How Have Off-Broadway Theatre Companies Responded to Black Lives Matter? | Playbill

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Black Lives Matter How Have Off-Broadway Theatre Companies Responded to Black Lives Matter? A list of the official responses from Off-Broadway organizations, as well as the actionable next steps they've outlined.

The global spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement—sparked most recently by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, among many other Black lives—has spurred protests in the street and prompted impassioned calls for justice and reform, as well as for real action from individuals and corporations alike.

But the road ahead and the dismantling of systems rooted in white supremacy is long—a fact that has been acknowledged by many in the theatre community as they look to the future for ways of combating anti-Blackness and learning anti-racist practices.

We've compiled a list of Off-Broadway houses' statements, below. Please note that a majority of the statements are only partially presented here, with links provided to view them in their entirety. When provided, we have also included the actionable next steps theatres have outlined they’re taking. All dates indicate the date of the social media post in which the information was shared.

59E59 Theatres
Statement: Attending the theater for many of us is cathartic. The stories on our stages serve as a vehicle through which we are able to have difficult conversations with friends and family, to celebrate our differences, and connect through our shared experiences. Now, more than ever, we feel the absence of not being able to gather together in-person. The staff of 59E59 Theaters met this morning, heavy-hearted, for our daily zoom check-in and vowed to renew our commitment to listen, support, and educate ourselves. We stand on the shoulders of all the activists and protesters who have come before us in unity against racism. We encourage you, our community, to join us in raising our collective voice once again to acknowledge that we can do better. Read the full statement here.

Statement: All of us at The Acting Company join in solidarity with our artists, audiences and community to condemn and call for an end to systemic racism and unjust violence against Black Americans. We are angered by the racism and white supremacy that has led to the deaths of countless Black and Brown people. We stand with everyone seeking justice for the murders of Tony McDade, George Floyd, Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and all victims of racist violence. Black Lives Matter. Read the full statement on The Acting Company's website.

Statement: (May 31) Ars Nova recognizes that we operate within systemic racism, and that neutrality and silence only feeds it further. We are committed to the work of anti-racism and anti-oppression in our organization, in our lives and in our art. We know that we have just begun this work and that there is much yet for us to learn and to do. We hold ourselves accountable for working to dismantle the systemic racism, oppression and violence that permeates our country and our industry. Read more on Ars Nova's website here.
Looking ahead: Ars Nova commits to: using our platform to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color artists; identifying, confronting and addressing the barriers to attendance that keep BIPOC audiences mostly out of our spaces; calling on the white people within our community to acknowledge their own racism, decenter themselves, and actively engage in anti-racist practices; committing to our continued education as individuals and as an organization so that we can uproot the system of racism on which we are built.

Statement: (May 31) Our hearts have been left broken by the senseless murder of George Floyd. And by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black lives. At Atlantic, we are committed to uncovering and celebrating the stories of our varied human existence. This is a commitment we have made across our organization, and it is something we work at every day. We recognize that we can only accomplish this work by embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Doing so allows us to tell stories that better reflect the diverse perspectives of our vibrant New York community—letting the audiences see themselves in our work while encouraging them to gain new understanding of others…. But to do that work, and to do that work well, we must acknowledge that we stand on the heels of a long history of systemic racism and trauma. Read more here.

Statement: (June 2) We see and respect the grief, pain, and rage that so many people here in Brooklyn and all over the country are feeling at the heinous murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. We stand with the protesters in the streets right outside our doors in demanding justice. We as a nation continue to fail at providing equal rights and equal protection under the law, and anti-Black racism permeates every aspect of our society—blatantly, violently, and sometimes fatally, yes, but also subtly and insidiously. This isn’t just something to condemn; for white people, it is long past time to take up the burden of dismantling systemic, cultural, and individual racism. Everything must change, including BAM. There is much work to be done. Read more here.

