Toward Liberated Feminist Futures:
NIGHTWOOD THEATRE’S SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTION PLAN
(ANTI-OPPRESSION/ANTI-RACISM (AOAR) ACCOUNTABILITY AND ACTIONS)
Nightwood Theatre is deeply committed to creating new futures that are anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and support larger systemic change within this organization, our industry and beyond. As we examine solutions to systemic injustice, we recognize that to change our future, we must reflect on the past of our organization, and also scrutinize the current landscapes we work within.
Throughout Nightwood’s time, innumerable IBPOC artsworkers have had an indelible impact on the organization, however, for the majority of Nightwood’s existence, the organization has been administered and managed by a stable majority of white cis women. For many years the organization was focused on contributing to equity and anti-oppression by bringing stories to the stage that reflected a diversity of experiences. And though much of this work was deemed progressive in a homogenous cultural system of decades past, we are reckoning with that history as we take action toward transformation and more vibrant intersectional feminist futures.
Recognizing that Nightwood was built upon a multitude of white biases, we are examining operations and systems that have centred whiteness and patriarchal processes, embedded within a Eurocentric understanding of theatre. We are reflecting on our relationships with artists, donors, subscribers and audiences, and are owning the fact that the company has not always fostered a welcoming space for all.
This four year work plan of goals and objectives is a distillation of ongoing weekly conversations over the last year alongside training with anti-oppression / anti-racism consultant Rania El Mugammar*. Our work plan below details goals and objectives, and internally we are detailing qualitative and quantitative evaluation measures, as well as timelines.
As this is a living document, we will be posting changes and updates as we go. We welcome your feedback and questions at any time, which can be offered here, with an option to remain anonymous. We recognize the importance of not only looking inwardly — but prioritizing building Nightwood from a place of reciprocity with our communities through the exchange of knowledge, input and guidance**. We acknowledge that if we truly aspire for Nightwood to belong to the community, that we must approach this transformation together.
*Training sessions that Nightwood Theatre has participated in with consultant Rania El Mugammar include: Strategic Planning: Anti-Oppressive Framework & Practices for Leadership, Committees, Boards & Advisory Bodies (attended by Nightwood’s Co-Executive, Board Chair and Secretary); Doing the Work: Radical Solidarity for a Collective Future (attended by all staff); AOAR 101 session (attended by all board and staff); a review of Nightwood’s AOAR work plan with the Board of Directors.
Goals and Objectives
Prioritize humanity and global citizenship above output.
- Establish a culture of care where we: reduce the fear of making mistakes, instead seeing them as an opportunity for growth; establish preferred ways to be called in by each other, so that we have that fluency for when a moment might arise; and implement clear routes to accountability without shame.
Integrate Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism (AOAR) training and learning into the organization and the conduct of its day to day activities.
- Increase Nightwood’s ongoing understanding of Anti-Oppression / Anti-Racism (AOAR) theory and practices and create open opportunities for the reciprocal sharing of knowledge.
- Examine how Nightwood Theatre “locates” itself in reference to AOAR theory and practices through SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
- Review and update Nightwood’s AOAR Policy with increased knowledge gained through the work with Anti-Oppression consultant Rania El Mugammar.
- Provide or offer AOAR training to staff, Board, artists, and artsworkers engaged by Nightwood.
- Using an AOAR lens, create a collective living contract of care among staff, Board, artists, and artsworkers engaged by Nightwood.
Hire an Anti-Oppression consultant to take the Board and staff through a strategic plan with an AOAR lens.
- Create and uphold a Contract of Care that embodies Anti-Oppressive / Anti-Racist values, as well as a process for addressing conflicts and issues when they arise.
Provide support for artists and theatre practitioners that identify as Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC), including a focus on succession planning.
- Listen to what IBPOC artists and arts workers need in order to reach positions of leadership.
- Train, support, award and mentor IBPOC women in each aspect of craft, including arts leadership and arts management, identifying gap areas to target (such as designers, managing directors, dramaturgs, music directors, development/fundraisers).
- Continue producing a majority of works that centre the stories of people from equity seeking communities, led by folks holding numerous intersecting identities.
Ensure that Nightwood’s submission policies and hiring practices are equitable and anti-racist.
- Allow for and encourage a variety of methods in our submission processes, including transparency regarding the selection process and clear pathways for applicant inquiries.
- Prioritize artists from IBPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and Deaf and Disability communities, and clearly communicate this priority in calls for hiring and submissions.
- Commit to engaging and retaining at least 50% IBPOC in our staff, hiring and selection panels to represent the true racial diversity of Toronto.
- Actively seek out underrepresented communities for the dissemination of job postings, ensuring Nightwood is using accessible, flexible and anti-oppressive language and processes.
