We wish to acknowledge the trauma our country and many of our artists, staff, students, volunteers, audiences, and community partners are experiencing. At Trinity Repertory Company, Black lives matter. We commit to struggle together for equity, diversity, and inclusion. We stand in solidarity with and alongside those who are committed to fighting racism, oppression, and hate. Most specifically, to our friends, colleagues, and partners of color – we see you, we love you, and your lives matter

November 19, 2021

Dear Trinity Rep Community, 

On November 14, 2021, the Providence Journal ran a review of Trinity Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol. This review contained a number of elements that were problematic from an equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism perspective. Trinity Rep has responded with a letter to the editor that, due to space constraints placed on submissions by the Journal, addresses just one issue – criticism of the theater’s land acknowledgement, which we detail below. In addition, Trinity Rep has written directly to the reviewer and editor to specifically identify the other elements that were in violation of the theater’s content guidelines, designed to protect our artists and staff from harm caused by unconscious bias.   

We understand that theatrical criticism and art criticism are subjective. We respect that reviewers will form their own opinions and do not expect that folks will all enjoy or understand every production or every aspect of a particular production. The elements that we have taken issue with have nothing to do with the artistic quality of the production, but rather the lack of knowledge on the part of a white reviewer and a white editorial staff. Our historical moment demands that greater attention is paid to the subtext of the writing; that if a production is making a concerted effort to center BIPOC voices, that effort is respected; and that stereotyping is avoided.  

As we have brought forward in our letter to the editor, in the review, the critic refers to “an opening monologue – inviting people to remember Native American tribes once populated the state, mentioning slave trade connections and urging support for people of color” as a “layer being added to Dickens’ message of humanity and kindness that feels forced.” 

That “monologue” was Trinity Rep’s land acknowledgement, developed with Native elders over the past several months and expanded to incorporate acknowledgement of Rhode Island’s participation in the Triangle Slave Trade, and will occur in some form before each of Trinity Rep’s performances going forward. It reads as follows: 

“We acknowledge the lands where Trinity Rep stands in Downtown Providence today as once the lands of the Masswascut-The Land between the two rivers, and the territory of Meshanticut, which are the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett, Pokanoket and Nipmuc people. 

“We also acknowledge that as contemporary Rhode Islanders, we hold the legacy of this state’s economic foundation through its participation in the triangle slave trade. We encourage you to research and personally acknowledge these legacies, and support our contemporary Indigenous and Black communities in actionable ways.” 

Director Joe Wilson, Jr. has chosen to weave Trinity Rep’s land acknowledgement into the opening of the show. Charles Dickens’ original story of A Christmas Carol is, after all, filled with social justice commentary – Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by his life-long neglect of his fellow humans, and Dickens enjoins his readers to examine their participation in injustice at “the most festive time of the year.” 

Dickens embedded the need for this very kind of illumination of past wrongs in his ghost story of Christmas. At the end of stave three, when we meet the most jovial of all of the spirits, Christmas Present, Scrooge notices two children clinging to his robes. “This boy is Ignorance, and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all, beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom unless the writing be erased.” Willful ignorance of past harm is antithetical to the spirit of A Christmas Carol, and therefore, these “additions” are a gloriously Dickensian part of our current production. 

Trinity Rep’s mission is to reinvent the public square with dramatic art that stimulates, educates, and engages our diverse community in a continuing dialogue. We are committed to equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. And we believe in the power of theater to create change. If the spoken land acknowledgement feels “forced” or creates discomfort, it’s worth looking at why. 

We hope that the Providence Journal will take this as an opportunity for growth and change, and we are open to further dialogue with them about the matter. 

Language or actions rooted in hate, whether intentional or not, have no place at Trinity Rep. We do not tolerate racism, discrimination, or harassment of any kind, including microaggressions. Should you have questions or comments, we invite you to reach out to us directly or contact Trinity Rep via this form.

Thank you.

