Compared with almost any other industry or profession, the theatre has gone overboard when it comes to embracing diversity and inclusion.
You only have to look at policies at major companies such as the National and the RSC to discover constant recognition of the issues and the amount of effort that has been put in to create playing fields that are as level as possible for those of all genders, races and other minority groups. Other mainstream theatres are now specialising in catering to particular sections of society, with the Young Vic in the vanguard but others in hot pursuit.
The achievements can be seen most easily when compared with the failures of FTSE 100 companies to embrace diversity in their leadership teams, while the professions are also struggling to promote women and those from BAME groupings into the upper echelons. Frankly, whatever ministers of state might say, the Houses of Parliament are hardly a shining beacon either.
For those that have not yet quite got up to speed, a new model inclusion agreement drawn up by The Dramatists Guild of America should prove both informative and helpful, although anyone on this side of the pond wishing to use it should get advice from a British legal expert to ensure that a version can be drafted with full effect in this country.
The Guild’s intention was to create “A model agreement between writers and producers to promote diverse, equitable and inclusive hiring practices among cast and creative teams”. As Christine Toye Johnson, the treasurer and chair of the Guild’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee explains, this is “the first Inclusion rider of its kind, which advocates for full diversity and full inclusion in theatres of all sizes and locations across the country [USA]”.
The intention is for the rider to be operated as an addendum that can be used by dramatists to work with their producer when auditioning or interviewing cast and particularly hiring members of historically excluded groups wherever possible.
Under a very wide-ranging definition, the term “Historically Excluded Group(s)” includes people who identify themselves as women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), Latine, Asian and / or Pacific Islander (API), Middle Eastern and/or North African and/or South Asian (MENASA), people with disabilities, within the LGBTQIA+ community, genderqueer or non-binary, or those who identify with a religion, culture, age, ethnicity, nationality, or alienage that have been historically excluded in theatrical productions, or people having a combination of these attributes.
It includes hiring objectives for cast, crew, creative team and artistic personnel as well as recommended best practices for how to conduct auditions and interviews.
Put simply, while most of those working in the theatre are now only too well aware of their obligations when it comes to presenting opportunities for colleagues from communities that have previously been disadvantaged, it is helpful to learn that somebody has done much of the hard work and presented you with a template for getting it right in future. That is what this document is designed to achieve.
The three-page document is available (in English and Spanish) by applying via a link on the Dramatists' Guild web site.