Leading the Charge: Diversity & Inclusion Institute

by Dafina McMillan

in Diversity & Inclusion,National Conference

Post image for <i>Leading the Charge</i>: Diversity & Inclusion Institute

Coming out of the Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge, we were indeed charged up and rejuvenated—excited about the progress we had made and the work that lies ahead. We saw demographic numbers from Angela Glover Blackwell – illustrating a majority people of color nation by 2042. Anthony Carter reminded us that “no one looks like their story.” And our hearts dropped over dinner as we heard the responses Katori Hall received in 2009 when her agent shopped around her new play, statements such as: “We’ve already done an August Wilson piece this season” and “Our February slot has been filled.” We shared thoughts on “where do we want to be?” We questioned what diversity really means – as well as racism, sexism and inclusion.

And of course, these conversations didn’t begin at the Fall Forum. From the 1996 TCG Conference where playwright August Wilson gave his famous keynote address The Ground on Which I Stand to the many conversations in Conference sessions with our Young Leaders of Color and Intergenerational Leaders of Color, all of this important dialogue has propelled us to this point.

The point of action: striving to create a culture of diversity at our institutions has become more of a priority than ever. We are systematically finding ways to create sustainable organizations representative of our communities. We’re working together to develop tools to create a pulse of inclusivity that beats at every level of the institution. We’re getting over our excuses, guilt and exhaustion in order to creatively, constructively and passionately unite to become a more inclusive theatre community – to be the model field we want to be.

And now, months away from our National Conference in Dallas, we will hold a first-ever Leading the Charge: Diversity & Inclusion Institute on Wednesday, June 5, as a more intimate pre-cursor to the 1,000 person Conference.  With our strategic plan as our guiding light, diversity as a long-time TCG core value, and feedback from our Fall Forum, we’ve decided to dedicate the Institute solely to action planning. We’re partnering again with Carmen Morgan, a community organizer by trade, who is consulting theatres around the country, like Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Portland Center Stage, on their diversity efforts. Together, we are developing a curriculum that will provide theatres with tools to develop organizational action plans for diversity and inclusion – determining institutional goals, strategies, measurable tasks and timelines. The Institute will also launch a network of organizations that can connect, provide mutual support and hold each other accountable for weeks, months and years after the Institute.

We are ready to move beyond the “yes, we know we need to be diverse” baseline while at the same time, we need to acknowledge that there are steps to create a culture of diversity before  jumping to “we want to get diverse audiences to come.”   Over the course of the Institute, we’ll look at how to begin those steps at a leadership level that permeates throughout the full board, staff, artists and then your community. Theatres will be able to analyze their own internal resources and figure out the action steps needed to make that organizational change happen. As we were reminded from speaker David Steffen at the Audience (R)Evolution Learning Convening, your house must be in order before you invite someone to be a guest.

If you’re interested in attending the Institute, you must send a letter of intent to me at dmcmillan@tcg.org by April 1st.  Space will be limited so that we can have productive conversations.  The letter must thoughtfully address why your theatre is ready to begin action planning:

  • What organizational conversations is your theatre having about diversity and inclusion?
  • How has your organization committed to creating a diversity action plan?
  • What resources has your theatre allocated to becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization?
  • Why is it important for your institution to attend this Institute now?
  • Who from your theatre should attend and why?

Please visit the webpage and contact me if you have any questions. Please do not yet register for the Conference proper if you plan to apply to the Pre-Conference.

These conversations and learnings will feed into the Diversity & Inclusion arc—one of four programmatic arcs folks can “major” at in our Learn Do Teach Conference. Thank you to those of you who gave your feedback for programming content!  We’re moving forward and hope to see you inDallas to help us continue those conversations, and move towards action.


Dafina McMillan serves as the director of communications & conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In this role, Dafina oversees the overall internal and external communications strategy – as well as programs TCG’s convenings, including the TCG National Conference, which gathers more than 1,000 theatre practitioners annually. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the associate managing director of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, MN, where she managed the day-to-day operations for the theatre, which included communications, fundraising, overseeing the annual fundraising gala and working directly with the board of directors. While previously in New York, she was an account supervisor at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) and implemented communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies. Dafina has served as a speech writer, led executive visibility and corporate social responsibility campaigns, supported brand launches, and worked with national media to secure online, print and broadcast coverage for her clients. She also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of The John F. Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Originally from Houston, TX, she received her bachelor of science degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin.