So many “theatre kids” refer to the rehearsal space as their “safe space.” Growing up as a creative, “alternative” kid in a conservative, Catholic school (with no theatre department) my dance conservatory was my oasis. Now, I see my own sons, imaginative, silly, empathetic young men, find second homes backstage, onstage, and with whatever cast they are part of at the moment. These safe places are deeply needed in our communities. But what happens when they aren’t actually safe?
A quick search of any performing arts section of any major newspaper in the past 5 years shows how abuse of power can go so wrong in theatre spaces. As an adult, I have seen a “safe place” be a place of gaslighting and grooming in competition dance studios. I have heard stories from working professionals in the theatre who have been discriminated against for their gender, able-ness, color, religion, and size. I have seen beautiful, young ballerinas destroy their bodies, I have cried with fellow actresses who have been raised to say “yes, and” until the atmosphere of toxic people pleasing led to true loss of autonomy. The damage that unequa power dynamics can do to theatre workers and performers who are unable to advocate for themselves can be traumatic and long lasting.
But it’s no longer about how we have fallen down, now the narrative is about how we stand up. In the spirit of the industry's mantra, "no day but today," a renaissance is happening in the theatre world on this exact subject. The Wayne Theatre, the ARROW Project, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts would like to hasten it to the Shenandoah Valley by presenting a lecture/workshop series this autumn entitled “In Good Company.” “In Good Company” is designed to provide training and insight to be able to balance power in all rehearsal and performance spaces, allowing all participants to feel safe, valued, and seen. Our valley is saturated with both amazing theatres and colleges with high caliber performing arts programs. The Wayne and ARROW would love to make sure that practitioners, both those currently forming their methods and those who are actively working, have access to this information and training.
Through engaging, challenging, and purposeful activities designed by the presenter(s) the intent is for the current mindset of the participants to be molded into that of an advocate to take our arts forward to a safer, more inclusive space for future performers. Participants should leave the doors of the Wayne, returning to their own homes, studios, and institutions, revitalized and with a greater sense of the arts community and how to make it accessible and healthy for all.
We have four dates in the series, designed by leaders in their fields:
~Take 5: Anti Traumatic Spaces for Theatre Workers with Aili Huber
(Oct. 9, 2022, noon-3pm)
It's time to unlearn the way we’ve always done things. Take 5 offers practical tools for creating respect, consent, rigor, and joy in our workspaces. WE don’t have to suffer for our art.
~Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Performing Arts with Kara List
(Oct 23, 2022, 4pm-7pm)
This workshop offers you the audience, leaders and members of teams, opportunities to address serious issues that you encounter in your theatre space and allows you to engage in some difficult conversations in a safe, supported way. It seeks to give you the tools to sit with discomfort in a safe space. Do we understand each other? Can we bridge differences?
~"Theatre for Audiences and Performers with Disabilities" Panel featuring StepVA, Company 360, and others
(Dec 4, 2022, Noon-3pm)
STEP VA, Inc. leads with values and beliefs that enable all people with special needs to develop their full potential and engage in a just, equitable community. Through the arts, all people can be heard regardless of perceived barriers. They are a non profit organization who have provided performing arts training and advocacy for people with disabilities for the past decade. Company 360- Focused on inclusivity with excellence, and centering the health, wholeness, and kindness of it’s cast over caste, Company has been featured in various docu-series and on the CW Network for its moving approach to movement, and produces accessible dance films, daytime conservatory training, and nonprofit ethos every show and season.
~ Intimacy and Consent Work:Best Practices for Rehearsal with Cara Rawlings and Jessica Morgan
(Dec 11, 2022, Noon-3pm)
This workshop is based on exploring the topic of consent and active bystander intervention in theatre communities. Participants will explore existing attitudes and beliefs around sexual violence and consent and will discuss tools to create safer spaces for artists. We will explore factors that may prevent people from intervening, strategies to address harassment, and highlight the roles of bystanders in rehearsals and in theatre spaces, examining when a director has the skills to be the intimacy coordinator and when an expert should be in the rehearsal space.
ARROW will provide counselors on site for any participant who might need to talk to a professional privately, they will be available for Q and A after all presenters, and they will also provide resources for all participants. This series is free of cost for theatre educators, performing arts students, consumers of the performing arts, and for all the local theatres, both community and professional. If this training is valuable to you, there will be a “Good-Will Offering” box at the theatre to help supplement costs for these dynamic presenters. Professional Development points are also available.
For the planning purposes of the presenters, please let us know you're attending.
PHOTO CREDIT: Luis Quintero