanded to the College of Adaptive Arts, with a full Heartbeat class coming in the new year. This class offers the opportunity to train new teaching artists on the curriculum.
During the development of this accountability update, the Company Culture Committee (Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Craig Moody, David Moore, Kem Ozbek, Ray Kutz, Rebecca Ennals, Regina Morones, Toby Leavitt) attempted to integrate two members of the Education Leadership Sphere (Ayelet Schrek, Evan Held) into the writing of this update to speak more directly to the Education Workgroup’s (EW) accountability. However, since they were brought in later in the process, they did not have adequate time to engage the entire EW in the process, to collaborate with members of the CCC, and to ensure the update is representative of the organization’s efforts. We encountered a distinction between an update about programmatic activity and an accountability update, and are working to clarify the difference, and explore the role a program update might have internal and external to the organization. We will investigate these process- and content-related issues further in the coming months, prior to the June accountability update.
Since our last update on January 31, 2021, here is a summary of our continuing work. Please note that we originally committed to publishing this update on May 31, 2021, and acknowledge that this update is instead being published a week late on June 7, 2021.
From January 26th to April 29th, a group of Resident Artists, staff, and board members (Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Regina Morones, Carla Pantoja, Pratiksha Shah, and Maryssa Wanlass) engaged in an Anti-Racism Workshop led by Diedra Barber of Filament Consulting Group. This workshop was specifically geared towards helping arts organizations build capacity to co-create, co-imagine, and co-foster anti-racist multicultural work environments. Over the course of the three-month program, participants developed a shared language to discuss how white supremacy and patriarchy show up in the workplace, and the group practiced utilizing tools that would allow for more transparent and productive conversations.
Members of SF Shakes are participating in training through Theatre Bay Area, “Pathways to Belonging: Building Antiracist Practices” this May and June. Participants include two board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody), two Teaching Artists and Education Workgroup members (Joshua Waterstone, Ayelet Schrek), and three staff members (John Western, Edmund Campos, Meredith Eldred.) With this training, all year-round staff will have completed anti-racist training within the last year.
One element of Diedra Barber’s workshop centered around invoking collectivism with intentionality. The word “we” is used casually, often without clarity about who “we” refers to (We at SF Shakes…). Specificity is important, and a key element of transparency is acknowledging who is in the room for various conversations. Moving forward, the Accountability Committee (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja) hopes to be transparent and specific with who we are referring to.
SF Shakes’s Executive Director Toby Leavitt has emailed the Executive Directors of the American Indian Cultural District and the American Indian Cultural Center to introduce herself. Prior to introducing herself, she benefited greatly from guidance provided by the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust in “How to Come Correct.”
In addition, since SF Shakes’ last update, the company expanded its participation in the Bay Area Accountability Workgroup, adding staff members Edmund Campos and Pratiksha Shah to the group’s BIPOC-centered Affinity Space.
With financial support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, SF Shakes has engaged accountants Metis Partners to develop a collaborative budgeting model that can be shared and updated by many different parties; the two goals of this model are to provide better transparency about sources and uses of resources and to empower more people to participate in strategic discussions. This will also be an opportunity to develop additional financial measures of accountability that are important towards charting our path towards becoming a more equitable organization. The project will begin in June, after the 2020 audit is completed.
NON-HEIRARCHICAL ART/WORK PROCESSES
SF Shakes has worked to make core areas of production and decision-making less hierarchical and more inclusive of the artists and staff that comprise the Festival. These areas include educational programming, and season planning and casting for Free Shakespeare in the Park.
The Education Workgroup was created to address inequities in our education programs. The challenges we faced in 2020 served as a true catalyst for actionable change to ensure our education programs meet the needs of our community in this moment and value our teaching artists through equitable practices. The need for actionable change was further heightened by the sudden resignation of the education manager followed by the resignation of the education director. The Festival has responded in part by increasing capacity and overall pay rates, involving teaching artists in the decision-making process, and exploring alternative management structures. Our response was to adopt a shared leadership structure to empower the education staff to make programming decisions.
Rebecca Ennals put out a call to all active Resident Artists and Teaching Artists to self-nominate to be a part of this new education workgroup with Amy Lizardo and Regina Morones in co- leadership positions. There was a strong response to Rebecca’s email which resulted in seven teaching artists signing on to the workgroup right away. The workgroup was then divided into two subgroups, Shakespeare summer camps and existing residency programs.
