Diversity & Inclusion Institute Field Reports

by Dafina McMillan

in Diversity & Inclusion

Post image for Diversity & Inclusion Institute Field Reports

(Photo by Alissa Moore from the 2012 TCG Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge.)

It’s been four months since 20 theatre organizations descended upon Fort Worth for the creation and launch of our Diversity & Inclusion Institute. Twenty theatres are a part of a national peer learning community dedicated to creating & implementing action plans, supporting each other & sharing insights with the field.

The national cohort includes:  Alliance Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Cara Mia Theatre, Central Square Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Cleveland Play House, CROSSROADS, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Jubilee Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Lark Play Development Center, Magic Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Penumbra Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Tectonic Theater Project, The Theatre Offensive and TCG.

Since our meeting in Fort Worth, Carmen Morgan and I have been working closely with the theatres as they develop and fine-tune their own action plans for their organizations—ultimately providing a structure of support and accountability. We’ve also kicked off a skills-building series (of webinars and in-person sessions)– the first was focused on best practices for inclusive recruitment.

We’ve also crystallized the WHY… messaging on what we really mean by diversity & inclusion and why this work is so critical NOW. Click here to view the full document. I encourage you to share that document with others and within your organizations.

Throughout the next few years, we’ll be diving deep into numerous areas, providing tools and support on strategies for inclusion, such as: creating diversity & Inclusion policies and committees; measurement and assessment; and building awareness and education around these sensitive and complex areas of identity, privilege and access.

We’re also working with the collective group of theatres of color that are part of the Institute. Given these institutions been instrumental in nurturing a cadre of artists of color over the decades, not only can they help bring awareness of culturally specific work and acumen nationally, but also help us define & model respectful and thoughtful partnerships between regional theatres and theatres of color.

So, here we are four months after our first meeting in Texas, and less than a year ago since our 2012 Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge.  It’s amazing to witness the journey these theatres are embarking on in their own communities to activate change—having tough, but enlightening conversations that reveal biases, and encountering surprises along the way.

These organizations are clear they don’t have all the answers, but are committed to advancing inclusion and finding the best way forward.  Institute members will be sharing the tangible steps they’ve been taking to do this work right here on the TCG Circle and at our upcoming Fall Forum on Governance: Investing in Vitality. You can view the first Institute Field Report from Michael Rosenberg at La Jolla Playhouse. From the philosophical why diversity matters to the practical action steps for inclusion — they’ll be sharing their challenges, successes, aha moments and what really just didn’t work — and some will humbly declare what’s at stake.

We’re all standing here willing to be transparent and honest about the journey and bumps along the way. I’m invigorated by the work of these organizations to boldly try out new ideas and initiatives. To have messy, uncomfortable conversations with their staffs, boards, artists and communities.

There’s a power in collective action, of doing this work together, to make change.

And I look forward to sharing these tools & learnings with the larger field as we continue along this journey.

Dafina McMillan joined TCG in August 2010 and serves as the director of communications & conferences. 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.  In addition, Dafina is leading TCG’s multi-year Diversity & Inclusion Initiative as part of TCG’s strategic plan. 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, including communications, fundraising 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.