To Our Community:
The Hippodrome Theater has been on a journey for several years that has been brought into sharp focus with the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent outpouring of voices and stories. Those voices have been there for a very long time. We thought we had heard them. We really didn’t. We do now.
It is long past time for The Hippodrome —as part of the community here in Gainesville as well as a professional theater—to reckon with systemic racism, the deep divisions that exist within our society and the entrenched inequalities of our legal system.
It is imperative that we assess our own role in the lack of progress to equity and justice. How can we demonstrate that Black Lives Matter and build on our longtime commitment to Black voices? In what ways can we uplift and center Black, Indigenous, People of Color, persons with disabilities and other marginalized and underrepresented voices—on stage and off? How do we signal to all who enter our theater that hate has no home here? As a predominantly white organization, what steps must we take to dismantle the systems that have kept us so?
Before Covid-19, The Hippodrome had implemented a Season Selection Committee to solicit new views and new voices to help us shape our Mainstage Season. We also committed half of our mainstage season and all of our reading series, Hipp Unplugged, to participate in the Jubilee – a program that encourages producing plays written by underrepresented writers (playwrights of color, indigenous, women, and LGBTQ+). Although Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in our plans, we will continue to celebrate underrepresented playwrights through our Media productions this fall as well as our Hipp Unplugged Series Online.
On August 4th, we will be doing a Hipp Unplugged staged reading online of Facing Our Truth: Short plays based on Trayvon, Race, and Privilege followed by a discussion with the director, actors, and community arts leaders.
As we move forward into our 2020-21 season, whatever that may look like, we will continue our audit of our internal culture – on stage, behind the scenes, on our boards and among our staff – to ascertain inequities in processes and policies
Through this process, we will:
- Review our Artistic priorities. Continue to seek honest assessments from our Artistic staff, company members and key creative collaborators of color regarding their Hippodrome working experiences and recommendations for improvement.
- Commit to emerging voices of color. Support underrepresented playwrights who chronicle the spectrum of their experience and create works of art that facilitate understanding and empathy between people of very different backgrounds and experiences toward healing and restoration.
- Expand workforce development programs for emerging leaders of color. Increased Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other marginalized/underrepresented voices across our organization is vital to enacting our new systems toward a better future of all, and we will reassess our hiring practices.
- Eliminate barriers to arts participation. We will deepen existing relationships with community leaders, arts organizations and kindle authentic new connections with Black, Indigenous and People of Color-led organizations to expand the breadth of our work.
- Foster connection and conversation with our audiences. We will continue to work with underrepresented playwrights through our commitment to The Jubilee and our Hipp Unplugged series, and through their stories, we will create space for our community to connect, converse, and together find a way to grow and change.
Our work will be ongoing and will evolve. We will actively share updates here and encourage dialogue with our community throughout the process. We acknowledge that The Hippodrome is working toward becoming an affirming institution on the continuum of becoming an anti-racists multicultural organization. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go. And we commit to following through on this journey to become the equitable, diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organization we aspire to be. We will make mistakes; but we will be active, listen and make corrections.
The Boards, Artists and Staff of The Hippodrome Theatre stand in solidarity against racism and hate. We intend to contribute to the building of a more just and equitable American society—and ask that you will hold us accountable to fostering a culture that promotes inclusion and opportunity for all.