We at Barefoot Shakespeare believe that difficult conversations about the discrimination and violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) must be had. We would like to make it abundantly clear that we stand with and support the BIPOC community and want to continue to raise up the voices and experiences of that community. However, we understand that we have also been complicit in the systemic racism that penetrates this country and the theatre community. Our complacency will not stand any longer. We are hereby pledging to disrupt the cycle.
In order to stay accountable to you and to ourselves, we are making a three-fold pledge.
FIRST, we pledge to work harder at educating ourselves and others about the ways in which the BIPOC community has suffered. We will research and consume more art by the BIPOC community, read more articles by BIPOC writers and journalists, join anti-racism accountability groups, and listen to the BIPOC voices that have been suppressed for too long. It is not enough to simply state that we are standing with the Black Lives Matter movement. We have to keep learning about and helping others learn about and understand the Black experience. It’s going to be a long road ahead; we have a lot of work to do to change the learned behavior of racism in our country. Four hundred years of oppression doesn’t change overnight and we all must keep pushing forward so as not to let the movement lose momentum. Barefoot Shakespeare is committed to holding ourselves responsible for dismantling the system of oppression against people of color.
SECOND, we pledge to raise up the voices and experiences of the BIPOC community. We want to be a vehicle for artists to showcase their work to a larger audience. By changing the conversation about theatre and art, we hope to promote a shift from the white perspective to the perspective of the BIPOC community. For far too long the theatre community has been white centered and this cannot continue. We are offering our social media platforms to all people of color in our community (and your community). If you would like us to share, repost, or retweet any of your work, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If in the future we hope to have anything that resembles equality in this country, or the theatre world, we need to shift the focus right now to those people whose voices have been silenced for generations.
THIRD, the final part of our pledge is about the real change we can enact within our company to make it more inclusive. Since our founding in 2012 the board of Barefoot Shakespeare has been made up of white women and men. While we have been aware that our board members do not represent the full scope of experience, we have not been as aggressive as we should have been in finding the right person to join the board and bring less represented voices and experiences to the forefront. We pledge to build a community where BIPOC are seen, heard, and represented onstage and behind the scenes. We pledge to amplify the voices of BIPOC artists, committing to diversify our board by year’s end, 2021, as well as hire, partner, and collaborate with more BIPOC actors, designers, directors, and stage managers in every artistic endeavor we pursue.
In closing, we would like to reiterate that we stand with people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement. We will not tolerate any discrimination because of race, gender, or sexual identity, and we will always call out and dismantle micro-racism where we see it. We would like to thank all of you for your support of Barefoot Shakespeare. We look forward to your continued support in our pledge to do our part in ending the cycle of systemic racism in our country.
The Barefoot Board:
Emily, Emily, Jill, Sam, Arden, and Courtney
“It has become as clear as a slap in the face that our country and all its institutions, certainly including theatre and art, have a moral obligation to right the terrible wrong of racial injustice that has in great part defined us from our beginnings. We must be active and affirmative in fixing this because failing to do so makes us complicit…What breathtaking talent we miss when we do not open ourselves to full participation in every aspect of what we do! Black lives matter and black lives make us and everything that we do so, so much better.” – Jerry Raik, Barefoot Shakespeare Company Alumni
“I have always thought that as theatre artists, and story tellers in general, that history was integral to creation – we are anthropologists and sociologists, investigating people, places, things, cultures, and bringing them to life in an effort to move or educate an audience. In that respect, artists have the ability and obligation to never stop expanding, never stop growing, and never stop learning. In 2020 this ideology is even more important to maintain now that we have unlimited access to the voices of the underprivileged. It is our jobs as artists to give these voices and bodies a place to feel safe, welcome, and most importantly, heard.” – Arden Winant (she/her), Barefoot Shakespeare Board Member and Resident Movement Director
“There’s an idea in Taoist philosophy that certain objects are valuable primarily for the empty space they provide. For example, a cup or mug may be aesthetically pleasing to look at but it is useful to us because we can fill it with coffee in the morning. We believe the same idea can be applied to our work in the theatre.
When we direct a Shakespeare production we think as though we’re building a container for a valuable substance. There’s little that we as artists need to do to “make the play work”. These plays have been around for 400 plus years, there’s no disputing the value and quality of the original work. So the task then becomes WHY do we want to do this particular play? HOW can we create an environment that best supports this story and the elements contained within it? And WHAT is the best team we can assemble to execute this creative vision?
We believe that theatre-makers are being asked to build a better container for the work we produce. WHAT does that mean? It means creating an environment where performers and creators in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities can feel as though they are primary contributors to the new space we’ve created together. HOW does that happen? It happens by hiring marginalized performers and creators to leadership positions in theatre companies, actively inviting their thoughts, beliefs and values into the decision making process of the stories we create together. It happens by consistently engaging and encouraging these performers and creators to bring their full selves to roles, not just the color of their skin or the box they tick under “Gender.” WHY should we do it? We should do it because not only are these stories worth telling, they are integral to the betterment of our communities and society. We should do it because if we don’t, who will? We should do it because we’ve witnessed as both performers and directors that when someone’s substance is given the proper container miraculous things will happen.” – Jefferson Reardon and Alexandra Gomez, Barefoot Shakespeare Alumni and 2020’s Troilus and Cressida co-Directors