Statement: The Barrow Group stands in solidarity with the Black community and those working and protesting to ensure the sanctity of black lives. The murder of George Floyd and so many others is abhorrent and we recognize that it is but the most recent chapter in the long history of unconscionable violence and systemic racism perpetrated against Black citizens. Change is long overdue. Read more here.
Looking Ahead: In the next few weeks, we will curate an evening of stories Monday–Friday by people who will share their first-hand experiences with racism in order to expand awareness and prompt discussion and action. [And] We are taking steps to highlight the stories of first responders and lift the community through weekly initiatives online.

Statement: (May 31) Black lives matter. CSC unequivocally condemns the murder of George Floyd and the countless unjust murders of Black Americans that litter the history of this country. CSC stands in solidarity with the Black community, including our audiences, artists, and staff members. Read the full statement on Twitter here.
Looking ahead: (June 3) CSC is committed to being an anti-racist organization. CSC recognizes the responsibility we bear to make our theatre a place where Black Americans (artists, audiences, colleagues, and beyond) feel supported and at home. Social media posts and statements of solidarity are not enough and we believe the problem of inherent racism in American arts organizations cannot be solved with a simple checklist of promises. Our future actions will demonstrate this commitment to change moving forward and CSC will continue this work in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Read the full statement here.

Statement: (June 1) We know we speak for the entire Clubbed Thumb community when we decry all acts of police brutality and the racist systems of which they are a manifestation. We bear witness to the pain and suffering that communities of color, especially black Americans, are enduring right now and stand in solidarity with them. Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: In addition to our actions as individuals, the three full-time staff members of CT are examining how our organization participates in these systems and how we can be a better engine for anti-racism and economic justice.

Statement: (May 31) We stand in passionate solidarity with our extraordinary Black artists and colleagues who have collaborated with such generosity, courage, and commitment to transform our company and place social justice and dismantling the systemic structures of racism and privilege at the core of the work we do and the community we aspire to be. But when once again we see the public murder of a Black man, this is also a brutal affirmation that saying the right thing is not enough. We change the world by changing ourselves and that means we have to continually commit to meeting that challenge personally, artistically, and institutionally, confronting racism and white supremacy at every turn within ourselves, within our community, and in our society. See more here.

Statement (June 1): We stand with our Black artists, staff, board, audiences, and supporters who bring their bravery and zeal to create a more just world. We stand with our POC and white allies who call out injustice, who engage all with respect and who help us to create an environment of equity and inclusion. In this trying time we wish that we could gather to make culture with our community, to rally the mind and spirit to envision and make the society we all deserve. When we re-emerge from this pandemic, we hope you will join us to help make that change happen. Read the full statement on The Flea’s website here.

Statement: (June 1) Irish Repertory Theatre unites in grief and outrage over the killing of George Floyd and the injustice that people of color face every day. We support our Black friends and colleagues and we ask all of our friends, followers, and supporters to take the open-hearted approach you’ve afforded when listening to the stories on our stages, and extend it to the stories of Black lives, as told by Black people. Please listen, learn, and support where you can. We vow to do the same. We commit to growing our own understanding along with you. Read more here.

Statement: Art is a force for change. La MaMa was founded in 1961 to give marginalized artists a creative home and a place to be heard. Centuries of violence and discrimination against black people and the systemic racism upon which our country was built will not stop without a unified resistance. La MaMa is committed to standing with black lives and to providing inclusive spaces for our local, national, and global ally communities. Read the full statement here.

Statement (June 1): We do what we do to make a difference. In the theater and in the world. It's about sharing a point of view and an experience that may or may not be very different from your own. Right now our stages are closed, but we have something important we must say: We are deeply saddened and angry at the injustice around us. We can not pretend to understand George Floyd 's experience but we stand with the protests in Minneapolis and around the country. There is so much more work for us to do. See more here.

