DE&I – An Apology Letter from the Main Company Performance Ensemble

Dear Impro Theatre students, community, and audience,
 
Last fall Impro hosted a Town Hall and several former and current students came forward to share their experiences. To those students who spoke up, we are grateful. Thank you for your bravery in expressing your pain and offering your recommendations. Thank you for your continued efforts over the years to help us change and to help us realize how people in our community have been hurt by our behavior.
 
Impro Theatre's Main Company apologizes to our community members and takes responsibility for the parts of our history that have been harmful. In particular, we apologize to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), other underrepresented peoples, and allies in our community.
 
For the past 8 months, we have focused on making diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) our priority. We are examining our history to understand how our choices created and maintained a primarily homogeneous, exclusionary space that in many ways was uninviting and harmful.
 
Over the years there have been several BIPOC community members and allies who shared recommendations for how we could improve in the areas of DE&I. In particular, we reached out to a group of community members to meet and examine DE&I issues at Impro. Several members of this committee and others voiced concern surrounding the approval of an Impro Studio Presents submission in the style of Mark Twain. The selection had been made without input from the DE&I committee, and after the genre was announced, we met their attempts at communication with defensiveness, ignorance, and silence. Despite this reaction, these community members wrote a thoughtful letter with recommendations for how we could better address DE&I concerns and asked for a sit down with the main company in order to share their perspective. They were never given that opportunity. We can see now how our reactivity, inaction and silence were harmful. This is one example of several where we did not respond to community concerns appropriately in both the classroom and in student performances.
 
One student at the Town Hall spoke to a personal example of when we prioritized white comfort over the equity and inclusion of our BIPOC performers. Our inability to properly address our DE&I issues caused us to fail this student and many others. We are learning how, in the past, we have prioritized the comfort of our white students, audience members, performers, faculty, and community members, and how this has damaged our goals of equity and inclusivity.
 
Another piece of our history includes the experiences of a community leader and student whose continuous attempts to provide insight and to tackle these issues started several years ago. This student's recommendations and concerns were not valued and supported as they should have been. Our organizational structures, our communication channels, our reactivity and our attitudes not only created roadblocks to positive change but also caused harm and caused several students to leave our community.
 
To those who have been hurt by our actions and defensiveness, we are sorry.
 
We were wrong.
 
We hope that our future actions will be a living amends.
 
We are learning about the difference between intent and impact. We are learning how both defensiveness and silence can be harmful to others, in particular the BIPOC community, as well as anyone who is not in a position of power. We are learning how to be more effective allies as performers, faculty, and community members. We can see how in the past, we were not a safe and brave space for all performers.
 
As an ensemble of artists, we promise to be more aware and accountable. We have taken the time to better understand our past in order to make way for our future. While we do not know exactly what the future of the main company or Impro Theatre will be, we do know that the main company is going to diversify our ensemble, re-examine our genres, and develop new collaborative approaches to the rehearsal process. We are grateful to be amongst so many that love this art form as much as we do. We are striving to create an environment for narrative improvisation that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
 
Sincerely,
 
The Impro Theatre Main Company
Kari Coleman, Lisa Fredrickson, Madi Goff, Kelly Holden Bashar, Paul Hungerford,
Stephen Kearin, Brian Lohmann, Nick Massouh, Jo McGinley, Dan O'Connor,
Edi Patterson, Mike Rock, Paul Rogan, Ryan Smith, and Michele Spears

An Apology Letter from the
Main Company Performance Ensemble
March 19, 2021

If you are a student with any suggestions or concerns, you can contact the DE&I student reps at deistudentreps@improtheatre.com.
 
If you're not a student or if you wish to remain anonymous, you can also reach out to us through our feedback system at https://app.suggestionox.com/r/ImproTheatre. This feedback system is set up to be anonymous, but if you don't wish to be anonymous, you can include your name and contact info in the "My Feedback" text box.
 
CLICK HERE to watch the VIDEO of the Town Hall from the fall of 2020.
CLICK HERE to listen to the AUDIO of the Town Hall from the fall of 2020.

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