The Workgroup currently includes 10 active members: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.
Three members are BIPOC, 2 identify as Disabled, and 2 identify as LGBTQ+. Two out of the 3 team leaders are BIPOC, and the team is 60% female or non-binary. The workgroup is wrapping up its Spring 2021 phase and plans to include new members in the next phase, including a new member who is BIPOC and LGBTQ+ and has already self-nominated.
Camp Workgroup activities/achievements to date include:
This year, the selection of the title and planning for Free Shakespeare in the Park was less hierarchical than ever before. Building upon last year’s consensus-based season selection process, this year’s process invited more voices to the table. The Season Planning Committee included Free Shakes artists and teaching artists alongside Resident Artists, staff and artistic director. SF Shakes continued the practice of taking suggestions from committee members on play selection. In addition to conventional Shakespeare play texts, the Committee also considered adaptations (such as La Comedia of Errors adapted by Bill Rauch and Lydia Garcia) and modern verse translations of Shakespeare rendered by professional playwrights (such as this year’s selection of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre.)
Suggestions were also taken from the committee on how the play would be presented, what format(s) said presentation would take, and who might helm the project. For instance, calls for self-nomination were employed to make these decisions as well. The selection of one Director of Vision (Carla Pantoja) and three additional directors (Rebecca Ennals, Elizabeth Carter, Carolina Morones) is indicative of the responsibility shared in the process as a whole.
Also for the first time this year, SF Shakes re-imagined its casting process by inviting Resident Artist, David Everett Moore to review audition submissions. In this process, David and Rebecca Ennals shared the duties of initially reviewing the video submissions and selecting which to pass on to directors for review.
SF Shakes is continuing to work on improving internal communication to de-silo information. After surveying its constituents, SF Shakes has adopted a regular practice of bi-annual all-company meetings; the most recent was held on March 16, 2021. Slack has also been added as a communication tool, and a company Google-drive will be added next.
Education Workgroup: Rebecca Ennals (Lead), Amy Lizardo (Lead), Regina Morones (Lead), Bidalia Albanese, Evan Held, Charlie Lavaroni, Ryan Lee, Ayelet Schrek, Michaela Stewart, Joshua Waterstone.
Season Planning Team: Wrapped up work in February 2021, having achieved its purpose of selecting a title for 2021 Free Shakes. However, the team identified a need to have its work be ongoing, and we expect its function will likely be a major function of the Resident Artist Company going forward (pending more work by that team). Membership: Rebecca Ennals, Pratiksha Shah, Edmund Campos, Neal Ormond (staff); Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Regina Morones, Maryssa Wanlass, David Moore, Sydney Schwindt (Resident Artists); Carolina Morones, Elizabeth Carter, Karen Schleifer (Guest Artists)
Engagement Team: Maryssa Wanlass (lead), Carolina Morones (project lead), Edmund Campos, Pratiksha Shah, Rebecca Ennals. (Robyn Grahn on maternity leave)
Accountability Committee: Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Akaina Ghosh, Ray Kutz, Toby Leavitt, Craig Moody, David Moore, Regina Morones, Kem Ozbek, and Carla Pantoja
Resident Artist Company: Current membership includes Amy Lizardo, Akaina Ghosh, Carla Pantoja, Ella Ruth Francis, Regina Morones, David Moore, Maryssa Wanlass, Robyn Grahn, Sydney Schwindt, Phil Wong. The current company was able to meet once in the spring, with next steps to be to further define the company’s purpose, then decide how new members will be invited and/or self-nominate.
SF Shakes plans to publish another update by November 30, 2021 to include reflections and takeaways from Free Shakespeare in the Park and the summer season of education programming.
It has been one year since SF Shakes has intensified its efforts at creating a culture of accountability within the organization and begun posting public progress reports. We hope these updates convey a sense of the work that has been done. We believe this work to be essential and ongoing. We invite comments, questions, or suggestions regarding these efforts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since our last update on September 30, 2020, here is a summary of our continuing work:
Land acknowledgment has been added to our website, using the guidance offered by the Ramaytush Ohlone people at ramaytush.com.
We have continued the practice of land acknowledgment at rehearsals, workshops, and project meetings, and begun to include it in staff and board meetings.
MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES
Company Culture training is held at the beginning of ALL programs. This includes discussion of the characteristics of White Supremacy Culture and how they show up in the theatre industry and at SF Shakes, as well our responsibility as a Shakespeare theatre to address the harm Shakespeare’s dominance in the Anglo-American canon and culture has done. This training also includes conflict resolution guidance and resources for addressing grievances, including naming internal ombudspeople and external HR resources.
At these trainings, and subsequently, leadership is also committed to naming current harmful habits and specific challenges in our company culture, such as scarcity mindset, sense of urgency, and either/or thinking. We are sharing how the company is currently addressing these issues, and our attempts to repair and change our habits, with transparency and responsiveness.
Our Company Values have been added to our website, including a new Value addressing sense of urgency and scarcity mindset. We consider these values foundational – we share them as part of our Company Culture training in order to provide a compass at the beginning of every process.
We are committed to paying interns in 2021, with a commitment to hiring at least 60% local Bay Area BIPOC and/or low-income candidates. We are collaborating with fellow arts and community organizations to identify candidates.
REVIEW AND REFLECT PROCESS
After Free Shakes 2020, we abolished the “post mortem” process in which feedback is given at the end of a process and filed away, and re-imagined it as “Review and Reflect.” As part of this process, in every program we are committed to the idea of “feeding forward” our learnings directly into the next program, addressing and repairing harm as quickly as possible, and offering mid-point anonymous surveys and suggestion forms as well as access to ombudspeople and external HR resources to address grievances. Participants are paid to participate in Review & Reflect meetings and gathered with sensitivity to positional power dynamics in each department. This process is a work in progress and we expect it to evolve over time to better address employees’ needs.
ARTISTS PAID FOR ALL HOURS WORKED
We have created a transparent rate sheet for all seasonal and educational positions, which we will continue to refine in conversation with our staff and artists. You can find that here.
We have begun working with an attorney who specializes in local labor law and human resources. They have begun reviewing contracts and policies, starting with a new hiring agreement developed in consultation with Resident and Teaching Artists. This consultant, in conjunction with our EDI consultant, provides expertise, experience, and perspective to support the structural changes necessary in becoming a more antiracist organization.
TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY
Financial updates have been posted to website.
The Accountability Committee, which organized the August, 2020 Company Meeting and reviews these antiracism updates, will be expanding its membership in February to include three additional Resident Artists (Akaina Ghosh, David Moore, and Regina Morones), in addition to the existing membership of one resident artist (Carla Pantoja), three staff (Edmund Campos, Rebecca Ennals, Toby Leavitt), and three board members (Ray Kutz, Craig Moody, Gorkem Ozbek).
Takes on Shakes, our new educational video series, offers “takes” on plays in the core curriculum that interrogate the text with an eye to social justice approaches in performance. The accompanying curriculum provides context around the 400-year history of Shakespeare performance, encourages critical thinking, and directly addresses assumptions about the ways the plays have and “should” be performed.
A group of staff and artists are currently engaged in a shared season planning process for Free Shakespeare 2021, examining diverse texts, including non-Shakespeare texts and Shakespeare adaptations and translations by women and BIPOC playwrights. The goal is to expand what we think of as “the canon” and celebrate Shakespeare’s ability to adapt to our ever-changing world.
EMPLOYMENT OF DIVERSE ARTISTS
In Fall 2020, Takes on Shakes employed more than 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists, including the writer/directors of both episodes of Takes on Shakes.
The Free Shakes 2021 Season Planning committee includes 60% BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ artists and staff members. Artists are paid for their participation in this shared leadership process at a rate comparable to staff salaries. Key season planning decisions, such as the choice of play(s), will be reached by consensus, not made unilaterally by the Artistic Director.
In Fall 2020, 4 out of the 5 teaching artists hired for after-school programs and virtual Playshops were BIPOC; at least one identifies as LGBTQ+.
SF Shakes’ Executive Director also participated in ArtEquity’s excellent training, Finding the Keys, Antiracist Approaches to Radical Recruitment in the Arts.
SF Shakes plans to publish another update by May 31, to include – among other topics – updates related to, “Transparency into Finances and Decision-Making”:
On January 26, a team of Board, Staff and Resident Artists began a four-month workshop to build capacity to co-imagine, co-create, and co-foster an antiracist, multicultural organizational culture, structure and model. We expect to examine together how to implement more inclusive decision-making and other forms of power-sharing. We will include an update on this team’s work on May 31.
