TERRY KNICKERBOCKER STUDIO’S ANTI-RACIST BLUEPRINT:
THE ACTIONS WE’VE TAKEN AND OUR COMMITMENT TO FURTHER ACTION OVER THE NEXT YEAR
In summary, we quote the words of “We See You White American Theater”, and thank them for their words, their energy, and their work:
“We call for transformative measures guided by principles of self-determination, presence, joy, access, protection, transparency and integrity in the spirit of independence from our colonized past and present.”
We’ve hired two new faculty members of color since June 2020—one Theatre History teacher and one Acting teacher.
Our faculty is now 18% POC, and our student body is nearing 50% POC.
We commit to hiring more POC faculty members, to get that percentage to at least 33% by March 2022.
Our staff is 0% POC.
We commit to hiring at least 2 new staff members of color, to get that percentage to 33% by March 2022.
We commit to examining the hiring criteria/hiring services/job descriptions we’ve used until this point, and to being more flexible with years of experience and degree requirements
Our brand new Summer High School Program’s faculty will be 64% POC, and we intend for the students to be at least 50% POC.
We commit to examining the full Meisner curriculum–the “traditional” Meisner curriculum–and seeing what innovations/adaptations we may need to make to create the most anti-racist classroom environment possible.
A starting point will be to examine the “Point of View” Exercise, where students are asked to research and take on the point of view of someone opposite themself.
We have engaged with Dr. Sharrell D Luckett’s Black Acting Methods and Luckett Paradigm, and have signed up for the 10 Day Anti-Racist Bootcamp. We commit to offering our students their 10 Day Acting While Black Bootcamp. We commit to engage with their Master Classes, Talks, and Residencies.
We have begun to discuss//address financial obstacles to admission–we have established The Excellence Scholarship as class credit for new black actors enrolling in our Two Year Conservatory Program, which began at one scholarship funded by an alumni student at $1000 last year, and the pool of money will be up to $2500 this year (from the Studio) to be broken down into several scholarships
We commit to looking at our social media posting, our marketing, and our admissions process and determining whether it is catering as best it can to POC students.
We will work with our manager of admissions, enrollment, and sales to assess their experiences with POC students thus far and see what we can do better.
We commit to an assessment and discussion of curriculum//casting advice given in our Third Year Industry Classes—is there a way these two white teachers can better speak to students of color going out into the industry? Can they focus on bringing in POC industry guests, in addition to white guests?
We acknowledge that our physical space sits on the colonized land of the Lenape, the Canarsie, and the Nyack Tribal Nations. We commit to making this land acknowledgement known in and around the Studio space. To learn more about land acknowledgements, see resources here and here.
We have begun to engage, and plan to continue engaging over the next year with a DEI consultant named Jason Craige Harris.
His work begins with a Needs Assessment, where we identify organizational blindspots using a multi-dimensional approach, and a focus group process – speaking to various constituencies, faculty, staff and students.
We look at whether there needs to be repair work–his tool is the Circle Process–restorative justice work–which leads to greater self-awareness, and the goal is restoration rather than retribution
There will be skill development around how to have conversations across lines of difference
The work / training will include opportunities to practice interventions.
Jason’s work uses recent neuroscience and social science research on how people handle difference–covering Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Identity Anxiety
We have achieved Allyship with Broadway for Racial Justice, and our students have access to their hotline to report microaggressions and other incidents. To learn more about their work visit their website here.
We commit to working with our DEI consultant to develop new, clear ways for students to report these kinds of incidents within the Studio.
We have held several Town Hall discussions on DEI since June 2020 to engage the student, alumni, and faculty community, and we commit to having more of these over the next year
We commit to, at minimum, annual reviews of all of our DEI work and initiatives so we can remain accountable, and further commit to changing as necessary in response to said reviews.
HAIR, MAKE-UP & COSTUMING
Through requiring our faculty and staff to attend DEI training, we hope to train them better and inform them with respect to POC hair, makeup, costuming etc, as it applies to what students may wear in class, or how they may costume themselves for exercises/activities, scenes etc
(We don’t currently do theater performances)
We are interested in using the term “brave space”, specifically for an artistic/acting studio, where there is a certain necessity for students to risk, push their own emotional boundaries, come out of their shells, etc in order to grow as actors and artists. Using the term “staying safe” here can imply to a student that they don’t take risks and can’t fail–something we don’t want.
But–again, deferring to the words of “We See You WAT”— “Anti Racism is what makes us safe.” So–through all of the actions we commit to in this Blueprint–we commit to make our spaces safe first, and then all students, but especially POC students, can feel safe to be brave.
We commit to offering affinity spaces for POC students
A typically safe space at our Studio is the Emotional Education Group, which incorporates elements of Group Therapy so that students have a space to process the emotions that come up in their Meisner Acting work–we commit to examining this curriculum to see how it can better incorporate our DEI goals
THE WORKS WE USE, FEATURE, PRODUCE
We are offering a black theatre and film history course for the first time
We have been picking more inclusive material for our student and alumni readings, and we’ve featured more POC artists for our TKActor Talks
Again, we commit to taking a comprehensive look at the curriculum for all of our classes, and specifically how the traditional Meisner scenes can change to become more inclusive.
How can the plays read in theatre history and script analysis classes change to become more inclusive?
We commit, once we can go see theater again, to organize field trips to see POC-centered works in NYC.