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We All Have a Part to Play

Scottsboro Boys play, performed on stage at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin

“Having a Black man leading the space was important for me. Chris is the first director that I had who looked like me.”

After Troupe 4982 at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, staged The Scottsboro Boys, Thespian cast member Nick Daly shared this impact of working with director Christopher Chase Carter.

Nick’s experience is an example why EdTA has prioritized improving racial diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) – both within our organization and in the wider theatre education field. EdTA’s vision is for every student to have access to theatre as an essential part of their education and preparation for success in life. We want students of every background, race, and ethnicity to see themselves as “theatre kids” and eventually theatre teachers.

Today we are primarily a white organization. That’s not because we’ve intentionally shut anyone out. But as we’ve assessed our association over the past year – through discussions with members, chapter directors, Board of Directors, and in particular, our BIPOC constituents – we’ve found three principles to be true:

  • We can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result.
  • We have great power through theatre to change hearts and minds in the work toward social justice. 
  • If we are to achieve our goal of improving racial equity in this association, everyone has a part to play — from the board to the staff to the average member.

To help lead the change we want to see, the board and staff have adopted an ambitious three-year strategic DEI plan:

Focus on racial equity to address the ongoing underrepresentation of BIPOC across the field and EdTA.

Members, we invite you to view the full strategic plan and consider how you can make a difference in the short- and long-term objectives outlined within. Ask yourself: What part can I play?

While laying out these long-term objectives, we’ve also continued our efforts toward progress in the present. In the past six months, EdTA has:

  • Built our network of BIPOC artists and keynote speakers: 30% of presenters at our 2020 National Conference were BIPOC; the upcoming Thespian Nation Live student event will feature 40% BIPOC presenters.
  • Launched DEI resources for teachers on Theatre Educator Pro, including an ongoing series of webinars on social justice and culturally inclusive teaching.
  • Updated application and selection criteria for the International Thespian Festival main stage to encourage productions and stories from a diverse set of schools and students.
  • Established race and ethnicity tracking in our member data for first time so we can measure our progress and gaps.
  • Proactively recruited a slate of EdTA Board of Director candidates that has more than 40% BIPOC representation.
  • Received a $50,000 National Endowment of the Arts grant to pilot technical theatre curriculum for low-income middle school students in Baltimore. The program will pair pre-service theatre and education students from Morgan State University, a historically black college (HBCU), with teaching artists of color to create and implement the curriculum. 
  • Received a $10,000 grant from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to enhance student leadership through DEI training and programming.
  • Received $50,000 in new donations to the Pathway program to advance racial equity, which will launch in the 2021-22 school year.

The EdTA board and staff are excited to champion this work. But we can’t do it alone.

Please contact us to get involved in any of the initiatives outlined in the strategic plan, and to share stories of how you’re impacting students like Nick.

Every member can make a difference through their words and actions. What role will you play?

Picture of Julie Cohen Theobald

Julie Cohen Theobald

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


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