Statement: (June 3) Racism is a deadly virus that has led to the worst acts of human aggression, making a mockery of "liberty and justice for all." Watching footage of the terrible tragedy in Minneapolis last week has galvanized us to accept and declare that real, lasting change will not come until each and every one of us steps up, assumes responsibility and takes action to eradicate any expression of bias, prejudice and racism. The full statement was included in MTC's e-newsletter. The company has also posted in solidarity on its Instagram and Twitter.
Looking Ahead: MTC has committed to: Working to increase the presence of artists of color, especially Black artists, working on our stages and to actively serve NYC’s vibrant community of Black artists in the creation and celebration of their work; prioritizing and working with our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to analyze our practices and to make all of our spaces firmly anti-racist (both short- and long-term plans will be an institutional priority; seeking greater representation of people of color on our Board and in our staff; mandating and providing unconscious bias training for all staff; creating an open and safe forum where staff and visiting artists can come together for open discussions; and to prioritizing efforts to make our productions more accessible to Black audiences.

Statement: (June 2) America was founded on an assumption of white privilege. That assumption may have become more coded, more covert, more insidious since the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, but it can’t be denied. It is de facto school segregation, job discrimination, wage suppression, compromised health care access, voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and countless other ways. We must honestly acknowledge this in order to change that assumption. We must also acknowledge the ways we benefit from a system that ignores, suppresses and denies some while disproportionally favoring others — and by “we” we include ourselves as four white men in positions of power atop a cultural organization in New York City. Read more here.
Looking ahead: MCC is committed to our own ongoing examination of how we can undo the systems of oppression. We will: Continue to invest in board and staff training in equity, diversity, and inclusion; develop and amplify the many and diverse voices of our Youth Company; enhance our Public Engagement programs especially to historically marginalized communities through existing and additional partnerships; continue our commitment to developing and staging voices of color; work continuously to create a safe, anti-racist space to be shared by artists, audience, and staff; and acknowledge that whatever we do is a lifelong practice and will never be enough.

Check out the theatre’s Instagram page for a list of statements, affirmations, resources (including places to donate, links to petitions and other advocacy call-to-actions.

Statement: (May 31) We denounce all racism, repression, and violence against the Black community. We must not remain silent. We know silence is complicity and we regret not speaking out sooner. We stand in protest with all seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black lives we have tragically lost for centuries. We will direct our outrage toward amplifying the artistic voices that demand racial justice. And to Black artists in our community: We are with you. We respect you. We love you. We want to tell your stories how you want them to be told. Read more here.

Statement: (May 30) We support and stand with our vibrant, courageous community of Black artists, staff , supporters, audiences and students who have made New York Theatre Workshop a space where people gather to better understand our world. We support and stand with the protesters demanding justice and we condemn those who are drawing equivalences between murder and the justified anger of the people. The pain rooted in anti-Blackness permeates ever aspect of life in the United States—including our theatrical institutions. Only when all members of our community are truly safe—when their lives and humanity are valued above their artistic contributions—will we experience the community we aspire to be. Read the full statement on Twitter here.
Looking ahead: NYTW is committed to fully being an anti-racist organization by: Standing in solidarity with Black people and communities of color, listening to what is needed and taking action to address injustice; continuing to question our histories and practices and disrupting patterns that reinforce institutionalized oppressions and inequities; to being a space that actively combats racism, bigotry and violence; examining our inherent missteps and holding ourselves to a standard that does not accept that this work is ever done; sharing our resources and amplifying the voices of Black and POC artists, activists and organizations already fighting for justice; expanding our call to white people in our community into this process of self-examination to acknowledge their own participation in racism and White Supremacy in all its forms and, in turn, to name and interrupt that racism when they encounter it—especially in majority white spaces; and calling on our elected officials to address violence perpetrated by the NYPD against Black bodies and communities of color.

