Frequently Asked Questions
Why should theatres implement these Standards? How will they be enforced?
To be perfectly blunt, you should implement them because it’s the right thing to do. These Standards exist because LA’s theatres have caused harm, and there is a real and urgent need for change.
We all see the statements you put out into the world. If your mission statement includes the words “community” or “diversity,” if you posted a Black Lives Matter statement in response to the police murder of George Floyd, if you hopped onto the #LeavingLASA movement with a statement of solidarity — we see you. You say you want to do better; this Standards List is your roadmap for how to make that change.
Your community is asking you to implement these Standards. Nobody is going to FORCE you to make these shifts…but not making them, that’s a choice too, and it’s one we will all hear loud and clear.
In terms of accountability to the Standards: we are excited to announce a partnership with BLKLST, an anti-racist coalition created and run by BIPOC theatremakers from the greater Los Angeles area. They will be auditing local theatres for their adherence to these Standards — not as a punishment for theatres who are doing poorly (or a marketing tool for those doing well), but as a way to let Black and Brown theatremakers know which theatres are actually safe for them to work at.
What does it mean for my company to “sign on” to the Standards? Is this legally binding?
Signing on signifies a few things:
- You recognize that our community has a lot of work to do in terms of becoming truly equitable and anti-racist.
- You agree to work through as many of these Standards as you can to the best of your ability. This begins with a deep interrogation as to WHY each Standard was included and HOW failing to fulfill that Standard could perpetuate harm.
- You commit to keeping EDIA as a central organizational focus moving forward.
This is not a legally binding document. These are not “rules and regulations.” They are standards, and we are setting out to do exactly that: establish the new standard. This is what it means to be an anti-racist theatre in Los Angeles. This is how an anti-racist theatre would act in these situations.
That comes with a recognition that this document is ASPIRATIONAL, that the bar is high, and that sometimes we may fail to meet it; it also comes with an acknowledgment that if we don’t speak these goals, we can never bring them to fruition.
To sign on to the Standards, click here.
What if we can meet some (but not all) of the Standards? What if there are Standards we may NEVER meet? Would it be disingenuous for us to sign onto the document?
As we were drafting this document, we knew that different Standards would challenge different theatres. We’re all at different places in our journeys (both in terms of resources available and EDIA progress to-date). Not only that, but the resources that ARE available to our field are often inaccessible and/or distributed inequitably, further widening the funding gap between PWIs and BIPOC-led organizations. We also recognize that Los Angeles theatre is not a monolith; it is a GIANT TENT, with as many different company structures, visions, and ideologies as there are companies. For all of these reasons, it is incredibly difficult to write a one-size-fits-all document for our community. There may be Standards that aren’t fully applicable to your organization and may never be met; others might take time to implement, and could be achievable in the long-run (but not anytime soon).
We encourage you to work through the entire document, starting as soon as possible and taking however much time it takes.
The Standards were born out of a very real (and very urgent) need: there are systems and actions that are causing deep harm to members of our community. At best, we are all complicit in this harm. At worst, we are actively perpetuating it. But all of our theatres have something to gain from this document, and every Standard was included for a reason.
So while it may be true that not every Standard is applicable or achievable for every organization — we ask that before you make that decision, you look closer. That you try to understand why that specific Standard was included, as well as the potential harm you could cause by not meeting it. That you act in good faith, knowing what LA’s BIPOC theatre community is asking of you. And that you do your best.
If you can do that, we invite and encourage you to sign on to the Standards, even if you are unsure about your ability to meet each one to the letter.
What is the relationship between Standards and BLKLST?
The Standards and BLKLST are independent organizations, working in close partnership to help build a more equitable, transparent, and anti-racist LA theatre scene.
We were introduced to BLKLST before their launch through shared collaborators; many of BLKLST’s founding members were also co-authors on the Standards List. As they told us more and more about what they were building, BLKLST emerged as a clear, perfect partner for the accountability goals of the Standards.
To learn more about BLKLST’s work and vision, please visit them online at https://www.blklstcollective.com or on instagram at @blklst_la.
Who wrote these Standards? What was their process?
The Standards List was drafted by a diverse collective of LA theatre artists, a group that was constantly shifting and evolving over the course of the writing process. The document’s primary author group — whom you can find listed here— was majority BIPOC, majority female, intersectional, intergenerational, and contained representation from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized populations.
The writing process began in August 2020, with initial collaborators brought together through their participation in Alternative Theatre Los Angeles (or “ATLA”), a group consisting of LA intimate theatre Artistic Directors. Within ATLA, an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access Committee was formed, and within that, a Standards subcommittee emerged with three primary goals: (1) create a list of equitable/anti-racist Standards for LA’s intimate theatres, (2) offer our commuity the opportunity to state their commitment to those Standards, and (3) establish a system of accountability.
We met weekly and began writing. As we worked, two essential truths emerged.
The first was that if authorship participation was limited to LA’s Artistic Directors — a group that is predominantly (though certainly not exclusively) older, white, cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, and male-identifying — the Standards document would not reflect the lived experiences of those most affected by its potential existence. This led to an expansion of the writing team to include more theatremakers and arts leaders from historically underrepresented communities, regardless of whether or not they were officially in an artistic leadership position at one of the ATLA-participant theatres. The second truth was that there was no reason to limit these Standards to intimate theatres, when so many of LA’s mid-size and larger institutions would also benefit from this work. These two realizations led to the Standards group separating from ATLA to pursue the creation of — and accountability to — this document as an independent entity.
Our writing process began with a comprehensive reading, analysis, and discussion of We See You, White American Theatre’s list of demands. With an eye on LA’s unique theatre ecosystem, we sorted demands into categories of “Keep As-Is,” “Modify, But Keep,” and “Not Right Now (or Doesn’t Apply).” We then went through those first two categories, editing, specifying, and further discussing what changes were most necessary to protect and uplift BIPOC artists (and necessary to shift the culture overall).
Once we had refined the document into a complete first draft, we invited a cohort of more than 85 local BIPOC theatremakers to provide feedback (both via email and through a professionally moderated Zoom town hall). Each member of the Standards team invited several artists to participate in the cohort, prioritizing intersectionality as well as the widest possible range of theatrical experiences, practices, and perspectives. The cohort’s incredible feedback led to another round of revisions, then a SECOND round of feedback from that cohort, then more revising. Finally, we reached out to some of LA’s BIPOC-identifying theatre companies for their feedback (which we integrated) as well as for their endorsements of the work (which can be found here).
The Standards List is a living document. As we learn better ways to take care of each other — better ways to build sustainable, equitable, and anti-racist theatrical models — this document will continue to evolve. If you have any questions about the List (or suggestions for future versions), please email email@example.com.
How do I get started?
This list may seem overwhelming at first. However, as we say in the document’s intro, no step is inconsequential as long as you are moving forward. Some of the Standards are easy, quick, and inexpensive shifts that will make an immediate impact; others will take time and resources to fully implement. Start where you can, and make your best effort to move through them all.
In our website menu, we’ve added some resources to help you get started. There, you’ll find a list of suggested actions to take, a spreadsheet with contact info for BIPOC theatre artists in the Greater Los Angeles area, Land Acknowledgement best practices, and more. We also recommend reaching out to your peers who are doing this work with their own theatres, who likely have other suggestions and resources for you to lean on.
If you have any other questions or feedback, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.