In February, SF Shakes will also begin to work with a financial advisor to develop a more inclusive budgeting and forecasting process to support distributed decision making and strengthen both internal and external communication around our organization’s financial position and priorities. We will include an update on this work on May 31.
We applaud the March launch of the American Indian Cultural District in the Mission District of San Francisco, future home of the American Indian Cultural Center. We will introduce ourselves, and ask whether they are interested in exploring how SF Shakes might further their mission and activities and amplify the visibility of Native Americans in San Francisco.
In spring of 2021, an Education Workgroup of management and teaching artists will be formed to address the management structure of education programs, decolonizing our camp and classroom curricula, training of teaching artists, and best practices for teaching virtually and safely in person.
On May 31, 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, SF Shakes, like many other predominantly white organizations, published a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. Shortly thereafter, Black, Indiginous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre artists around the country created a statement in response, called “We See You, White American Theatre (WSYWAT)”. This was followed by a Living Document of Bay Area BIPOC artists (Living Doc) sharing their personal experiences of racism in our theatre community, and in legacy-white institutions like SF Shakes. Both groups then published action plans of demands for changes to our institutions.
We see the work of the communities that created WSYWAT and the Living Doc as generous and the resulting documents incredibly helpful. We have real changes to make in order for SF Shakes to become the genuinely inclusive, accessible, equitable organization that we strive to be – and that our mission promises. While this had begun to be addressed in the last several years, we understand that our incremental approach is not getting us to what we want to be – an anti-racist organization. We recognize that our organizational practices have caused harm, and we are eager to restore trust and work together to undo systemic racism in our organization and our community through our actions of accountability and change.
On August 6, 2020, we published our commitment to continued action and accountability around the demands of both WSYWAT and the Living Doc. A list of our current actions and immediate next steps is below. Our next update will be made on 1/31/2021. We have also added a page to our web site as a repository for these updates.
In August, we were midway through our virtual Free Shakespeare at Home production of King Lear. This provided an opportunity to immediately address the following:
Generate an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement with consultation and blessings from Indigenous stakeholders. (Living Doc)
– All Free Shakespeare at Home performances included a land acknowledgment of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, original stewards of the occupied land on which SF Shakes’ headquarters sits, as well as an acknowledgment that we are the beneficiaries of settler colonialism.
– All Free Shakespeare at Home performances included a posted link to the Sogorea-Te Land Trust to encourage our audience to pay their land tax.
This is a new practice for us and we are actively revisiting as our understanding grows, in a continued desire to make sure this is not performative but based in decolonizing principles. Here are some links we have found helpful for self-education:
Next Steps – by 1/31/2021:
– Add land acknowledgment to our website.
– Extend the practice of land acknowledgment to rehearsals and staff meetings.
– Continue attempts to connect directly with Ramaytush Ohlone representatives for consultation and blessings
– Revise curriculum to include information for students about Elizabethan and Jacobean colonization, and how Shakespeare has been used as a tool of colonization.
ANTI-RACISM TRAINING AND REGULAR PRACTICE
Provide anti-racist and anti-bias training to all departments annually. (Living Doc)
An Accountability Ambassador within the institution must be appointed to report back to the public quarterly to share the progress, growth, and changes with full transparency internally and externally. (Living Doc)
Steps taken so far:
– SF Shakes cannot become the anti-racist organization it wants to be without the board’s leadership. At a board level, in 2019, some anti-racism training was a part of each board meeting, and the subject of the full-day facilitated November retreat; thereafter, in Feb/March 2020, the board chair and a second board member took a 4-day antiracism training with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB); a third board member took a 3-day training with Dr. Robin DiAngelo; in June, these three board members formed the board’s Anti-Racism Committee, and led the board in a series of individual and board-wide (at the June board meeting) anti-racism and accountability (at the August board webinar) conversations. To further dialogue and education, eight of the 14 board members have formed an anti-racist reading group, whose first meeting was Sept 14. At the September board meeting, the board agreed to focus on policy regarding board anti-racism training as well as board recruitment, rededicating themselves to board diversification goals that have not been met to date.
