Thespians singing on stage at the International Thespian Festival

All around the nation, people have reacted to the killing of George Floyd – and the many other Black Americans before him – with hurt, confusion, and a conviction to improve the systemic racism that led to his death. Hard conversations are happening in many homes and workplaces, including within EdTA.

We posted the following statement on social media in response to the protests:

In this moment, you might be thinking: OK, but what does that mean? What are you doing to make things better?

EdTAs Black Lives Matter statementWe’ll be first to admit we don’t have all the answers today, but we have been asking ourselves a similar question for some time now: How do we improve racial diversity and inclusion in our organization?

As an organization, we value diversity at all levels: age, disability, national origin, race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. After all, isn’t inclusion part of theatre people’s DNA?

But we have come to recognize that race is the biggest area of gap within the educational theatre community and within our own organization. According to EdTA’s Landscape Survey of Theatre in U.S. High Schools, theatre students don’t reflect the country’s demographics: 61% are white, 17% Latino, 16% Black, and 7% other races; whereas 51% percent of the general population under age 18 is white. More stark: 93% of theatre educators are white. EdTA’s makeup is similar.

Few Black theatre students are pursuing careers in theatre education – a situation we want to help change.

We also want to improve racial representation within EdTA’s most prominent student programs: Our student leaders, award and scholarship winners, and shows selected for the International Thespian Festival main stage don’t reflect the diversity of our student membership.

For these reasons, racial diversity has become a top priority for EdTA, a goal we’ve begun addressing through:

  • Focus groups with EdTA teachers and artists of color to better understand their perspectives and how we can improve
  • Unconscious bias training for the EdTA board of directors and in the coming months, staff and chapter leadership
  • JumpStart Theatre, a Foundation program that gives students in underserved middle schools access to theatre for the first time
  • Grants for students of color to participate in student leadership training at the International Thespian Festival, paving the way for greater diversity among our International Thespian Officers
  • A coming initiative to fund school theatre productions around racial issues, including hiring professional artists of color to work with the students

The key word here: begun. This is just the start. We recognize there is much more work to be done in theatre education, and we are committed to doing this work – for our Black theatre family today, and the future of our field.

Julie Cohen Theobald

Julie Cohen Theobald

former executive director, on behalf of the EdTA staff
EdTA Board of Directors

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