- Employ a wide variety of innovative and proactive approaches in recruitment (including relationship building, recruiting from non arts industries, consulting with people from equity seeking groups, and maintaining relationships via our artist list).
- Provide AOAR and anti-bias training to hiring committees, and encourage committees to consider lived and professional experiences, values, and character as equally valuable as professional training/education, and will encourage candidates to share their own vision and qualities for the position.
- Prioritize IBPOC applicants in the hiring of future Co-Executives and Board leadership roles.
Identify and remove systemic barriers to participating in the Nightwood community.
- Evaluate and envision all programs and activities from an AOAR perspective with the goal of identifying and removing systemic barriers to participation.
- Provide transparent, unbiased routes to organizational resources (ie. studio space, script submissions) to ensure that historically under-represented community members access them.
Increase care and support of Nightwood staff and artists.
- As employers, advocate for and foster human-centred working spaces that include flexible working conditions to support accessibility and wellness.
- Provide health benefits (or financial compensation in lieu of) to all full and part time employees.
- Address and eliminate pay inequity in fee structures by establishing budgets and processes that centre accessibility and compassion, based on consultation with those involved.
- Ensure that champions of anti-oppression lead rooms, and that historically underrepresented artists feel supported, taking caution to avoid tokenization and to address feelings of isolation. Provide clear communication routes to address issues if and when they arise.
- Establish a small base of emergency funding for counselling, caregiving, transportation, and other needs that may arise.
- Establish Additional Support Agreements for all contracted artists to support people in the ways they identify need. Such agreements could include but are not limited to accessing printed scripts earlier, a requirement for a compassionate animal in the space, and access to emergency funding.
Maintain and further develop long-term, reciprocal relationships with IBPOC theatre and community organizations.
- Nightwood will forge and deepen reciprocal, in-depth, and lasting relationships with IBPOC community groups and not-for-profit organizations, work with transparency and open communication, and use company resources to amplify partner organizations.
- We value all types of partnerships, recognizing historical inequities and acknowledging the importance of non-monetary contributions (e.g. cultural knowledge, training and experience, audience and community). We will go beyond a capitalist understanding of a partnership that relies on proportional monetary contributions from both organizations.
- Nightwood honours a variety of traditions and values. We will approach partnerships with care and will consider how partnerships will equally benefit the communities of both organizations.
- In order to diversify the voices of theatre critics in the region, Nightwood commits to finding at least one IBPOC writer to view and respond to each production.
Establish thorough Anti-Oppression practices at the Governance Level.
- Through strategic planning and consultation processes, which will include input from Nightwood’s staff, Board and community, Nightwood staff will regularly review and update Nightwood Theatre’s mission, vision, and values in order to build towards liberated feminist futures for all.
- Establish Board quotas to better represent the true diversity of Toronto (minimum of 50% IBPOC Board members by 2024).
- Revise Nightwood Theatre’s official Board Mandate, the document that details Board members’ duties and responsibilities, and other Board documents to ensure that the language embodies anti-oppressive values, and accounts for and celebrates the diversity of knowledge that comes with the lived experience of multiple intersections of identities.
A framework that seeks to dismantle systems that are responsible for the suffering of various groups who have experienced genocide, abuse, a lack of resources and opportunities and representation. At the heart of oppression in Canada is a white supremacist idealogy and hierarchy, centring the needs and beliefs of those who are identified as white, non-disabled, cis, and men. This evolving ideology includes the creation of various systems to justify continued genocidal and abusive practises that oppress people who don’t identify as white, non-disabled, cis and man.
A term created by Black feminist, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, which describes how multiple oppressions can collide to create additional challenges for an individual navigating our society.
Contract of Care
A collective agreement defining the approaches a group would like to employ in order to best support, respect, hold space for and connect with each other.
Deaf (capital D): A sociological term referring to those individuals who are medically deaf or hard of hearing who identify with and participate in the culture, society, and language of Deaf people, which is based on Sign language. Their preferred mode of communication is Sign.
deaf (lower case d): A medical/audiological term referring to those people who have little or no functional hearing. May also be used as a collective noun (“the deaf”) to refer to people who are medically deaf but who do not necessarily identify with the Deaf community. *Credit: Canadian Association of the Deaf.
Disability is an experience of the world, society, and body that is unique to each individual but can be considered as experiencing barriers in society due to the ways in which society is incapable of accommodating for the broad kinds of people, minds, and bodies within it. These people, minds, and bodies function outside of what is considered “mainstream” or “normal.”
“Disability can be a product of birth; acquired from illness or disease later than birth; or acquired from geological, social, political, cultural, or warfare implications later than birth (at times Disability as a product of violence or warfare is referred to as Debility via Jasbir Puar). Being Disabled does not mean someone is lacking or gaining anything but is a way in which people experience the world. Disability, or Disabled, can be an identity or state of experience. It can be painful, or prideful. Disability is more complicated and beautiful than just not able.” Credit: shared with Nightwood Theatre by Jess Watkin.
Indigenous (including Inuit, Métis, First Nations), Black, and People of Colour
According to the Government of Canada, Indigenous refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. When Nightwood uses this term we are referring to the many nations and people who have lived and worked on this land prior to European colonization. These nations had and continue to have distinct cultures, governance models and relationships to the land. We recognize the history of genocidal practises that have affected the first people of these lands and seek to be a part of movements that seek reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples. Indigenous nations are living cultures that continue to thrive and survive in the face of ongoing oppression.
Indigenous Foundations at UBC – Terminology and Global Actions
“People of Indigenous African descent, including those who trace their lineage directly to the thousands of Indigenous groups of the African continent and those who come from the African diasporas all over the world including the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and North America. Black people’s experiences have been shaped by war, European colonization, the transatlantic slave trade and genocide, caste and shadism, intergenerational trauma, as well as resilience, creativity, ingenuity and enduring spirituality.” Credit: Sedina Fiati, The Black Pledge.
Person of Colour
“A term which applies to non-White racial or ethnic groups; generally used by racialized peoples as an alternative to the term ‘visible minority.’ The word is not used to refer to Aboriginal peoples, as they are considered distinct societies under the Canadian Constitution. When including Indigenous peoples, it is correct to say ‘people of colour and Aboriginal / Indigenous peoples.” Credit: The Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Mongolian, etc.)
Latinx/a/o/e (Latin, Central and South American origins)
West Asian (Afghan, Arab, Kurd, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian, Turk, etc.)
South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Sri Lankan, etc.)
Pacific Islander (Fijian, Hawaiian, Maori, Polynesian, Samoan, etc.)
Southeast Asian (Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Singaporean, Filipino, etc.)
The idea that we have a civic responsibility to the world as a whole, transcending our immediate geography and border, or limitations of national citizenship. Global citizenship recognizes the complex web of interdependencies and connections, and the repercussions that transcend local, national and international lines.
Global Citizen Year
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit, + (Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, Pangender and more!)
The 519 Glossary
From August 24, 2020
Since sharing our Solidarity Statement in June, we have met three times weekly as a staff and with the support of our Board of Directors to ask ourselves and each other how we can further move toward anti-oppressive workspaces, rehearsal halls, audience experiences, and create meaningful succession planning, including advancing IBPOC women* within our industry. (*Our organizational understanding of women goes beyond the limits of cis womanhood, a deep belief that we have been working to embed in our values and artistic expression.)
Having spent this time together examining our institution, and under the advice of Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism (AOAR) consultant Rania el Mugammar, we recognize that our hunger for sustainable transformation must be matched by our muscle, consistent energy and financial commitment.
Our update at this time is as follows:
- In March 2020, Nightwood’s co-executives, Board chair and a representative from the Board commenced Anti-Oppression Strategic Planning training with Rania el Mugammar offered through b current performing arts.
- As recommended, Nightwood implemented a budget line specifically for AOAR activities in our 2020-21 budget and will continue to maintain this line moving forward.
- In July 2020 Nightwood staff attended Rania el Mugammar’s AOAR training session Doing the Work: Radical Solidarity for a Collective Future.
We have booked further AOAR training with Rania el Mugammar for Nightwood staff and Board on October 2, 2020, with a follow up session in January 2021.
- Nightwood’s staff have met regularly, creating a twenty-page document of actions and provocations to distil and prioritize. From these discoveries, we have highlighted actions and have drafted an evolving four-year work plan, and are in the process of engaging a facilitator to review these aims with the Board of Directors and staff.
- Once we have arrived at consensus with our work plan, we will begin its implementation and evaluate our progress along the way and make appropriate adjustments as needed.
- We have requested Rania el Mugammar to facilitate our next Strategic Plan through an Anti-Oppression and Anti-Racism lens at her next availability (2021) to help us shape our many aims and create a map for measurable, transformative, and sustainable change.
- We intend to post the living document of our AOAR implementation plan on our website once we have completed our fall AOAR training with Nightwood’s Staff and Board. We welcome your thoughts, feelings, questions, and critiques, and will enable anonymous commenting on the living document once it is posted.
In conclusion, Nightwood aims to deepen our embodiment of intersectional feminism, working to instil a culture of openness and accountability. As individuals and as a company we are learning and unlearning, and wish to be at the forefront of this conversation and moment of great change.
All of us at Nightwood Theatre