Statement: (May 31) As the nation rises up in defiance of these crimes — and the vast structures of oppression which enable them — Playwrights Horizons stands with our Black colleagues, artists, and audiences, in the fight against racial injustice in all its forms. Our theater is not just a building, not just an institution, but a collective of humans, and until every member of our community is able to live safely and equitably valued in the eyes of our country and society, we are deficient. Committed to the American playwright’s voice, and to ensuring that this voice reaches audiences, Playwrights Horizons can fulfill our mission only when all voices are protected equally. Black lives matter. Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: Playwrights Horizons is committed to: a community of artists and audiences that will better reflect the cultural breadth of New York City and our country; through the stories we tell, we will challenge inherited and accepted notions of identity and history, in the interest of disrupting and dismantling patterns of oppression; by building new relationships with local communities and organizations, we will deepen the impact of new writing in New York City and beyond; we commit to upholding principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in all our practices; we commit to continuing anti-racism training for staff and board, as well as to engaging in constant self-reflection; and will serve as community advocates, amplifying and supporting the work of historically underrepresented and marginalized communities.

Statement: The Playwrights Realm stands in solidarity with our Black staff members, artists, and audiences. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black people are inexcusable and serve to highlight systems of white supremacy and anti-Blackness which are still driving forces within our society. These deaths are made all the more bitter coming amidst a pandemic that is falling so heavily on the shoulders of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. It is important to admit that this is not affecting us all equally—we may like the idea that we are all in this together, but in our country, it simply isn’t true. We are committed to listening to those most affected by the inequities in society and finding ways to be true partners in creating social justice. The Realm believes in the power of stories but the stories that America has been telling itself have for too long been a tool for suppression, destruction, and erasure. Read the full statement on Twitter here.

Statement: The company posted the following on its Instagram, May 31: We are heartbroken and we are outraged. To everyone speaking out, standing up for justice, and striving for a world that is truly equitable, we see you and stand with you. Know that you are not alone. We don’t have all the answers now, but here’s where we’re starting: click the link in our bio to see resources for actionable steps. See it here.

Statement: (June 1) The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor have demonstrated in horrific fashion the racism upon which our country was built. We mourn the loss of these Black men and women, and are grieved and outraged by their deaths. The Public was founded as a theater by, for and of the people, yet it has taken us far too long to proclaim the simple truth: Black Lives Matter. We must stand in solidarity with Black artists, Black staff members, and the Black community. We must do more, much more, to fight the racism that infects every institution in the country, the Public included. We must recognize that the Public itself must change, if we wish to live up to our own ideals.
Looking ahead: The Public will release a fuller statement of accountabilities and actions in the coming days. Read more here.

Statement: On May 30, the theatre shared an excerpt from Dael Orlandersmith’s Until The Flood with a statement in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. It read: Rattlestick Family, A reminder that the power of theater is not necessarily what happens in the room. The vital element is what happens afterward. Audience members carry these stories, now existing within their hearts, bodies, and souls, into the outside world. We ask for deep inward reflection. We ask to challenge oneself. For others, we hope these stories can be a means of healing and feeling seen. So here is theater. Right here. An excerpt, the final note, of Dael Orlandersmith’s Rattlestick mainstage, Until the Flood. It is a piece which responds to the killing of Michael Brown. And here we are, needing it again. Let us listen to these words. Let us create conversation with friends and family. Let us reject complicity. And most importantly, let us take action, let us disrupt a system which allows these injustices to continue. See the post, and subsequent actions, on the company’s Instagram here.

Statement: Red Bull Theater is a home for all artists and theatergoers. We believe in the power of great classic stories and plays of heightened language to deepen our understanding of the human condition. All of us at Red Bull Theater stand together with Black artists, colleagues, and citizens in our community

Statement: (June 1) As a theatre company that is a long-standing member of many communities, we believe in the importance of words, the impact of voices, and the healing capacity of shared stories. That means we must also take our share of responsibility for what is good and bad in the world, and our ability to shape it. As we share the heartbreak and outrage over the unjust killings of Black citizens and the racism and intolerance behind them, the current pause in many of our operations gives us an opportunity, as Governor Cuomo has repeatedly stressed, to “build back better.” Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: Roundabout has pledged: To address the ways in which Roundabout and the theatre industry have been part of the marginalization of the Black community and how we can correct that inequity; that equity, diversity, and inclusion will be even greater priorities in our artistic work, education programs, and employment practices, and in our conversations with artists, partners, government agencies, and donors; that the stories we tell on our stages will reflect an ever-wider variety of backgrounds; and to support and stand with our Black colleagues, staff, artists, educators, students, and audiences, and we will listen to their stories and perspectives.

