In 2018, Northlight formed an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. The purpose of the EDI Committee is to evaluate internal systems and take actionable steps toward lasting institutional change. This committee, which consisted of both internal and external stakeholders, generated a list of action items in November of 2018. Since then, Northlight has worked toward implementing the items on this list.
In June 2020, after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Northlight issued a statement of solidarity and promised action. We acknowledged that we are a predominantly White organization serving a mostly White audience, and we re-committed to doing the ongoing, internal, antiracist work our organization needs in order to become a better ally.
In August 2021, we re-evaluated our progress on the action items we committed to in 2020 as well as the work we committed to address in response to the We See You White American Theater list of demands. We were able to add some additional policies thanks to our work with the WSYWAT documents. We are committed to a continuous cycle of evaluation, implementation and accountability to be held annually.
We are providing two lists: one of action items currently in progress, and one of practices that are now fully implemented at Northlight. Explore the tabs to read these items.
The following items are a combination of those proposed in November 2018 and those added by the current EDI Committee. These items will be part of Northlight’s regular practices and systems by September 2022, unless otherwise noted.
Artistic & Production
- Audit the protocol for hiring script readers to ensure it aligns with other hiring practices and ensure more representative input.
We will develop a formal system to share plays in high consideration company-wide in order to allow input based on specific departmental goals.
- We will continue to implement industry best practices in intimacy, fight choreography, etc. and we will develop a system by which actors can express the need for the aforementioned experts.
- We will provide training opportunities for our audience engagement facilitators and/or hire experts in related fields whenever possible.
- We will continue to evaluate our programming to feature underrepresented people in positive and compassionate ways beyond the struggles and traumas associated with their marginalization.
- Research and identify diverse reviewers, including BIPOC reviewers, BIPOC owned papers, and news outlets and invite them to review productions. Commit to regular advertising spending with these vendors.
Hiring & Working Conditions
- We will expand our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee to reflect the diversity of all of the communities we serve in our artistic, educational, and community outreach programming.
- Provide a one-sheet to all new hires of financial and estate planning information.
- Create a Zoom-based virtual affinity space and make it available throughout our season. The space is to be voluntary for every participant (facilitator exception).
Education & Community:
- We will organize an outside EDI expert to lead Anti-Bias training for the full Board of Trustees by the end of our 2021-2022 Season.
- We will create a core EDI resource guide with materials for all staff, artists, teachers and board that will outline our practices and update as needed. These resources will also be added to our Social Accountability page for public access.
- We will create a protocol for hiring teaching artists to include all EDI practices to ensure schools and community organizations are working with a cohort of teaching artists that reflect the demographics of their students and communities.
- We will build a strong pipeline for those interested in pursuing a career in the theatre by:
- Consolidating our entry level opportunities to ensure positions are paid, follow the same protections as regular employment, and provide opportunities for future investment in early career professionals.
- Establish short-term opportunities such as job shadowing for teens from community partners, local schools, and organizations like Evanston’s Mayors Employer Advisory Council (MEAC).
- Explore creating a Career Day tied to a Northlight Youth Council Spotlight event for area teens to come see a production and learn about careers in the theatre.
- We will build the framework for programs that provide opportunities for BIPOC artists in the areas of design, technical theatre, and stage management/crew. *This goal will be a long term development over the course of several seasons.
- Through a partnership with local universities, Northlight will provide opportunities for MFA or undergraduate students to design and/or assistant design in Northlight’s season.
- Through partnerships with community organizations and schools, Northlight will provide paid learning opportunities for young people to gain more experience in technical theatre and stage management.
- Northlight will grow its internship program to foster mentorship in all departments.
- Continue to expand and identify clear goals for Arts for Everyone ticket distribution, prioritize Community Partner inclusion in determining audience capacity, and conduct an annual evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.
- Reach out to organizations (separately from Arts for Everyone) that serve marginalized groups and communities with show discounts.
Transparency & Accountability
- We will make our employee handbook publicly accessible to make our organization’s policies more transparent.
- Include all board members’ company affiliations on our website.
- We will add an EDI component to the Annual Report.
- Establish an annual audit of vendors both returning and new with a commitment to diversify our vendors in our move to Evanston.