– At a staff level, in the last year and a half, the Executive, Artistic, and Education Directors and other staff have participated in important trainings, including PISAB training and a program offered through Theatre Bay Area called Theaters Advancing Social Change, in partnership with ArtEquity. The Executive and Artistic Directors are also participating in the Bay Area Theatre Accountability Group, which is committed to meeting for the next year to address racism in the Bay Area Theatre community.
– For the past three years, the first day of rehearsal for Free Shakespeare in the Park/@Home has been devoted to company culture training, and additional anti-racism resources were shared throughout the project’s duration. We will continue this practice, and expand it so it serves each program.
– To hold ourselves accountable to our intent and plan to become a more anti-racist organization, an Accountability Committee of board, staff, and a resident artist alum was created. This committee will monitor commitments to ensure they are fulfilled and report back to the public quarterly to share the progress, growth, and changes with full transparency internally and externally.
– Two additional board members and one staff member are enrolled in PISAB’s Undoing Racism training this October 2020. REVISED 10/23: While the staff member attended, the two board members did not; this was due to shifting scheduled training dates (from early to mid-October) and resulting scheduling conflicts; SF Shakes is monitoring PISAB’s website for additional training dates, which both board members remain eager to attend.
– In 2020-21, SF Shakes is planning to participate in an anti-racism workshop titled “Building Individual Capacity to Co-Imagine, Co-Create, and Co-Foster an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Organizational Culture, Structure and Model” in order to build on these trainings and translate them to actions.
– Company culture training will be held at the beginning of all programs, whenever onboarding new employees. We will begin this expanded practice in October, 2020, with a company culture training for fall education program staff.
Eliminate 10 out of 12s and eliminate the 6-day rehearsal week. These are long-standing practices that are steeped in capitalist and white supremacist culture. When these practices are in place, the growing and nurturing of the BIPOC family structure is imperiled. Many BIPOC artists have been forced to make a choice not to have families. For Indigenous artists and other peoples recovering from genocide, these practices are extremely detrimental. (WSYWAT)
– After partially implementing a 5-day/week rehearsal schedule in 2018, this was fully implemented in 2019. In 2020, we continued to honor a 5-day workweek, and further reduced weekly hours to address on-screen fatigue associated with virtual rehearsals; other than tech week, rehearsals were kept to 6 hours/day; short designer appointments sometimes added an additional 30-60 minutes. We will maintain either the 2019 or 2020 schedule in 2021, depending on whether rehearsals are virtual or in-person.
– We eliminated 10 out of 12s in 2020 (reduced to 8 out of 10). We plan to continue this practice whether or not rehearsal is in-person or virtual.
ARTISTS PAID FOR ALL HOURS WORKED
Compensate the Artist fairly based on the amount of time contributed to the production and with respect to the cost of living in your region. (Living Doc)
– We have rewritten non-equity actors’ contracts to include more explicit expectations, including what hours artists are expected to work and that they are paid for each of these hours. In 2020, all non-union actors/stage managers were paid $16.50/hour, as outlined by San Francisco’s minimum compensation ordinance. Unions actors/stage managers were paid at LORT-D scale.
– We have expanded payment to include hours worked in association with marketing/promotion and post-show discussions.
Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We will develop and share a transparent payment/compensation rate sheet for all seasonal positions.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
Establish local partnership with Black and Brown businesses near the organization / company. (Living Doc)
Generate post-performance resources for patrons that include, but not limited to: information about the culture and history referenced in the play, ways to support Black and Brown businesses, and ways to engage as a responsible community member. (Living Doc)
– During the September run of King Lear, we worked with the offices of Supervisor Shamann Walter and the Bayview Economic Development on Third (EDOT) to promote local businesses in our home neighborhood of Bayview, a predominantly Black neighborhood in southeast San Francisco. Specifically, we compiled an updateable google doc of all restaurants open to the public for takeout during the pandemic, along with their contact information. We promoted these restaurants to our King Lear audience, and transferred the list to the supervisor’s office so it can be maintained going forward.
– Throughout the run, we worked with our civic partners to encourage our audience to donate to local nonprofits on the frontlines of the pandemic, addressing hunger, poverty, and homelessness. Specifically, we promoted West Valley Community Services and San Mateo Strong.
