Anti-Racism Work and Commitments

This page represents a collective of ideas that emerged from listening to Black artists and community leaders, staff, board members and more. It is evolving and updated regularly.

Updated July 2021

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, just a few miles from the Guthrie, sparked a global call for justice and reform so significant that it knocked the COVID-19 pandemic off the world’s headlines. The theater has always had a role to play in creating a more just and equitable society, and we will play our part in the pursuit of justice.

The Guthrie is a historically and predominantly white institution, which means we must first acknowledge that we have participated in systemic racism. While we had taken strides prior to 2020 to expand the diversity of our work on and off the stage, we have simply not done enough to include and herald Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) voices. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Guthrie’s Senior Management Team began gathering insight from Black artists and community leaders, staff, board members, national advisers and industry colleagues on how the theater might work toward becoming a more anti-racist and equitable organization.

Along with these ongoing conversations, we are proactively and publicly sharing our commitments to anti-racism work at the Guthrie — not only to communicate what we are doing with candor but to hold ourselves accountable and be held accountable by everyone we serve.

There is no completion date for this work. 

ARTISTIC

2021–2022 Season programming (in person): Like all Guthrie seasons, we are offering an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary works that present forever-relevant themes and shared human experiences. Our upcoming seven-play season features three BIPOC playwrights and two BIPOC directors, plus five plays written or adapted by women and two plays directed by women, with one play and other credits to be announced. You can learn more about our season lineup here

2020–2021 Season programming (virtual): After George Floyd was murdered and the Twin Cities became the epicenter of the call for racial justice, Artistic Director Joseph Haj felt compelled to set the microphone down and gather feedback and insight from Black artists and community leaders. Two initial meetings were held on June 9 and 18, 2020, and the group ranged from current students in our B.F.A. acting program to artists who have performed on our stages for decades. We are deeply grateful for their continued time and feedback as well as their intellectual and emotional labor.

Since August 2020, the Guthrie has held many meetings and working sessions with a smaller group of these Black artists and leaders, now known as MN Black Theatre Circle. This collaboration led to a multipart proposal that included a series of new theater works, commissions and co-creations that were presented virtually in partnership with the Guthrie on a monthly basis through April 2021. 

The series of programming included I AMcurated by ShaVunda Brown in partnership with MN Black Theatre Circle (October 2020); A Breath for George, presented by New Dawn Theatre Company (October 2020); STOOPIDITY, written and performed by Domino D’Lorion, Michael McKitt and Ian McCarthy (November 2020); When Our Joy Matters, presented by The Black Ensemble Players and curated and produced by Ashawnti Sakina Ford (December 2020); Missing Mississippi Moons, written and performed by Antonio Duke and directed by Ellen Fenster (January 2021); The Uprising Volume II: Black HERstory, a Dark Muse Performing Arts production written and directed by Vanessa Brooke Agnes (February 2021); Dining With the Ancestors, conceived by Regina Marie Williams, written by Daaimah Mubashshir and directed by Signe V. Harriday (March 2021); and Tears of a Willow by Oya Mae Duchess and directed by Atlese Robinson (April 2021). 

This monthly series culminated in a virtual festival celebrating Black voices and artistry. The Blackness Is Arts Festival took place May 21–23, 2021, and was intentionally scheduled one year after George Floyd’s death. Minnesota Black artists from all mediums were encouraged to apply, and all selected artists were paid. To learn more about the festival and its featured artists, visit www.blacknessis.com.

Artistic policies: We will continue our policy that creative teams for all productions must be diverse in race and gender identity. When appropriate, all members of a creative team may be from the same historically underrepresented group. We also added anti-racist policies and expectations to our existing Respect in the Workplace policy, which is distributed and discussed with the entire cast and creative team at first rehearsal and again at first technical rehearsal with the cast, creative team and all production areas. In early 2020, the Guthrie hired its first Cultural Consultant for our production of Heather Raffo’s Noura, and this is a practice we will continue as needed to ensure cultural authenticity in the stories we tell onstage.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Anti-racism training: In August 2020, we began working with Team Dynamics — a Minnesota-based firm selected by the Guthrie’s staff-led Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee — with a focus on anti-racism work for a minimum of 18 months. As former staff return from layoff and new staff are hired, they will join these interactive training sessions. We are also working with Team Dynamics to extend this training to part-time staff and volunteers. Mandatory anti-racism training with staff and the board of directors is currently in session. 

Core values: Building on the implementation of the four core values that Artistic Director Joseph Haj established when he joined the Guthrie in 2015, we will further define, contextualize and deepen our understanding of and commitment to Artistic Excellence; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Community; and Fiscal Responsibility. These core values are an essential part of our onboarding process and annual performance evaluations so all staff have a clear understanding of how to live them out in their daily work and behaviors. A staff-led Steering Committee and the Senior Management Team are currently collaborating on this work.

Hiring and retention: We continue to update our human resources policies (hiring, recruitment,  retention and onboarding) to build a more robust and diverse pool of talent. When hiring, we are continuing our policy of requiring a qualified slate of candidates diverse in race and gender identity before interviewing for an open position. 