Curt Columbus
Artistic Director

Jennifer Canole
Interim Executive Director 

With in-person performances finally resuming, many of Trinity Rep’s anti-racism initiatives are moving from planning phases to implementation, while more are still in their early stages. Here is an overview of the most steps we have taken since our summer update:

  • Monique Austin was hired as our new director of equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Monique started in late September and immediately began to dive into the work, including setting up meetings and open office hours, so that she could hear from all members of the staff.  Monique is part of the organization’s senior leadership and reports jointly to the artistic director and executive director.
  • Dozens of new staff were hired this summer and fall under new HR protocols. Open positions were posted more widely and in more diverse locations; all jobs included salary ranges in the postings; all finalists were interviewed by a panel of current staff to help reduce bias during the process. The result is the most diverse staff in Trinity Rep’s history.
  • A team of professional facilitators has been identified to lead internal affinity groups. We will start with two – one for BIPOC staff and one for white allies. These are expected to start later this fall.
  • Community Agreements are being shared with all audience members in pre-show emails and in the programs they receive. These agreements ask audience members to adhere to a code of conduct that shows respect for others, including fellow audience members, staff, and artists.
  • Members of the Trinity Rep staff met with Native elders to develop a Land Acknowledgement that recognizes that  the lands where Trinity Rep stands in Downtown Providence today as once the lands of the Masswascut-The Land between the two rivers, and the territory of Meshanticut, which are the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett, Pokanoket and Nipmuc people.
  • Press guidelines were created and distributed to critics, editors, and feature writers to ensure that harmful biases and microaggressions are not included in reviews and articles about our work.
  • The Board of Trustees passed our strategic plan in mid-October. The strategic plan is rooted in four strategic pillars to pursue over the next three years: serving as an artistic home;  reinvigorating the Lederer Theater Center facility; providing deep community value and service; and being an anti-racist organization.

As our work towards being an anti-racist organization continues, we welcome feedback from our community. Feedback on this work can be shared at www.trinityrep.com/antiracism.

Developed by the Anti-Racism Transformation Committee, 2020-21

Analyze Power: We acknowledge that power is exercised in the social, economic, and political relations between individuals and groups. It is also unequally distributed – some individuals and groups having greater control over the sources of power and others having little or no control.

We aim to do this by:

  • Using a racial equity lens: Analyzing and identifying barriers to entry and systems/structures that prevent certain communities from engaging with Trinity Rep
  • Including historically marginalized communities and acknowledging past failings in this area
  • Acknowledging power and privilege and actively participating in personal work to challenge internalized racism and oppression
  • Using Consensus Decision Making throughout this work

Never a failure, always a lesson: We acknowledge that we will make mistakes; we commit to enhance our learning through productive failure.

We aim to do this by:

  • Maintaining aspirational and achievable goals
  • Creating space to hear feedback from community and stakeholders
  • Applying multiple approaches to solving problems
  • Being prepared to re-evaluate and adjust goals throughout our work

Adaptable and Flexible: We commit to quickly reconfigure capabilities, infrastructure, and resources as needed.

We aim to do this by:

  • Using a multi-modal approach to engagement and disseminating information

Transparency/Accountability: To work with integrity requires that we be accountable to the communities we serve paying particular attention to those struggling with racist and class oppression.

We aim to do this by:

  • Acknowledging this priority publicly and regularly throughout our work
  • Establishing lines of regular communication with various teams/stakeholders as well as the general public
  • Clearly stating principles, values, and goals and making them public
  • Being honest (internally as well as with stakeholders and the public) about the priorities throughout, especially if/when they change
  • Listening to the concerns, stories, and histories told by BIPOC and other impacted communities across race, class, religion, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and social class, and learning from and working to respond to these interactions
  • Acknowledging limitations and being prepared to explain why and how certain decisions were made

Move at the speed of trust: We believe we must increase trust and reduce fears that create barriers to participation, experimentation, and passion that is so crucial to community engagement.

We aim to do this by:

  • Empowering community leaders and involving them in decision-making roles
  • Establishing accountability within these relationships
  • We engage in tension, not drama. When we face conflict or disagreement we follow these steps:
    • Acknowledge
    • Actively listen
    • Review options
    • Decide next steps

Trinity Rep’s work to become an actively anti-racist organization continues. As the full return of staff, artists, and audiences to our spaces draws closer, our anti-racism work continues to move from planning and strategizing to implementing concrete changes. In recent months, several steps were taken to put structures in place at the staff and board levels to support our work throughout the organization.