– During the September run of King Lear, we encouraged donations to our San Francisco-based community partner The Healing WELL, an organization serving our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
Next Steps – by 1/31/2021
– With our partners at The Healing WELL, we are piloting an online engagement program encouraging connection, wellness, and community storytelling on Oct 19, 2020, and are prepared to continue the program according to the needs and wishes of the program participants.
This summer, we have also been engaged in a process of accountability and reparations with our Teaching Artists and Resident Artists regarding this summer’s virtual summer camp program. While neither the WSYWAT or Living Doc demands specifically names teaching artists and non-production programs, as an organization with a deep commitment to education, applying these principles to our education programming and teaching staff is essential.
– After 2020 summer virtual Shakespeare Camps, staff received requests from an organizing committee of Resident and Teaching Artists for more equitable and increased teaching rates, clearer expectations, and compensation for time spent on tasks associated with teaching camps and outside of teaching hours. The conversation is continuing, and to date we have agreed to the principles that camp teaching artists be compensated for all aspects of their work, that communication take place in a way that honors the teaching artists’ time, and that job responsibilities be clearly defined.
– We have made retroactive payments above contracted rates to apologize to our teaching artists, show appreciation for work they did in summer 2020 above and beyond stated expectations, restore trust.
Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We will have a transparent rate sheet for all education programs.
Publish a thorough plan of actions marked within a timeline with a commitment to creating an equitable, just, and anti-racist theater. (Living Doc)
Make public your annual fiscal report: 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20. (Living Doc)
Steps taken so far:
– SF Shakes held a virtual company meeting on Aug 26, 2020, open to all 2020 board, staff, resident artists, and seasonal employees of the organization. During this meeting, updates were shared regarding SF Shakes’ financial and programmatic pivots in response to the pandemic, and our anti-racism and equity actions and plans. Board and staff leadership responded to questions, including those submitted anonymously.
Next steps – by 1/31/2021:
– We polled all participants, including those who later watched a recording of the company meeting; based on the results of these polls, quarterly emails will be sent and biannual company meetings will be held going forward
– We will post our 2017 and 2018 Form 990s and audited financials, and add those for 2019 and 2020 upon their completion.
In addition to those next steps outlined above, we intend to address the following topics in our January 31, 2021 update:
– A plan to sunset the unpaid internship program.
– A commitment to include 60% BIPOC, queer, trans, womxn of color, and/or non-binary cast and production teams in 2021
– Some next steps on the enormous and essential work of problematizing, decolonizing, and decentering Shakespeare in our education system.
While additional topics likely will be addressed in our January 31, 2021 update, we commit to addressing these three topics.
We appreciate the opportunity to update the community on our actions. Please note that past and current statements and commitments are now on SF Shakes website.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, along with massive inequities in deaths from Covid-19, has led to widespread demonstrations across the country demanding police reform and a long-overdue national reckoning with the systemic racism deeply ingrained into the structures of American life.
The theatre community is actively engaged in this reckoning. We thank the collectives of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) artists who have contributed to the demands issued by We See You, White American Theater and The Living Document. San Francisco Shakespeare Festival sees itself in these documents, and will work for change in our community and our organization.
As a Shakespeare theatre, we benefit from the outsized impact of one white male playwright on the entire theatre industry. While we will always appreciate the beauty of his poetry and humanity of his stories, we accept our responsibility to challenge the dominance of his brand. We recommit ourselves to interrogating his plays and expanding the traditional Eurocentric classical canon.
We are now thoroughly reviewing the documents mentioned above with our staff and board of directors. By the end of September, we will create a page on our website to update the community on our actions. We will honor the demand for more transparency and accountability that we have heard from our own Resident Artists.
SF Shakes stands in solidarity with our Black company members and neighbors in condemning systemic racism and demanding justice for the murders of Black Americans.
As a predominately white-led organization, we recognize that anti-racism is more than a one-time statement in a time of crisis. It is a daily commitment in our workplace, classrooms, rehearsals and performances.
As an organization founded on principles of access, inclusion, and community engagement, we recognize that anti-racism must address economic injustice, housing and healthcare inequities.
As a theatre company, we use Shakespeare’s stories to address the issues of our time through the lens of human history, as he did in his time. We recognize that telling these stories inclusively must include the participation of all members of our community.
Cynthia Francis, Chair, Board of Directors
Rebecca J. Ennals, Artistic Director
Toby Leavitt, Executive Director
Please support these organizations fighting for justice for George Floyd: