Update - July, 2020

July 1, 2020

Dear Milwaukee Rep Community, 

The horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, together with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans, have laid bare the continuing challenges of racism in America. Racism is not an accident and is supported by systems developed over hundreds of years. Our theater is not immune from this environment necessitating that we reexamine our practices through an additional lens of equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I). 

We recognize two competing desires -- the need to move quickly as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have waited too long for meaningful change while also recognizing this important work must also be strategic and thorough. While doing the strategic work, we will take the following immediate steps:  

  • Create meaningful opportunities to listen and engage BIPOC stakeholders
  • Strengthen and create new authentic partnerships with Milwaukee’s diverse communities
  • Continue to diversify our staff, leadership team and board of trustees
  • Hire more BIPOC practitioners for our artistic teams 
  • Provide ED&I and anti-racist training for staff, trustees and volunteers

In our June 9 statement, we committed to providing a public update on our ED&I journey the first of every month starting on July 1, 2020. As this is our first update, we have erred on the side of transparency recognizing that the update would be lengthy. Therefore, if your time is limited, we have also provided an Executive Summary. 

Executive Summary
Although we didn’t refer to our efforts to diversify Milwaukee Rep as equity, diversity and inclusion until 2018, our work began in 2010 with the disbanding of an all-white resident acting company. We recognized it would be impossible to present a 15 play season annually that uplifted diverse voices solely utilizing one resident acting company, and in our case, one which was very homogenous in nature. For a summary of ED&I related work up through 2020, please CLICK HERE. Fully admitting that much of our journey is still ahead of us, we adopted a new strategic plan in 2019 prioritizing ED&I. To strategically plan the work, we engaged The Kaleidoscope Group (KG), an ED&I consulting firm based in Chicago. KG’s work plan covers four phases and we are nearing the end of the first phase after a delay due to COVID-19. Future work includes an assessment of our current environment through an ED&I lens, training our staff, board and volunteers, developing our strategy, and creating measurement tools. For leadership and accountability, the theater has established an ED&I committee on the board chaired by trustee Warren Buliox. Additionally, we have engaged Tammy Belton-Davis as our first Chief Diversity Officer as a loaned executive from her company Athena Communications. We will provide a public update on the ED&I section of our website on the first of every month. For additional information, please continue reading. 

ED&I Team & Leadership
In 2018, the Board of Trustees established an ED&I task force chaired by trustee Warren Buliox (Partner, MWH Law Group). The following year, the Board adopted a new 5-year strategic plan with three priorities, one of which being ED&I. The ED&I task force was transitioned to a permanent standing board committee and committee chair Buliox joined the Executive Committee as well. 

Joining Mr. Buliox on the ED&I committee are trustee Andres Gonzalez (VP & Chief Diversity Officer, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin), trustee Christopher Rowland (Global Chief Diversity Officer, Manpower), President of the Board Greg Oberland (President, Northwestern Mutual (ret), Brett Blomme (President, Cream City Foundation), Morgan Phelps (CEO, Colorful Connections), Tammy Belton-Davis (Founder & Principal, Athena Communications), Chad Bauman (Executive Director, Milwaukee Rep), Mark Clements (Artistic Director, Milwaukee Rep), May Adrales (Associate Artistic Director, Milwaukee Rep), Melissa Vartanian (Managing Director, Milwaukee Rep), and Jenny Toutant (Interim Chief Engagement & Education Officer, Milwaukee Rep). 

In December 2019, the Board of Trustees engaged The Kaleidoscope Group, a diversity & inclusion minority owned consultancy firm based in Chicago, to guide our work. Our principal consultants are Margarita De Leon and Jeffrey Strader

Additionally, Tammy Belton-Davis has joined the staff leadership team as a loaned executive focusing on ED&I strategies, engagement and communications for a 10-month appointment starting on June 15.  In her role as a Loaned Executive, Ms. Belton-Davis will serve as the staff lead for the implementation and execution of our ED&I work with an emphasis on engagement, communications and brand. In this role, she will work directly with executive leadership, board of trustees and The Kaleidoscope Group to develop, implement and measure ED&I goals for the theater and serve as an internal coach on inclusiveness and diversity issues.

ED&I Work Plan
The Kaleidoscope Group has created a strategic work plan for our ED&I efforts, which was adopted and approved by the ED&I committee in late 2019. The work plan is separated into four phases as outlined below:
    Phase I: Setting the Stage and Vision of Success
    Phase II: Assessment
    Phase III: Training
    Phase IV: Strategy, Infrastructure & Measurement

As part of Phase 1, we have completed the following: 

The Kaleidoscope Group conducted an organizational ED&I audit and review. As part of this work, they audited the following:  

  • Mission, Vision & Values 
  • Key business metrics including organization and/or department scorecards 
  • Strategic Plan
  • Organizational Charts
  • Recent employee engagement & satisfaction survey results 
  • Strategies, plans, goals, activities and structures that are currently underway within the organization relevant to our ED&I work 
  • Current ED&I Vision, definitions, case for change, any associated policies, etc. 
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Activity/Strategy/Structure Overview
  • EEO-1 Reports and/or internal reports on workforce representation 
  • Turnover statistics
  • Exit Interviews
  • Hiring Practices & Procedures
  • Employee management, assessment and review documents

Additionally as part of Phase I, the Kaleidoscope Group identified and interviewed several key stakeholders, including all members of the leadership team and several trustees as well as: 

  • Warren Buliox, Chair – ED&I Board Committee
  • Jacobo Lovo, Chair – Mpact Council 
  • Jackie Herd-Barber, Presidents Council
  • Aileen Smith, Former Chair – Friends of Milwaukee Rep 

Kaleidoscope Group also held listening sessions with the entire Milwaukee Rep staff. Using the information from the audit, interviews and listening sessions, KG led the leadership team through a vision of success meeting to develop an ED&I vision, case for change, positioning statement and focus areas for the theater. 

In addition to the work with KG, the entire leadership team along with HR Manager Emily Hill participated in 28 hours of training with the YWCA of Southeastern Wisconsin based on their “Unlearning Racism” course. Additionally, Executive Director Chad Bauman, Managing Director Melissa Vartanian, Interim Chief Engagement and Education Officer Jenny Toutant, trustee Patrick Smith, and MPact Council Member Tonen O’Connor independently completed the full “Unlearning Racism” course as well. 

At the request of ED&I chair Warren Buliox, the ED&I committee also reviewed all ED&I related activities from the past decade, which can be found by CLICKING HERE. 

Upcoming Work
In the month of July, we anticipate completing the following: 

  • Finalizing our ED&I Vision of Success & Positioning Statements
  • Designing a qualitative assessment process against the ED&I Vision and foundation in Phase I
  • Design a Baseline Survey, launch survey and collect results
  • Analyze and prepare survey results to inform focus groups
  • Schedule virtual Focus Groups based on the review to date (5-8 homogeneous groups, 2 hours each, up to 4 per day)

A high-level work plan for next steps with the Kaleidoscope Group can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Greg Oberland
President, Board of Trustees

Warren Buliox
Trustee & Chair, ED&I Committee

Mark Clements
Artistic Director

Chad Bauman
Executive Director