Steans Center > For Students > Graduate Fellowships > Steans Graduate Fellowship > Steans Graduate Fellows > Continued Learning and Diversity Digital Assets - American Theater Critics Association
April 2, 2022 /
MA Program, Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Community Collaborator: American Theatre Critics Assocation
The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) is a 200+ member organization with over half a century of history. As the only membership organization for theater critics in the country, it has been a mainstay in bringing together theater critics from all regions of the country. Like theater criticism as a whole, the organization has historically been largely white and male throughout its tenure. Up until just a few years ago, the primary image used in organizational marketing was a variation of a sketch of 19th-century French artist Honoré Daumier as a critic in a tophat and spectacles. The organization has, thankfully, changed much even in just the last handful of years.
With the creation of the Belonging, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (BEID) committee, revamping the ATCA code of conduct, holding continuing learning opportunities, and diversifying its leadership, ATCA is moving forward in positive ways. The development of the diverse critic's list and the BEID Resource Hub have both created more ways for the theater community as a whole to grow regardless of membership in ATCA. This project was developed to be an asset to the BEID resources collection as well as the organization as a whole. Organizations cannot become more diverse unless the membership at large has the tools to be an inclusive, anti-racist space which is why continued education and digital assets are important for organizations as large as ATCA.
Originally the goals of this project included creating a series of resource assets that can be periodically updated as necessary, updating membership directories with pronouns, creating a one-sheet around ATCA social media management, and building more learning opportunities for members. Much of this work has been done or groundwork has been laid for the implementation of the work in the future. Several of these components had been things ATCA leadership had wanted to do, however, as a volunteer organization it can be hard to place more work on the shoulders of members. The Steans Fellowship made it possible for these items to get done or started.
While the directories and website have not yet been updated with members’ pronouns, that information is something that can be solicited from members the next time organizational-wide surveys are sent for updates. We have also discussed putting it on the information sheets filled out by incoming members as an implementation to make obtaining that information easier in the future. On the whole, however, the majority of the project’s goals have been completed.
Nine info sheets were developed to be uploaded to the BEID resources page. These categories include Ability, Age, Gender, Pronouns, Race, Religion, Sexuality, and Size with an additional info sheet covering “classic” shows and a template to use for any additional sheets in the future. By pulling together resources, glossaries, and other helpful pieces of information, these resources can help critics or other theater makers be more equitable in their work. Recognizing that language is ever-evolving, we have included a “last edited” note at the top so that these documents can be transparent in their timeliness. We can update them as needed as the language changes to keep anyone using the sheets up to speed. This is particularly important in the gender, sexuality, and race info sheets as the American theater space continues to struggle for equity in these areas.
Social media guidelines have also been developed to help anyone working on ATCA’s various social media platforms in the future. As the organization continues to find its way in the complicated media world, maintaining guidelines to stay active on social media is crucial to keep up membership. And, as theater criticism is based on the opinion of often a single person, it is important to have a standard operating procedure of how to deal with the inevitable, occasional controversies.
In addition to the presumed work to be done through this project, other developments occurred within ATCA. Through planning out the implementation of these resources, I was tapped to be the organization’s new International Committee Chairperson. The previous chair became the head of the International Association of Theatre Critics and conversations began around how we could best support him and our international colleagues. Because we want to spark dialogue around equity through resources like these infosheet assets, it was only natural that the conversation pivoted to international discussions as well.
As the newly appointed International Chair, along with the current ATCA chairperson David John Chávez, I am revamping how our International Committee functions. We will embark on more opportunities to collaborate with international colleagues, share resources, and provide learning opportunities for our members. We believe that growing as equitable journalists can be a worldwide endeavor and we are excited to see how these resources grow and evolve with the connections we make through this new iteration of an International Committee.
As is the case in any longstanding organization, it may be difficult to get certain members on board with the kinds of resources we’ve developed. Critics are, after all, full of opinions. But we also recognize that there are learning curves in the pursuit of equity and are prepared to help usher anyone who needs assistance navigating our resource guides. We anticipate a level of pushback once the resources are readily available. However, we also have leadership meetings throughout the month so we are able to handle whatever comes of this project.
Work towards equity is an ongoing effort. Through utilizing digital assets like these, engaging in continuous learning opportunities, and collaborating with other journalists on a global scale we are able to better ourselves as well as the performing arts community as a whole. Unless journalists make an effort to constantly learn about the evolving nature of social issues and language, we continue to hold up both white supremacy and other pervasive forms of bigotry. This project is just a small sample of what ATCA can do on an organizational level, however, each step we take forward in the name of progress is one step closer to social equity.