THE WAY FORWARD AT PRAIRIE THEATRE EXCHANGE
At Prairie Theatre Exchange, we are committed to working with, celebrating, amplifying, and creating safe spaces for BIPOC artists, audiences, and communities.
As a historically white organization, we are committed to looking inward to identify systemic racism and systems of oppression, and then to dismantling them. As a company, we are in fundamental and foundational discussions about who we are and who we aspire to be. We are listening, and we are taking action.
As a not-for-profit arts organization and a contemporary theatre company, Prairie Theatre Exchange is dedicated to transparency. In the spirit of transparency, we are sharing our plans to ensure our company is working in ethical, equitable, and anti-racist ways and practices. We know, from a place of humility, that as we engage in this work we will inevitably falter. Our company, and I as artistic director, are welcoming of all questions, criticisms, and every opportunity that allows us to engage in this work.
We are constantly assessing the impact our decisions and actions have on artists and audiences. We are grateful to our artistic community for all the ways they have reached out to us to share their perspectives, questions and concerns and we sincerely apologize for actions that have caused turmoil and harm. We have heard you and have considered all your thoughts with great care. This is a time of change, and we are unflinching in our resolve to be a positive part of that change.
The following are commitments we have made and are making in the immediate future:
Strategic plan: In our most recent multi-year strategic plan (2019), we made a commitment to producing Indigenous work in every season moving forward and to producing BIPOC playwrights. As part of our future strategic planning process (2022) we will welcome and pay BIPOC artists and community members to be included in the conversation about the future of our company.
Productions: We will continue to program BIPOC works and voices. We will also foster producing/presenting relationships with BIPOC theatres. We are dedicated to engaging and working with BIPOC artists in every area of performance and production.
Increasing BIPOC representation on our Board of Directors: Forging relationships and welcoming members of the BIPOC communities of Winnipeg on our Board is a priority of our nominating committee.
Anti-racism and Equity Policy: We will engage consultants to help us create a specific policy addressing anti-racism and equity. It will also speak to processes of accountability, reporting and additional supports for artists working at PTE.
Training: We have booked long form anti-racism training for our leadership, administrative staff, front of house and box office staff.
Commissions: Eight of our twelve active commissions of new plays are by and with BIPOC artists. We will develop these projects toward production as well as seek out new commissions.
Cultural consultation: We will expand our work with BIPOC consultants both administratively and in our artistic practice moving forward.
Resident Company: We will create a paid residency for a Winnipeg-based BIPOC company or ad hoc group to create at PTE.
Professional Development: We will create BIPOC led professional development opportunities for our BIPOC community.
Transparency: We will post updates regarding our anti-racism work and also other insights into our company through community news posts on our website. Each of these posts will include email addresses to reach our senior management and/or Board directly.
These are initial steps. They are not solutions. They are a beginning. Alongside these steps, we are assessing every aspect of our organization through the lens of anti-racism and questioning how we operate. We know these larger questions will lead to ongoing change.
We are also considering leadership at our company and succession planning. We believe that leadership positions are at their best when they are committed to and in service of their communities. Equally, theatres are at their best, are most relevant, when they are serving and representing their communities.
At this moment, we believe that I am the right fit for the role of artistic director at Prairie Theatre Exchange. For myself, I began my time as an artistic director to dismantle notions of hierarchy, to openly share power, resources, voice, agency and opportunity. Here at PTE, I am committed to working with our team to ensure the health and safety of our company through this time of crisis and to supporting the artists of our city. This includes dismantling racist systems and elevating the work and voices of our BIPOC community in every way available to us to make change. At the same time, we recognize that as a company we need to consider what leadership will or could be in the future. This is a serious and honest contemplation, and an open and ongoing dialogue at our company and with our Board of Directors. And now with you, the public.
I love this community. I love this theatre. I see, feel, and know its potential to be an agent of change. This time of pandemic and the ensuing pause in programming and producing is providing PTE with an opportunity. We have embraced it. The growing global rights movement has asked us to see the world again, for what it is and what it needs to be. And now it is left to us to prove these words, with action.
Thomas Morgan Jones
Artistic Director, Prairie Theatre Exchange
Treaty 1 Territory