Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Arden Theatre Company is committed to being an equitable, diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organization.

As we look to the future and make plans to once again gather for in-person performances, we want to take a moment to share the work that we’ve been doing — and will continue to do – to make Arden a more just and inclusive organization

Most recently, this work has been led by the Arden’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force, which was created in 2019 as part of our 2019-23 strategic planning process.  Comprised of Board, staff and Philadelphia theatre artists, the EDI Task Force has been examining our policies, practices and assumptions through an anti-racist lens. Over the past year, informed and inspired by the call to action of We See You White American Theater and Black Theatre United, we have deepened this work through an intensified process of education, self-assessment, and rigorous discussion. This process has guided us as we ensure that changes are implemented throughout all areas of the organization

We want to share with you the steps we are taking on our journey to becoming the theatre we want to be.  These are the commitments we are making as we move forward.

The following are action items related to the work of the Board of Directors.  We will:

  • Increase BIPOC representation within the Board of Directors.  Currently, 30% of the Arden Board are BIPOC individuals; we will increase BIPOC representation to no less than 40% by 2023.
  • Allocate the financial resources to fully support our EDI commitments.  Beginning with the FY22 Operating Budget, the Finance Committee has created a discretionary fund with the sole purpose of supporting EDI initiatives in all areas of the organization.
  • Continue to commit to ongoing EDI training for the Board.  Two training sessions were held during the past year, with a third session planned for October 2021.  EDI training for the full Board of Directors will be ongoing and will also be part of the onboarding process for new Board members each season.
  • Commit to increasing BIPOC representation on all Board committees, recognizing the importance committees play in shaping policy and in Board recruitment.

The following are action steps related to our administrative and company-wide initiatives, led by Board Committees.  We will:

  • Draft a formal Land Acknowledgement of our location on the unceded homeland of the Lenni-Lenape people, past and present by January 2022. This Acknowledgement will be shared publicly at every first rehearsal and project beginning, published on our website and in our stagebills, and permanently displayed in our lobbies.  We also commit to learning more about, and building relationships with, the displaced original caretakers of our land.
  • Strengthen relationships with BIPOC-led organizations through mutually beneficial partnerships, such as our Pay-What-You-Decide Dress Rehearsals program.  The Engagement Committee will also seek new community partnerships to form mutually beneficial relationships and expand our network.
  • Expand the pool of vendors with whom we partner, prioritizing BIPOC-owned local businesses and organizations.  The Facilities Committee will also increase participation of BIPOC-owned businesses when hiring consultants and contractors for construction, maintenance, and service.

The following are action items related to our artistic work and practices. We will:

  • Ensure that no less than 50% of the acting artists on our stages each season are BIPOC artists.
  • Ensure that creative teams for all productions are diverse in race and gender.   When appropriate, all members of a creative team may be from the same historically underrepresented group.
  • Pilot the elimination of the “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals for our 2021/22 season.
  • Continue our commitment of prioritizing BIPOC playwrights in the Arden’s commissioning program.  In recent years, we have commissioned new plays from acclaimed playwrights such as Lorene Cary, Kash Goins, James Ijames, R. Eric Thomas, and have made our 2021 commission to Robi Hager to write a new musical.
  • Compensate playwrights for developmental readings and workshops of their plays; this payment will be in addition to any commissions and box office royalties.  We will also pay all artists for attending donor events.
  • Continue to partner with BIPOC-led theatre companies through the Company-in-Residence Partnership program. Launched in 2017 with GoKash OnSTAGE and continued in 2019 with a residency with Teatro del Sol (which was interrupted due to the pandemic and will resume this fall), we will continue to build mutually beneficial partnerships with BIPOC-led companies, with a partnership with First World Theatre Ensemble planned as the next residency.

The following are action steps related to our staff and personnel practices.  We will:

  • Strengthen our human resources policies and practices to create a safe and inclusive working environment.  In March 2021, we began working with a Human Resources consultant, Shirley Thomas of Thomas & Associates, to identify and communicate best practices. This work includes evaluating and updating the employee handbook, reviewing recruitment and employment policies and practices, and ensuring that there are procedures for staff and artists to safely provide accountability feedback.  In addition, we have adopted a policy to include transparent salary range in all job postings, will expand our recruitment efforts to reach a more diverse applicant pool for every position to be hired, and will eliminate narrow requirements that may discourage BIPOC candidates from applying.
  • Provide Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Training for all staff members (including front of house and part-time employees) once the staff is brought back this fall.
  • Continue to provide employment and training opportunities through the Arden Professional Apprenticeship (APA) program and continue to prioritize participation by BIPOC individuals.  APA’s were paid $465/week plus benefits for the 2019/20 season; when we reinstate the program in 2022/23, we will increase resources dedicated to salaries to further maximize its impact.
  • Eliminate unpaid internships and provide a stipend for all artists who work as understudies in our productions.

We recognize that this list is in no way comprehensive or complete — it is a living document that will continue to evolve and expand. Moving forward, we will share updates, additional goals, and accountability measures as we continue to do this vital work. And we will, undoubtedly, make mistakes. But we are committed to becoming an actively anti-racist organization at every level, taking steps to become more inclusive, diverse, and equitable.

In the months ahead, we will begin to come together once more – in our offices and production shops, our classrooms and rehearsal spaces, and ultimately, together in the theatre, celebrating the power and possibility of live performance. These gatherings will provide opportunities to continue these important conversations and to build upon the work we have begun.  They will allow us to put into action these words, while adding to our commitments as we move forward.

The Arden’s mission is to tell great stories by great storytellers, and we believe in the power of stories to bring people together – that they can celebrate our unique differences while reminding us of our shared humanity. We are writing the next chapter of the Arden, and the work we are doing is foundational to what this organization should and will be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this plan.  We will continue to update you on our journey.

Adopted by the EDI Task Force and Board of Directors of Arden Theatre Company.
September 29, 2021