Statement (June 1): Second Stage Theater is devastated by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dreasjon Reed, and so many others. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and with the Black artists and theater-makers in the Second Stage family. Black lives matter to Second Stage, to the American theater, to our culture—our humanity and our society depend on naming, rejecting, and calling out racism in every artistic and human context. To make our stance, our position, our institutional standard explicit: We are not neutral. We reject white supremacy.
Looking ahead: We pledge to center anti-racism in our internal and external practices including unconscious bias training. We pledge to hold space for the experiences and pain of our Black community members. We pledge to encourage the open discussion of racial inequality, and to foster safe spaces for community members of color and brave spaces for dialogue. Our call to action is accountability. Our call to action is visibility. We know we can, and must, do more—and do better—to fight injustice and oppression. To read the full statement, click here.

Statement (June 2): The Shed stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and against white supremacy. We stand in solidarity with those on our staff, artists we work with, and those in our audiences who risk their lives every day in a battle against racist acts of aggression, hate, and brutality. We support protesters on the front lines and behind the scenes fighting injustice, state-sponsored violence, and anti-Blackness. We lament the lives that have been taken needlessly—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and an unconscionable number of others—and we grieve for their families. Black Lives Matter. And we will fight, in words and actions, for a more just society.
Looking ahead: The hard work of seeking racial equity and social justice cannot fall so heavily on the shoulders of our staff members and artists of color. The Shed’s management, particularly those who are white, are committed to constantly battle against the tenets of systemic racism and to creating a truly equitable workplace. We will also share our digital platforms and physical resources to support organizations dedicated to social and racial justice. Read the full statement here.

Statement: We are thinking about how the lives of Black and Brown people have long been affected by systemic oppression. On top of that, Black people have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic, and police brutality rages on. Deep-seated racial bias is causing pain, fear, despair, outrage and frustration for so many people. Along with our Black artists, staff, friends and community members, we demand that all Black people not only have the most essential rights to live and to breathe, but also full justice and equality. We want to acknowledge here that white supremacy exists in America and in our field. We will strive to become an anti-racist theatre. We will prioritize a tangible dismantling of all systems of oppression throughout our work, no matter how uncomfortable those conversations. Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: Signature is committed to: uplifting Black people and communities of color who are oppressed by white privilege and power by listening, providing support, and taking action. We will center this within our core values and beliefs of access and community building. We must acknowledge that in our country, we live within a framework of power that is not evenly or fairly distributed, and privilege is unequal. We will ask white people to understand white privilege. Acknowledge where we have come up short or have not done enough soon enough and work to hasten our internal work to create an anti-racist company by consulting with community leaders who can help to point out our own unconscious contributions to imbalance and privilege. Make shifts in our processes to listen to the voices of the oppressed and disenfranchised. We must acknowledge that Black people are not obligated to teach us how to care for them, and commit to doing the hard work to learn what support they need. Tell stories about, by, and for people from historically underrepresented communities, to appropriately honor the diversity of experiences that enrich our country.

Statement: Black Lives Matter. We condemn the horrific ongoing acts of violence against Black people, and we whole-heartedly support the protests here in New York City and around the world. We also acknowledge that the anti-Black racism that has killed so many fellow citizens exists in the theater community, which often silences Black artists – especially those who are both political and experimental; produces the work of Black artists without creating a truly welcoming environment for Black audiences; underpays and tokenizes Black artists and staff; unduly elevates the voices of White critics in discourse around Black art; and benefits from unfair funding practices. We know that our particular organization is not exempt from these problems. Read the full statement on Soho Rep’s Instagram.
Looking ahead: We commit to lifting up the work of Black artists of all types of aesthetics and artistic disciplines; continuing anti-racism work amongst our staff and Board to learn together; practicing transparency and accountability in partnership with the artists we serve; and continuously questioning the work we are doing to never become complacent.

