June 25, 2020
Before we are able to move forward as a company whose primary goal is to create safe and healthy spaces for artists physically/emotionally/creatively, we need to acknowledge and apologize for how we have failed to meet those goals through action and inaction, and how those failures have hurt artists who were our collaborators and friends.
Earlier this year we lost members of our core.
On the surface the issue started when we were selecting a last minute replacement and in haste did not adhere to the policies that we had created for selection. The process was rushed, communication was incomplete, and the confusion meant that a member of our core had to do an inordinate amount of emotional and intellectual labor and bravely put themselves in the awkward position of standing up to a room of nearly all white faces to educate us.
While we did pass on the selection, we still hadn’t fully understood the lesson.
The heart of the issue wasn’t an error in following by-laws or missed messages in a chat;
it was that we, a predominantly white organization, are steeped in White Supremacy Culture, Intellectual Colonialism, and Systemic Misogyny.
When we take stock of this absolute fact, we can clearly see other incidents in our history that were informed by our being mired in those oppressive systems; times when people felt ignored or unheard, projects that didn’t get as much attention as others, decisions made on the fly… these very examples led to our first Core resignation last Fall… and it took us until the second departure of members to see that this was a pattern.
There is simply no excuse. Members of our Core did not feel safe when it was our job to create a space exactly for that purpose. We did not respond to their needs appropriately or their concerns thoroughly and as time passed we were complicit in allowing a silence to grow that deafened people we created with and called family.
In doing so, we silenced them.
This is not who we want to be as a company or as individuals.
We want to apologise.
First, to the core members who we have failed;
You gave us your energy, time, talent, and love. We did not rise up to meet you or receive your gifts in good faith.
We are sorry. We are sorry for the pain, the frustration, and the exhaustion that we caused you. We are sorry for not living up to our promises or expectations.
We are forever in your debt not only for what you shared when we were together but also for the visible and invisible labour that you have done to give us a chance to learn, recommit, and improve.
Second, to all casts,crews,designers,collaborators,rabble-rousers;
We need to apologise to you for not addressing these concerns immediately and with every single member of the company. The idea of a collective led organisation isn’t so far removed from single person leadership when that body becomes monolithic.
We are sorry. We did not uphold our commitment to transparent group communication. We did not lead you well. And, we cost you opportunities to work with three very special people.
Third, to our theatre community;
We have not only not done enough to challenge racist/sexist ideologies, we have perpetuated them.
This is unacceptable and shameful.
You all know us as loud and proud. We have no right to be that right now.
We must be loud and humble.
Loud in calling out our own mistakes, owning up to them publicly, and making clear our detailed plans for proceeding into the future.
Humble in our earnest desire to never stop learning, to engage and root out these entrenched structures especially as they manifest in us and how we practice art, and to recommit to the goals that saw us founded.
We can’t promise ourselves that we won’t make mistakes, again. But, we can promise ourselves to never stop growing and implementing concrete strategies to ensure accountability. We can make certain that we are not relying solely on ourselves, who in many cases have proven to be the products of a racially affected education and upbringing, to judge whether our spaces and processes are inclusive and equitable.
Over the course of the rest of the year, there will be changes in our structure, policy, and artistic direction. We are using the time afforded us to do the offstage work that we have so often put off in favor of doing as much theatre as possible. It has been an opportunity for introspection, realization, and resolution.
Our goal remains to make art that is wild, risky, and ambitious and we redouble our commitment to fostering a creative space that is safe for BIPOC, Womxn, and LGBTQIA+ artists.
In order to make that a reality you will see the following in 2020;
-The Core will be expanded and at least 50% of this leadership body will be Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.
-The Core will be led by a Steering Committee. A small group that acts as the artistic leadership of the company. This committee will serve a term determined by vote at the Core Policy Meeting and service is currently only open to BIPOC and Womxn company members.
-Within the Rabble-Rousers there will be a new team whose purpose will be finding new works and ideas that are not reiterations of the male dominated western colonial canon.
-A new voting procedure has been implemented that allows for members to express opposition without having to suffer discomfort or do emotional/intellectual labour. Conflict resolution and third party mediation will also be made available if any one feels that they need to make use of them.
-Members are currently engaging in antiracism training as they are able and the resources are currently available on social media. Once the core is fully assembled we will continue with antiracism training on a group scale, available to all in the company.
-A few of the cis-white men on the core will be stepping down to production support positions. Their role will be to amplify new voices/stories/artists through labor, assistance, mentorship for early career artists, and following the BIPOC and Womxn company leaders.
-We have begun the rest of our education. The vital things that they didn’t have time for in decades of institutional theatre education. This process will be forever ongoing and we will make all resources available to ALL members of the company. We will share our reading list on our website and welcome EVERYONE to suggest or recommend more resources.
These are a start but we hold no illusion that this is exhaustive or even enough.
We also recognise that we are not able to do this alone or in a vacuum.
In consideration of both of these points we invite any and all feedback, thoughts, and suggestions. We welcome all resource recommendations, educational opportunities, and advice. And, we respectfully ask our community to hold us accountable, not so that we don’t have to, but so that we can never again get away with doing something that is wrong.
We stand by what we have said above.
These are our words, our intentions, and our strategies.
We will follow through on them.
We are grateful and proud to make art in this city, with this community.
We will do the work to never give you another reason not to be proud of us.
- The Core of Guerrilla Theatre Front
Amy, Greg, Heiko, Jenn, Lance, Maggie, and Rory
Paired Statement of Donna Ibale;
As a company member of GTF I stand by the statement we’ve made and the actions we’ve outlined to make in order to dismantle our own systems that are complicit in racism, colonialism, and misogyny.
As currently the sole person/woman of color in the core leadership, I acknowledge that I am equally responsible in the situations that have hurt our core members who have resigned. I felt compelled to make a separate statement, and examine my labor for an almost entirely white core leadership. As a non-black person of color - a Filipino woman - I am not exempt or get a pass for bad leadership and judgement when it came to these situations.
In short, as a woman and as a fellow brown person - I failed these collaborators in a different and painful way. I am so sorry. It is my personal responsibility to unlearn white supremacist systems, misogynist sympathizing, and decolonize my formal artistic education.
Therefore, as a company member I will not be counted in the metric of our goal in creating a core leadership of 50% BIPOC. Additionally, so I can further take stock of my biases, I will not be contributing to the curation of artistic projects and serve as production support for the steering committee/artistic collective. I believe in the mission, values, and people of GTF. And I believe we have to work harder to live up to the ideals we’ve set for ourselves.
I am truly humbled by the immeasurable things I’ve learned about myself, our theatre industry, my own company, and the way my actions contribute to the trauma of the most vulnerable to racism & misogyny.
I am so sorry and I promise read, listen, and follow.
GTF Company Member