- Working towards contracting a regular outside facilitator to engage with an annual assessment of our EDI practices and identify funding to make this possible.
- Publish our production calendar policy per industry standards.
- We will be exploring adding ASL interpreted performances and technology to expand open captioning from 1 performance per run to all performances in future seasons.
- We will center accessibility in the design of our new building in Evanston.
Additional action items are being discussed at the committee level in the areas of fundraising and sponsorship, board and board development, audience development, and production.
Northlight Theatre sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi as well as the Menominee, Miami, and Ho-Chunk nations. The original peoples of this region had shared cultural customs that allowed for the establishment of trade practices across the region. Indigenous people continue to live in this area and celebrate their traditional teachings and lifeways. Today, roughly 35,000 Native people from over 100 tribes live in the Chicagoland area.
Northlight Theatre makes this acknowledgement as part of our commitment to dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism from which we benefit. We commit to learning about and honoring the Indigenous peoples who stewarded and continue to steward the lands we have occupied and continue to occupy.
What is a Land Acknowledgment?
A land acknowledgement is a statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.
Why make a Land Acknowledgment?
A land acknowledgment recognizes that Northlight Theatre has benefited from what scholars call “settler colonialism,” the effort to encourage white newcomers to settle and colonize Native American territory and thereby dispossess Indigenous peoples from land that they had occupied and considered important since time immemorial. This coerced dispossession and forced removal of Native peoples through treaties and various military campaigns throughout American history is essential to understanding the history of Skokie and Evanston, including its cultural and educational institutions.
INFORMATION & PRONUNCIATION GUIDE
Council of Three Fires
The Council of Three Fires, also known as the People of the Three Fires, the Three Fires Confederacy, the United Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi Indians, or Niswi-mishkodewin in the Anishinaabe language, is a long-standing Anishinaabe alliance of the Ojibwe (or Chippewa), Ottawa (or Odawa), and Potawatomi Native American tribes and First Nations.
In this Council, the Ojibwe were addressed as the “Older Brother,” the Odawa as the “Middle Brother,” and the Potawatomi as the “Younger Brother.” Consequently, whenever the three Anishinaabe nations are mentioned in this specific and consecutive order of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi, it is an indicator implying the Council of Three Fires as well.
Potawatomi | pronounced pot-uh-WOT-uh-mee
The name Potawatomi comes from the Ojibway word potawatomink, which means “people of the place of fire.” The Potawatomi call themselves Nishnabek, meaning “true or original people.”
Ojibway | pronounced oh-JIB-way
Ojibway means “puckered up,” and it is thought to come from the way the tribes’ moccasins were gathered at the top. Ojibway is also spelled Ojibwe, Ojibwayy, Ojibwa, and Otchipwe.
Ottawa | pronounced AH-tah-wah
Ottawa comes from the Algonquian word adawe meaning “to trade.”
Menominee | pronounced muh-NOM-uh-nee
Menominee, sometimes spelled Menomini, means “Wild-Rice People.”
Miami | pronounced my-AM-ee
Miami also called Maumee, the name may come from the Miami-Illinois word Myaamia, meaning “allies.”
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian https://mitchellmuseum.org
American Indian Center of Chicago https://aicchicago.org/
Illinois Historic Group Director https://www.ihgd.org/
CURRENT EDI PRACTICES
These items are part of Northlight’s regular practices and systems as of August 2021. We felt it was important to share these to hold ourselves accountable, and ask our community to hold us accountable to these practices.
Artistic & Production
- We continue to assign dressing rooms specifically to each show, considering all genders in the process.
- We continue to have the costume supervisor assess individual needs prior to first costume fitting. The supervisor will ask each actor if they have any specific needs in regard to undergarments, allergies or any other accommodations we should consider.
- We continue to have stage management create a carpool list on the first day of every rehearsal process for those willing to car share to/from Northlight.
- Our General Manager introduces Northlight policies and procedures regarding safety, complaint resolution, accessibility, and EDI practices at all first rehearsals.
- Removed ‘10 out of 12s’ from our production process, which was originally put in practice colloquially in 2019.
- Provide a walk through of available spaces and inventories as well as spatial configuration specs for all new designers.
