TheatreFIRST productions frame the deeper work of our organization: to rethink traditions of marginalization and, through the initiatives detailed below, expand the scope of theatre so that it can truly be in service of justice. We began our new journey boldly and we are proud to share our learnings and how we extended our mission.
Our first economic justice initiative was to pay an hourly stipend to all auditioning actors as well as provide childcare and eldercare during their in-person auditions. “The idea is simple,” says Carl Lumbly, program co-creator: “Value actors for the effort they make to audition. Acknowledge that the time an actor takes to prepare an audition is noted and appreciated.” Says T1 Casting Director, Stephanie Prentice: “New works often require that actors embrace vulnerability beginning right at the audition process, and we feel strongly that this labor should be compensated.”
The success of Callbucks led to our most ambitious economic shift. San Francisco Chronicle’s Lily Janiak breaks it down in a pre-AB5 world: “Enter TheatreFIRST’s new policy of paying everyone the same hourly rate. It’s an almost unheard-of move — and one that’s challenging long-held assumptions.” Our initiative started a national conversation around financial equity. We shared our mission and programming at conventions and fielded numerous calls from across the country to help other theaters begin this process. After local company Shotgun Players co-produced with us, they adopted our wage initiative.
BLANK SPACE: RESIDENCIES & RESOURCES
Responding to the unaffordable rental market for artists, T1 expanded our economic justice commitment with Blank Space, a residency creating support and resources free of charge. The first branch of the initiative allocates twenty hours a week for individual artists to use our space for personal creative development. T1 Community artists have access to all resources contained within our venue during their time working.
The second branch of the initiative involves a shared Artist-in-Residence Program, giving a home to other progressive organizations such as Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theatre, Symmetry Theatre, and Fusion Arts. This program recreates our space to fit each company’s respective needs. Says Wry Crips’ Michaela Goldhaber; “T1 built a beautiful ramp, center stage, from which the members of Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Theatre could proudly walk, limp, and roll.”
The Weavers is T1’s community engagement programming that consists of collective dialogues, installations, per-production podcast episodes, deconstructing expected conversations around productions.Through the Weavers, we have deepened existing relationships with neighborhood artists, leaders, and community organizations in the Bay Area who have collaborated as panelists, facilitators, and guest speakers in talkbacks. Examples of prior local organizations we have worked with in the past for community conversations include: the Black Teacher Project, Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, Roots of Labor Birth Collective, Mycelium Youth Network, and The People’s Conservatory, to name a few. We are proud to engage our audiences by engaging with organizations that reflect their histories, cultures and identities in these stories inside a crafted space of safety.