We believe Community theatre is about collaboration, which requires mutual respect. Fundamental to respect is to recognize that people matter. And since black lives have been disrespected throughout our nation's history, it is vital to remember, to say, and to act on the knowledge that Black Lives Matter.
We like transparency, here. Being transparent, our board is a bunch of white folks. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and all of the black lives similarly lost, we believe it is our place as white folks to listen to black voices and other people of color. We need to learn about the systems that got us to where we are now, and find ways to make those systems better or replace them. We simultaneously want to center the conversation and action around black people and people of color, and yet respect that they have borne the weight of injustice in our country for 400 years and should not be shouldering the work of social justice alone. We should be stepping up to those conversations and actions, ourselves.
We are a community theatre company, so we should start by looking in our own backyard. I don't know of a theatre company in Rochester that is owned or operated by a person of color - we certainly aren't. I know that the boards and leadership of theatre groups in Rochester are overwhelmingly white. The people we see on our stages are overwhelmingly white, though there are at least exceptions. I'm sure that the Calliope board is not alone in having had discussions about this fact. Before we even had a board, we talked about whether there was something we could do to improve the diversity of Rochester's community theatre scene. We have asked ourselves, why is our theatre community significantly whiter than our community as a whole? Are we contributing in some way, even if we aren't aware of it, to closing the doors on our neighbors of color?
We will be renewing our efforts to ask and answer these questions, and find a way to make our theatre community stronger and more diverse.