Our mission and values
Earlham College Department of Theatre Arts, August 5, 2020
We see theatre as an essential part of the human experience; stories brought to life through imagination and shared in community can transport and transform us. We are committed to an anti-racist theatre ethos. We teach Earlham students to create theatre that elicits empathy, challenges the intellect, and encourages intentional decision-making. We strive to develop interdisciplinary anti-racist theatre artists with a personal sense of responsibility to the communities in which they will live and work.
Below are several articles which articulate the department’s values and beliefs:
ANTI-RACIST THEATRE ETHOS
The Earlham College Department of Theatre Arts strives to create theatre that elicits empathy, challenges the intellect, and encourages intentional decision making. These core goals and our alignment with Quaker Principles and Practices necessitate not only our vocal support of the Movement for Black Lives but also our commitment to an anti-racist theatre ethos, resulting in a better future in our curriculum and production work. We acknowledge that the arts have long been touted as a safe place for everyone while still allowing privileged persons to rest on comfortable laurels within a historically white supremacist society.
Instead of intentions, we come to you with actions. In this time of transition we strive to:
- Honor the layered experience of those in our community and acknowledge their trauma, grief, rage, fear, and exhaustion from years lived under the thumb of white supremacy.
- Center the voices of BIPOC in our decision-making.
- Build an environment conscious and intentional in its study of systemic racism, racial history, and racial biases as well as how they affect our art form.
- Seek out guest artists, speakers, and future faculty who support the fight for racial equality.
- Emphasizing and broadening our search for Artists of Color to fill these roles.
- Diversify our reading lists to prioritize the works of marginalized persons.
- Encourage the creation of new works that reflect the diversity of the world in which we live.
- Elevate the opportunities we provide students of color for leadership, development, and education.
- Organize our departmental spending to invest in businesses who support racial equality and advancement.
- Divest from those who support racist policies.
- Broaden and deepen student exposure to stories of underrepresented people through field trips to professional productions and presentation of on-campus readings in collaboration with groups also committed to elevating these stories.
Our policies and procedures
Theatre is the art of empathy. We choose to produce plays that serve the Earlham, Richmond, and greater Wayne County communities. In alignment with our anti-racist theatre ethos, we are committed to conscious casting practices.
Students, faculty, staff, and community members of all ages, body types, abilities, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, and experience levels are encouraged to audition for Earlham Theatre Arts Department productions. We invite gender nonconforming, gender queer, transgender, and nonbinary actors to audition for the roles they most identify with. Our first priority is to cast students in roles that will challenge them while serving the needs of the production. Guest actors are cast when their contributions to the production will enrich student learning and enhance production quality.
QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT CASTING
If you have questions about what casting criteria will be used for the production, please contact the director or stage manager. We cast our productions with today’s audiences in mind rather than casting based on the time, place, and society from which the play was originally written.
If you have general questions or would like to take part in the conversations about casting that occur within the department, please attend Thursday Theater Lunches in the dining hall or contact a faculty member.
While there are many natural opportunities within the collaborative process for students to voice thoughts and concerns, the Concern Resolution Path (CRP) provides a standardized process to facilitate communication between the department faculty and student body. If there are concerns about the current production, PLEASE MAKE USE OF THE CONCERN RESOLUTION PATH.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NON-TRADITIONAL CASTING
In her book No Safe Spaces : Re-casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater, Angela Pao analyzes the state of casting in today’s theaters and illuminates past casting policies which influence how we see theater today. In recent American theater, she discusses the movement for more diversity in casting during the 70’s and what terminology came from that movement:
“The efforts to change the complexion of American theater institutions and make a lasting impact on the way plays were cast emerged as a concerted endeavor in the 1950s and 1960s. The primary impetus for changing not just casting but hiring practices in regional and commercial theaters was the desire to achieve racial integration in all social, political, educational, and cultural institutions in the United States… By the 1970s, the term color-blind was being applied to this approach, but in popular usage it was also often being used rather indiscriminately to include various color-conscious strategies that were being devised.”1
The term “color-blind casting” is still commonly used today, however in recent years, more theatrical institutions have begun to use the term “color-conscious casting” to articulate a more accurate way to represent minorities in the theater.
American Theater describes color-conscious casting as such:
“While theatre has always been a place for transformation, we must also acknowledge the past oppressions and ongoing inequities facing people of color, including an uneven playing field where the vast majority of opportunities, onstage and off, are held by whites… Color-conscious casting intentionally considers the race and ethnicity of actors and the characters they play in order to oppose racism, honor and respect cultures, foster stronger productions, and contribute to a more equitable world. Without it, we risk perpetuating a system that privileges whiteness with greater access and opportunity, and appropriates the cultures of communities of color.” 2
This policy has been extended from color-conscious casting to color and gender conscious casting by schools such as The University of Utah. Earlham abides by conscious casting, which takes the color-conscious casting approach to all underrepresented persons including, but not limited to, neurodivergent actors, differently abled actors, people of color, and people of all genders and orientations.
- PAO, ANGELA C. “Introduction.” In No Safe Spaces: Re-casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater, 1-22. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3998/mpub.1729062.4.
- Eyring, Teresa. “Standing Up for Playwrights and Against ‘Colorblind’ Casting.” AMERICAN THEATRE. January 06, 2017. https://www.americantheatre.org/2016/01/07/standing-up-for-playwrights-and-against-colorblind-casting/.
In the summer of 2018, two students, Brianna Miller and Micaela Levesque spent a month working with faculty member Lynne Perkins Socey on a collaborative research project around the question question of “What does it mean to be a responsible storyteller in today’s world?” The team researched the policies and procedures of theaters on the forefront of responsible storytelling. Through this research, they found numerous ways to update existing Earlham theatre processes and procedures in order to bring the department in line with these innovative theater companies. The team produced a packet of updated policies, including the newly developed Chicago Theatre Standards which were reviewed, tested, and revised by student theatre artists to better serve the Earlham theatre community.
The Earlham Theatre Standards are designed for students, faculty, staff, and community theatre artists as well as guest artists and contractors participating in theatre-related activities at Earlham College. The Earlham Theatre Standards document outlines simple practices and tools to prevent and respond to the everyday challenges in arts environments. The overriding tenets of this document are: communication, safety, respect, and accountability. In adopting this document, we state our intention through procedures designed to help all of us live by those intentions.
All participants who work with Earlham College theatre-related organizations endorse these intentions by reading the Earlham Theatre Standards document and following its procedures and protocols. All individuals involved in Earlham theatre activities are encouraged to call attention to situations when these intentions are not being met by using the reporting channels herein. This is a living document which is updated regularly in response to student feedback.
The Concern Resolution Path (CRP) is a process detailed in the Chicago Theatre Standards to facilitate conversations and resolve issues. During productions, there will be an Actor Student Representative who acts as the liaison between actors and the production team. When a concern comes up outside of the scope of a production or during the time when a production is not currently running, the student-run Earlham Theatre Company (ETC) will act as the liaison between students and the department.
To learn more about the CRP, read about the our theatre standards.
To see how the CRP work specifically at Earlham, check out the Concern Resolution Path Guide.
Here are the other various forms the department uses throughout the term. If you have questions about any of the forms below please feel free to contact the department!