The Guthrie is currently hiring across the organization and looking for candidates of all backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to apply. Browse our current job openings, and check back for more in the months ahead. In addition, a staff-led committee is redesigning our onboarding process to ensure new hires feel welcome, supported and affirmed at the Guthrie.

We recognize that retaining BIPOC employees is a challenge at the Guthrie. With guidance from Team Dynamics, we are redoubling our efforts, not only to recruit BIPOC employees, but to ensure that the Guthrie’s cultural and work environments ensure their safety, fulfilment and professional success.

Affinity Groups: The Guthrie encourages and supports the formation of staff-led Affinity Groups that create space for employees to connect, learn and find community within the Guthrie. Before the pandemic, four groups were meeting regularly: LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group, People of Color Affinity Group, White Allies Learning Group and Women’s Affinity Group. After pausing while the theater was shuttered, these groups will resume meeting when staff return to the building.

Labor unions and production staff: We will collaborate with our union business agent to discuss how to work in partnership to change or expand practices in a way that promotes diversity within our production staff. We are exploring how BIPOC-focused apprenticeships or other new opportunities for paid employment can build and retain a more racially diverse production staff.

ARTISTIC AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

Continued work with Native communities: We will continue our work with Native communities through our partnership with Indigenous Direction co-founders Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) and Ty Defoe (Haudenosaunee, Six Nations/Anishinaabe Nation), as well as the Native Advisory Group of seven Native artists, educators and enthusiasts who call Minnesota home. 

Our work together includes hosting community trainings about decolonizing/indigenizing professional spaces and processes for our staff, board and other arts and culture workers in the Twin Cities; free Native-led classes for Native community members; paid fellowships for emerging Native artists; free Guthrie tickets for members of Native communities; and a continued commitment to evolving together. 

We are also developing a script written by FastHorse and Defoe through community conversations with Native people living in the Twin Cities. This project is funded through The Joyce Foundation.

Land acknowledgment: In collaboration with Dakota and Ojibwe consultants as well as non-Natives who have incorporated land acknowledgments into their organizations, we crafted a land acknowledgment and began including it in our pre-show announcements during performances of A Christmas Carol in November 2019. This acknowledgment was also featured and explained in the play program and is currently on display in our Level One lobby. We are now incorporating this practice into more publications and meeting spaces at the Guthrie, including play programs, first rehearsals, board meetings and other events and gatherings.

Youth art commission: We commissioned Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), a nonprofit visual arts center that invests in young artists in North Minneapolis, to create a public art installation for and with the Guthrie, tentatively scheduled to be installed in fall 2021. We will continue to build on our existing partnership with JXTA and explore other long-term partnership opportunities between the two organizations.

BUILDING

Exterior and interior photography: We are conducting a holistic examination of the large photos of founder Tyrone Guthrie and American playwrights on the exterior of our building as well as the vast series of production images displayed in our lobby lightboxes, walls, ceilings and hallways to ensure our building feels welcoming to and representative of all.

Guthrie Store: The Guthrie Store reopened for online shopping in November 2020 with a focus on featuring new voices and amplifying local BIPOC artisans and vendors. The Guthrie Store also built a new partnership with The Bridge for Youth, a nonprofit serving homeless and runaway youth in the Twin Cities, and gave shoppers the opportunity to purchase and donate a thermos or blanket to The Bridge for Youth during the 2020 holiday season and beyond. Additionally, youth artists from JXTA have been commissioned to design items that will be part of the Guthrie Store’s future merchandise. 

NOTE: The Guthrie Store website is temporarily offline through late July as we prepare to reopen the building for in-person sales. 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Anti-racism training: The board of directors is participating in anti-racism training with Team Dynamics.

Board diversity: Prior to the pandemic, the board’s Governance Committee established a Board Diversity Task Force to significantly expand our outreach to prospective BIPOC board members. We are continuing to build on this work.

Actions: Our board of directors has committed to working with the Guthrie to effect positive change and develop anti-racist policies at the Guthrie. The board’s Community Engagement Committee provided a forum to generate ideas from board members around future work, and those ideas were shared with the Senior Management Team and included in the discussions around our work toward becoming a more anti-racist and equitable organization.

FUTURE COMMITMENTS 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Guthrie’s Senior Management Team compiled many BIPOC-led documents outlining anti-racist recommendations and demands for the theater industry, including We See You, White American Theater, Ten Chimneys Foundation, Black Theatre United, Twin Cities Black theater artists, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the Guthrie board of directors and Guthrie staff. 

After assembling this document of recommendations with guidance from Team Dynamics, staff and board members were placed in anti-racism task force groups that each focused a specific area of the Guthrie: Artistic; Audience, Patrons and Front of House; Board and Governance; Production, Development; Budgets; Hiring and Retention; Community Engagement and Education; Marketing; Facilities; and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. 

These groups, which were diverse in role, title and department, were tasked to review, discuss and determine three to five anti-racism initiatives within their assigned sections that the Guthrie should make an immediate priority. The goal is for these priorities to be identified and confirmed by fall 2021 with concrete action steps to follow.

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