Dear Department of Theatre Community,
This weekend, we received word of a student-run Instagram account and a post from that account about the senior class of 2021. This post is not an accurate portrayal of the Department of Theatre and does not reflect our values. This post brought up many feelings and questions around equitable treatment and the opinions of people of color within and outside our department. While this social media post was not issued by the department, we would like to take this moment to reflect on the inclusive practices of the Department of Theatre (DOT).
Theatre and Performing Arts groups across the country are taking this moment of pause within production to start weeding out systemic issues that affect the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) members of their community. As a department, we need to be more inclusive and are committed to building initiatives around this work for our students, faculty, staff, and community.
Our work will begin with the “Dear White American Theatre” letter that was written and co-signed by BIPOC theatre artists across the country. You can find a copy of this letter on their website (www.weseeyouwat.com) in addition to the list of inclusivity demands. Not only will this work provide our department with a more inclusive and knowledgeable environment here at MSU, it will allow us to join companies and institutions around the world in creating meaningful change.
In addition, we will be taking this year to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all through the following actions:
- Put into action our current DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Season Plan
- Formation of a faculty committee focused on implementing DEI work starting in September 2020
- Commit to curriculum that is representative of the diversity of the U.S., our student body, and theatre
- Commit to producing plays by Black playwrights, playwrights of color, LGBTQ+ playwrights, and particularly women-identifying authors
We acknowledge that it is difficult to address systematic issues around race and inequality. We also acknowledge that we are not perfect and there will be times that we may falter while on this journey. We rely on our broader communities and networks to let us know when we do fail, so that we can pledge to do better. However, our prioritization of this work means that we, as a community, remain diligent, understanding, and accountable to one another.
As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions as we come together for this important work ahead of us. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to Dr. Stephen Di Benedetto, Chairperson of the Department of Theatre, directly with questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).