As previously reported, Seattle Repertory Theatre recently dealt with a “racially charged incident” that took place during the run of Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray). SRT told Playbill that, in response to the incident, it is taking action with the hiring of a diversity and sensitivity consultant who will provide staff training and support and the acceleration of an Equity and Inclusion Initiative.
According to Seattle publication The Stranger, a cast member for brownsville song, a Brooklyn-set play about a young African American man who is shot dead in a gang-related incident, overhead a stagehand using the n-word backstage over the theatre’s intercom system. The cast told The Stranger they believed management initially mishandled the offense and urged SRT to implement procedures and policies that would safeguard against the likelihood of such an incident recurring. “The THEATRE is changing. The stories being told are changing and we must challenge our institutions to be flexible and adapt with these changes,” read the cast's statement.
In response to the incident, SRT told Playbill that it is taking action in the right direction.
“We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace,” Braden Abraham, artistic director, and Jeffrey Herrmann, managing director, told Playbill. “Prior to this incident, the Rep leadership launched an Equity and Inclusion Initiative which will now be accelerated to ensure greater equity and inclusivity. Additionally, the Rep is hiring a Diversity and Sensitivity Consultant who will provide ongoing coaching, feedback, and support. This consultant will facilitate required sensitivity training for the entire Rep staff, review the Rep's policies and procedures, in particular the clauses that address harassment and rules of conduct in an effort to provide clearer guidance to staff when it comes to addressing similar incidents in the future.“
“No institution-particularly in the arts-can exist in a bubble,” they continued. “A vibrant and fearless theatre embraces changes and conflicts in the community and fosters understanding through artistic expression. The Rep is dedicated to playing that role in the Seattle community. We fully expect that by learning and growing from this experience, we will be an even better and stronger theatre in the future and we are committed to doing the work necessary to accomplish this ambition.“
Abraham and Herrmann have reportedly put the said stagehand on paid administrative leave through the summer, and will allow him return to work in the fall. According to The Stranger, not all staff members were happy with the decision to allow him to return, however, citing that a zero tolerance policy should, in fact, mean zero tolerance.