Response to Persephone’s Community Town Halls
Thank you to everyone who participated in our two virtual community town halls this week. We had expected each session to be a stand-alone session, but when the conversation in the first session needed more time, our facilitators responded to this need and invited all participants back to the second session to continue. The third session will focus on the three prompts that guided the first two sessions. We hope this will provide the opportunity for community members (both those who attended and those who were unable to attend earlier sessions) to speak their truth.
We are working to create safe spaces for people to share their experiences with Persephone Theatre through engagement with employees, community, and the virtual community town halls. The goal of having these conversations is to harness community ideas to inform process and policy changes at Persephone Theatre. We are striving to be a transparent organization that is a safe employer and worthy of your trust. In order to achieve our goal we must rebuild our community relationships, address the organizational toxicity and systemic racism, and ensure open communications with our community. Your feedback will inform how the organization will evolve. We are working toward a future where Persephone Theatre and the community have a better relationship, and these conversations will inform next steps.
Here’s how your feedback has affected change so far:
1. On June 23 we invited some members of the community to a conversation. Feedback from this conversation informed the sessions that began August 25th, including:
- Create a safe space by having independent moderators
- Include an anti-racism specialist
- Acknowledge the effect of having people in positions of power in the room, and remove this dynamic
- Have someone from the theatre community capture your feedback
2. In June, the Board of Directors received an open letter from theatre professionals and others, outlining suggestions for how we can start to move forward in a transparent and collaborative way with the community. We have begun to respond to these requests. Here is some of the work we have been doing:
- The HR Committee of the Board has spent many hours drafting, reviewing, and gathering feedback on HR policies. These include a Code of Conduct, Anti-Discrimination Policy and reporting ladder, and a Whistleblower Policy. Currently, feedback from employees and board members is being incorporated. The next step is to share the policies publicly and gather feedback from the community. We understand that there is some feedback that will come to us from the community consultations that can be incorporated before that step. Once we’ve gathered feedback from the community, the policies will be passed and implemented so we can start operating within this framework. We will remain open to feedback throughout and at a minimum we will annually review them.
- Policies alone will not change the culture of an organization. We will also need training, leadership, culturally sensitive mentorship programs, and most importantly action. Board members and employees are taking Anti-Racism training through the Anti-Racism Network, and we have planned additional training, which we will share as we confirm dates and finalize contracts with training providers. Our journey to become anti-racist/anti-oppressive will include regular discussions and educational opportunities to be built into the culture of the organization and will include all members of staff, leadership, and any casts that may be on our stages or in our rehearsal halls.
As members of the theatre community know, we are currently without an Artistic Director. Without theatre on our stage this fall, we have chosen to listen to the community first, before turning to that challenge. We need to consider your feedback in a thoughtful way before we find the right path forward. We’re clear on principles that will guide us through that process: involving the community, transparency, respecting individual applicants, encouraging the largest and most diverse applicant pool possible. We will continue our practice of including members of the community on our search committee for executive leadership positions. We are committed to better outreach to Black, Indigenous and People of Colour theatres and community organizations. When we’re clear on the process, we will share it publicly.
President of the Board
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