In June, our consultants from Equity Institute and CORAJUS completed their work with us and presented their strategic plan recommendations to the staff and Board of Trustees. The strategic planning committee of the board will now incorporate those recommendations into the organization’s next strategic plan, due to be complete this fall.

During their Annual Meeting in June, the Board of Trustees elected five new trustees, all of whom identify as people of color. You can read more about each of the new trustees here. At the same meeting, the board voted to amend the by-laws to create a new standing committee: the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Committee. Chaired by trustee Sean Holley, this group will ensure that work is being done at the board level as well as by the staff to make our organization more just and equitable.   

In June, as we recruited for 30 positions, we implemented diverse hiring panels for all final round interviews. All panelists have received implicit bias training. We also transitioned to a new Human Resources Management System to standardize and improve our recruitment and onboarding processes.

In July, a new senior management-level position was posted, the Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (EDIA). This position will work to advance our EDIA goals in every aspect of our work.

While we expect the new Director of EDIA to lead the charge on a number of initiatives, some are already well under way, while others are starting to take shape. Staff members and artists who have been serving on the Core Team of the Anti-Racism Transformation Committee have started work to create affinity groups for staff, artists, and board, and are working to identify facilitators for those groups. To start, two groups will be formed, one for BIPOC people and one for white allies, though the long-term plan is to expand to more groups in the future.

With these changes to the board and staff structure, we expect continued progress toward our goal of being an anti-racist organization. Further updates will be posted this fall. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please complete the form at the bottom of this page.

As of July 27, 2021

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion — the Work Is Ongoing

We are approaching one year since the murder of George Floyd and the beginning of the nationwide reckoning with systemic racism that it inspired. Among the results of this reckoning was the formation of We See You White American Theatre (WSYWAT), a collective of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) theater artists who called upon the county’s predominantly white theater organizations to make substantial changes to practices that have and continue to cause harm to BIPOC artists, audiences, and communities while supporting systemic racism.

Though Trinity Rep had begun doing work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in 2016, we listened to what WSYWAT and, more importantly, what our own BIPOC artists detailed in a letter to Trinity Rep and its leadership, about the harm we have caused, the harm we continue to perpetuate, and the many ways in which anti-racism and DEI have not been integrated into the artistic and financial life of Trinity Rep. Consequently, Trinity Rep then started on a journey to become actively antiracist, and we want to inform the community of the steps we have taken toward creating an anti-racist culture, with the understanding that these steps, which lead to some measurable goals, are and should always be, in progress.

Last fall, per the request of our BIPOC artists, we hired consultants to provide guidance and training. We have been honored to work with Sylvia Spears, Kelvin Dinkins, CORAJUS, and Equity Institute throughout the past nine months and have benefited immensely from their expertise. We also convened two teams of staff, artists, board members, and community members to lead us on this journey, one core working group (which meets weekly) and one larger advisory group (which meets monthly).

Our consultants have provided a series of trainings to our staff and board of trustees, including bystander training for all staff and acting company members, anti-bias training for hiring managers, and scaffolding change for board and senior management. The teams from CORAJUS and Equity Institute also conducted a comprehensive audit of our current and past practices through interviews, staff surveys, and a review of data and materials. Following the collection and analysis of this data, in partnership with the internal working groups, they are developing a three-year DEI-informed strategic plan that will be presented to the board of trustees for review and approval at their annual meeting in June.

In addition to participating in trainings, the entire staff has also been actively working to review how their individual departments can contribute to becoming a more equitable organization. To produce theater in a more humane way, the production departments have changed the rehearsal and performance schedule for next season to institute five-day work weeks, replacing the industry-standard six-day weeks. We also eliminated the “10 out of 12” days of the technical rehearsal process, which call for actors, designers, and crew to work 10 hours in a 12-hour window. The production schedule also eliminated overlapping shows, when both theaters have plays on stage at the same time.