Statement: (June 1) St. Ann’s Warehouse stands in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter in its mission to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes… [to combat and counter] acts of violence, creating space of Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy.” We condemn the murder of George Floyd, the latest in a long history of Black lives lost to state-sanctioned violence in this country. We also condemn imposters who would pervert the message and mission of BLM in order to deflect from the toxic wrongdoing and injustice at hand. Read the full statement here.

Statement: (May 30) At The Tank, we are working every day to make a space where artists feel seen, heard, and valued for who they are. This means that we are committed to dismantling the structures that support some artists while silencing others. It should go without saying, but right now it needs to be screamed: Black voices matter. Black lives matter. Sending what comfort we can to our community. Read the full statement on The Tank’s Instagram.

Statement (June 4): In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder; killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor; and the agonizing loss of so many Black lives, we write to express our solidarity with those demanding we face this question and finally attain a just society. Theatre for a New Audience is committed to confronting this blight, acknowledging its privilege, and using its resources to grow as an institution.
Looking ahead: We will continue to diversify staff leadership and our Board of Directors. We will act to end racism, hatred, and bigotry in any form. Read the full statement here.

Statement: (May 30) We at The Vineyard are anguished, outraged, and heartbroken by the ongoing racism and racist violence against Black people in our country. We join with all those in America seeking justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black lives continuously lost and continuously affected by racist, systemic violence. We stand with protesters across the nation to voice our anger and to demand what our democracy promises us — that all of us are created equal. That Black Lives Matter. Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: Now, and in the days, months, and years to come, we affirm The Vineyard’s commitment to empowering the voices and centering the stories of artists of color, doing the ongoing work of self-examination, and working towards change and justice.

Statement: We are heartsick and angry over the continued senseless murder of unarmed Black people and the devastation of Black communities by COVID-19. We are grieving with our Black artists, colleagues and communities here and across the country. Black lives matter. Black folx, we are with you, you matter, your lives matter. WP is giving love to the voices of black women, trans and gender-nonconforming people, and the organizations that are fighting to end white supremacist culture. Read the full statement here.
Looking ahead: WP commits to making work for racial justice an institutional daily practice. WP is a feminist institution, and we recognize that feminist organizations have historically been predominantly white spaces. We commit to ensuring that our institutional gender focus is not a shield for oppression or the silencing of BIPOC Women+ and their stories. WP commits to working with adding more BIPOC to the Board by the end of the ‘20-‘21 season. WP commits to providing ongoing anti-racist trainings to our staff and board, and to use those tools and language as a central part of how we work. WP commits to making anti-racist resources available to our staff, board, community, and the public as well as resources specifically for BIPOC+. WP commits to equity and transparency in our hiring practices. We commit to transparency about salary in job listings, we will do outreach to ensure that there is robust representation of BIPOC Women+ in the process and that we will work to ensure that our staff reflects our community. WP commits to deepening our work and engagement with our BIPOC Women+ institutional partners and our community-building work. WP commits to engaging more directly in political action in our community and to looking deeply at how wealth is distributed in our district. WP commits to continuing and expanding our work to make our spaces safe for all, and ensuring that our zero tolerance policies on discrimination, harassment, intimidation and oppression are clear, and shared wherever we make our work. WP commits to prioritizing vendors who have anti-racism and anti-oppression policies and practice, and that we will focus on BIPOC Women+ owned businesses when seeking out new vendors, and in our community partnership card program.

Statement: The York Theatre Company stands firmly and unequivocally in support of social justice in all its forms. We join the members of our theatrical community in a belief that Black Lives Matter, that justice matters, and that the fight for meaningful change involves us all.


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