- We will ensure that any last minute changes are collaborator-driven and be clear with all artistic decision makers on what changes we can support without sacrificing the well-being of our artists.
- We offer programming that allows us to have difficult and necessary conversations with our audience on topics related to equity. We will provide opportunities for our audience to reflect, expand, dive deep into this work through pursuing civic dramaturgy and consensus organizing.
Hiring & Working Conditions
- A commitment to no homogeneous final candidate groups; a commitment to a diverse slate of qualified candidates for all new staff positions, including an extension of the deadline for applications if needed.
- We will continuously audit our current hiring practices, specifically on metrics for how candidates are chosen for interview, where job postings go, and wage standards to identify potential barriers and opportunities to greater representation.
- Commit to hiring at least one production overhire from a BIPOC list for every production, diversifying our known technician lists.
- We continue to practice equitable hiring. We do not ask for salary history and we have a team in the hiring process that includes at least 3 staff members to provide a variety of viewpoints and minimize bias.
- Our EDI committee co-chairs will review full-time staff postings to identify areas of unconscious bias or barriers.
- We continue to use pronoun identification in interviews, staff and rehearsal introductions, casting forms, company-wide emails, etc. We have added pronouns to staff signatures and contact sheets, where appropriate.
- We will continue to offer an Artistic Fellowship that provides opportunity for BIPOC artists to be an integral member of the artistic team.
- We have committed to hiring a diverse slate of artists equitably throughout our season with a plan to expand our outreach to BIPOC, differently abled, neurodiverse, trans and nonbinary playwrights, directors, designers and actors.
- We continue to use inclusive language (based on EEOA guidelines) in our online designer submission form that will encourage designers to self identify race/gender if they choose. Our goal is to continue to break down barriers for a diverse array of designers to submit their materials.
- We continue to assure our on-boarding practice is in line with the Chicago Theatre Standards. We will keep a handbook with all policies and chain of command in the rehearsal room at all times. All onboarding also includes EDI practices within the company.
- Ensuring transparency in Artistic Teams, we will always share any confirmed hires with artists and designers when asked if not readily available at the time of their hiring.
- Northlight commits to following the industry best practices for Executive Searches as established by the LORT EDI Committee.
- Northlight has never used, and will continue to avoid, the “rooney rule” in any hiring practices, job postings or contracts.
Education & Community:
- All Northlight staff participates in quarterly self-education days on topics of Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias and cultural competency.
- All Northlight staff also participated in a professionally led Anti-Bias training in August 2021, that will be held annually in the future.
- All current employees completed the El Paso asynchronous Anti-Bias training. Any new employees are required to complete the same training or an equivalent if the El Paso program is unavailable.
- Expanded and diversified Northlight’s Youth Council with outreach to school partners in 6+ districts. The council will better represent the communities of Skokie, Evanston and Northwest Chicago.
- We have expanded the Arts for Everyone program to 11 community partners to break down barriers for communities who may not have access to Northlight.
- Continue to allow free ticket exchanges for all patrons for cultural and religious holidays.
Transparency & Accountability
- Crafted a Land Acknowledgement accessible on our website, which will also be shared at our productions and events.
- Crafted an Anti-Bias commitment that will be utilized throughout the organization.
- Set a social media policy to better define our responsibilities to our artists and our representation of them.
- We have committed to offering gender neutral bathrooms to patrons in our new home in Evanston. We currently offer gender neutral bathrooms to staff and artists in our backstage spaces and offices, but the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts does not currently have designated gender neutral bathrooms for patrons. This information is available on our website.
- We will continue to apply standards for Northlight events off-site where we will check in to make sure there are accessible options for restrooms including gender neutral options. We will continue to ensure there are no discriminatory policies where the event is held for all our staff, artists and guests.
- For the 2021-2022 Season, Northlight will be offering relaxed performances, closed captioning performances, and performances with audio description and touch tours, and Visual Guides to help prepare all audiences coming to the theatre. For more information visit our accessibility page.
If you have any feedback or questions about Northlight’s EDI work, please fill out this Community Feedback Form. Members of the EDI Committee will monitor these responses and reply as needed in a timely manner.