Changes like these improve working conditions and work-life balance for all staff and artists and were explicitly included by BIPOC artists in their demands. Other changes, like training for the costume department on Black hair and make-up will specifically help us to better support BIPOC actors.

Other departments are also working through what they can do to contribute. For example, the development staff has been evaluating what changes it will make to its methodologies and donor benefits, and the marketing team will be making changes to where advertising is placed and considering all promotional language through the eyes of the BIPOC artists involved. Meanwhile, our education staff is replacing some of the texts used in their classes to be more inclusive, and our community engagement department continues to find opportunities to elevate voices and perspectives not always at the forefront of conversations. A new senior management position, the Director of Service and Experience, was created to de-centralize the transactional relationship between the theater and its patrons and place more focus on the theater experience and relationships. In addition, salaries across the organization have been increased to meet the national medians for the theater industry and to increase pay transparency and equity within the organization.

The changes most visible to the general public, however, are being made by the artistic department in the choice of plays we produce and the artists who will be hired to produce these plays. The 2021-22 Season, was chosen to give more BIPOC playwrights, directors, designers, and artists a creative voice within our community, a decision that will extend into every season to come at Trinity Rep.

Our work in DEI and anti-racism is also seen in our new green initiatives, since climate change disproportionately affects low income and marginalized communities. As a start, we have committed to increasing our recycling efforts, using paper in our printed pieces that contain more recycled (post-consumer waste) material; making play programs available in digital form; generally reducing the amount of paper used to communicate with patrons, including encouraging the use of digital tickets; reducing the amount of plastic in our concession offerings; partnering with other arts organizations to share used or discarded set materials; and increasing our use of LED lights in our buildings and onstage.

The enthusiasm for this work throughout the organization, from the staff and artists to the board, has given us great optimism for the future. Though significant steps have been taken in the past year, the commitment to making Trinity Rep an anti-racist organization with DEI as a guiding principle is an ongoing process. Next season’s budget includes dedicated resources for this work, including continued training, the establishment of affinity groups, and a new staff position dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Another aspect of our commitment is transparency — letting our community know what we’re doing and inviting your feedback. So far, we have found that collaborative and non-hierarchical work may take longer, but it yields results that are more robust, inclusive of different perspectives, and ultimately more successful and more readily embraced by everyone.

We invite you to submit your feedback or questions about this work at the bottom of this page. Submissions can be sent anonymously, though contact information is needed for anyone looking for a direct reply.

We have a long way to go. Thank you for being part of this journey with us and for holding us accountable.

As of May 17, 2021

Consultants from The Equity Institute and CORAJUS, with input from Trinity Rep staff, compiled this Social Justice Glossary.

Trinity Rep’s work toward being an anti-racist theater continues. Since our October 2020 update, our Anti-Racism Transformation Committee has been meeting and laying the groundwork for the creation of the strategic plan, our consultants from Equity Institute/CORAJUS progress in gathering and analyzing data, and trainings began with our Board of Trustees and staff.

Committee Update
Due to the size of the Anti-Racism Transformation Committee, we changed the structure of the committee. After soliciting interest from committee members, our consultants selected a group to serve on a Core Team, plus additional advisors. This smaller, representative Core Team will work more closely with the consulting team to support and drive the work forward, reporting to and gaining feedback from the larger committee during the auditing and strategic planning process. The Core Team includes Amanda Downing Carney (staff), Mia Ellis (artist), Kate Kataja (staff), Jude Sandy (artist), Ken Sigel (board), and Sylvia Spears (community). Marta Martinez (community), Tom Parrish (leadership), and Joe Wilson Jr. (artist) will serve in advisory roles to provide feedback and input on strategies and tactics. The selection process included identifying at least one member of each stakeholder group represented on the larger committee (staff, leadership, artists, board, community). The consultants also considered racial, ethnic, gender, sexuality, and other identities to ensure having various perspectives and experiences represented. 

In recent meetings, the committee has heard the feedback and recommendations from our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) resident artists and discussed preliminary top-level results of a survey of current and former staff, students, artists, and the community at-large.

