Update - September, 2020
September 1, 2020
Dear Milwaukee Rep Community,
Listen. Learn. Act.
Even as we prepare this update, our state and nation have been dealt a blow to our basic human decency - again. The shooting of yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, has reignited the raw and all too familiar emotions we have come to experience when these incidents of violence are perpetrated on Black men. These incidents anger and pain us but they have not shaken our resolve or commitment to amplify our voice for racial justice. It is a prevalent reminder that change is needed and together, we must take action with an urgency of now.
We must listen to the outrage and pain of our neighbors and friends, learn from those most impacted by the injustices, and act in ways to bring sustainable change.
How are we listening?
That journey of acknowledgment, learning and promise for change has fueled Milwaukee Rep’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) work. Over the next few weeks we will host a round of focus groups with our internal teams, artists and community partners, who are some of our most important stakeholder groups. The Kaleidoscope Group will facilitate these sessions to help us better understand perceptions of diversity and inclusion and the workplace culture at Milwaukee Rep.
We understand that diversity of experience and thought expands well beyond our work on the stage and we commit to honoring that as we engage our artists, community partners and employees. These conversations will help influence how we drive meaningful change and hold us accountable as an organization.
Further, Milwaukee Rep is proud to support the first annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival and is hosting a free virtual conference on September 9 as part of the festival line-up. The conference is titled 20/20 Vision for Milwaukee Arts and will showcase a panel of local arts leaders, artists, funders and advocates in discussions to amplify Black voices and participation in the theater industry.
How are we learning?
We value the many unique experiences and perspectives our employees, artists and partners bring. To ensure as many different voices as possible are included, we will also include other diverse demographic groups that are not currently represented on our staff.
The findings of the focus groups and our collective ED&I work will provide insight-driven recommendations for long-term, sustainable Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion goals for our theater. We are holding ourselves accountable for engaging, learning and growing.
As part of our vision of success, we commit to a sustained investment of resources and continuous learning regarding ED&I. This requires us to be thoughtful, collaborative, and persistent on our approach while recognizing the differences in our respective journeys.
How are we acting?
As an anchor cultural institution in the region, Milwaukee Rep has committed to creating a more diverse staff. We believe in diversity of voices and promoting an inclusive and welcoming culture for all of our employees. With that, we are excited to share the hiring of a new Associate Director of Engagement, N’Jameh Camara who will begin her tenure with Milwaukee Rep this month. She is a Milwaukee native, actress and advocate whose artistic work has spanned national Broadway tours, Off-Broadway, new play development/world premieres, and audiobook narration in partnership with Random House Publishing. Milwaukee Rep audiences will also remember her from our production of Junk in 2019. We are additionally searching for a full-time Artist in Residence, preferably from a historically underrepresented population. The position profile can be found HERE.
We value authenticity in storytelling and the diversity in the stories we showcase. Most recently, we announced our 2020/21 Season Reset that will provide five entertaining and uplifting stories that can be attended live in our theaters with limited capacity or via high-definition recordings. Sixty percent of the announced productions feature BIPOC creators and more than fifty percent of the performers in the season are BIPOC artists. Some of the season’s productions are an intersection of race, gender and the multiplexities of the human experience and the richness of our diversity as a community including Nina Simone: Four Women, Antonio’s Song: I Was Dreaming of a Son, and Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song. Featured artists include Dael Orlandersmith, Antonio Edwards Suarez, and Alexis J Roston to name a few. Complementing our Season Reset will be continued digital programming as part of our “From Our Home to Your Home” program, which has also featured a majority of BIPOC artists. One of our new virtual programming areas is SoundStage, an ensemble of four original audio plays featuring local artists centered on Milwaukee points of interest.
While we appreciate this opportunity to provide monthly written updates, we know the value we can bring to our community during this time is the continued creation of entertaining, inspiring and provocative art. Today, we are pleased to present the world premiere video entitled “Somewhere: The Remix,” created in homage to “Somewhere” from West Side Story featuring the work of 26 artists from the cast of West Side Story and our Professional Training Institute (PTI) program. Watch the video below. Please enjoy and share widely.
We appreciate your continued support of Milwaukee Rep and invite you to stay connected with our team. We pledge to be transparent with our work to make our community and theater a more equitable place.
President, Board of Trustees
Trustee & Chair, ED&I Committee
Chief Diversity Officer