In an effort to deepen Trinity’s capacity to become an anti-racist organization and to create spaces where people can grow their understanding and develop common understandings in a supportive environment, Trinity will be moving forward with the creation of affinity spaces. The Core Team will be working over the coming weeks to lead this effort.

Consultant Update
In addition to facilitating the work of the Anti-Racism Transformation Committee, our consultants are also developing a social justice glossary so that the organization has a reference that provides basic working definitions to facilitate shared discussions. The glossary will be a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, listing of terminology used in our conversations about racism and equity.

Trinity presented the consultants with documents, policies, and materials that they are in the process of reviewing as part of their discovery and auditing work. The Core Team provided the consultants with recommendations for one-on-one interviews and focus group participation, which will be occurring over the coming weeks.

Training Update
The Board of Trustees has participated in three workshops, all providing a foundation for the board as they consider what it means to be an anti-racist organization. Kelvin Dinkins led them on a two-part Scaffolding Change workshop in November and December. Sylvia Spears led a January anti-racism workshop to examine what anti-racist work is at the individual and organizational level, and begin to explore how anti-racist principles can inform and support Trinity Rep’s transformational aspirations.

A training for managers was held during the first week of February, focusing on recruitment, unconscious bias, and hiring practices. A full staff training that includes bystander training will be scheduled in March.

The discovery phase will continue through the winter in preparation for the creation of an Anti-Racism strategic plan in the spring. After review and input from the core and full committee, staff, and community members, the plan will be submitted for approval by the Board of Trustees at the Annual Meeting in June.

As of February 8, 2021

Last month, we announced our commitment to anti-racism and promised updates as we progressed through the journey. Here is our first update. We invite our community to provide feedback by replying to this email or completing the anonymous form at the bottom of this page.

Within days of the Board of Trustees voting to form the Anti-Racism Transformation Committee, the group was fully constituted and interviews were scheduled with potential consulting partners. The committee selected an incredible combination of consultants, who each bring unique expertise to our process.

We are looking forward to working with Michaela Pommells from CORAJUS (Coalition for Racial Justice); Karla Vigil and Carlon Howard from Equity Institute; and Kelvin Dinkins from Dinkins Consulting. The committee is meeting weekly and is beginning to gather information to conduct an audit of our current and past practices.

Anti-Racism Transformation Committee Members

Resident Acting Company
Daniel Duque-Estrada
Mia Ellis
Jude Sandy
Stephen Thorne
Joe Wilson, Jr.

Amanda Downing Carney
Curt Columbus, artistic director
Michelle Cruz
Kate Kataja
Tom Parrish, executive director

Marta V. Martínez, Rhode Island Latino Arts
Theresa Moore, T-Time Productions
Sylvia Spears, vice president for equity and social justice, Emerson College

Board of Trustees
Lou Giancola
Sean Holley
Ken Sigel
Donna Vanderbeck

As of October 20, 2020

Trinity Repertory Company’s mission is to reinvent the public square with dramatic art that stimulates, educates, and engages our diverse community in a continuing dialogue. To advance this mission, we publicly committed in 2017 to struggle together for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

As our community and country grapple with the trauma of centuries of racial injustice, groups like We See You White American Theatre and our own community of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists have told us that our initial steps have not gone far enough and that we have caused and continue to cause harm and pain, which we acknowledge. With humility, Trinity Rep thanks them for their labor in documenting and communicating important demands for our industry and organization. Their voices have been guiding our conversations in truly meaningful ways in recent weeks.

Trinity Rep acknowledges our complicit and too-often active involvement in upholding and benefiting from structures of racism and oppression. We are committing now to go further and take steps toward healing in our community. As this work is so vital to our mission, we will take the time necessary to be deliberate and center the voices of BIPOC individuals in reimagining what our theater and community can be as we rebuild our organization and industry back from the destructive effects of the pandemic.

We resolve to immediately and meaningfully place anti-racism at the center of our work. We are committed to developing, sharing, and holding ourselves accountable to short- and long-term goals, with full recognition that this work has no endpoint. We acknowledge that our goals and methods will evolve as we continue through this iterative process, though our intent is to complete the planning phase and foundational actions for this work by June 2021.

We begin now with the following action items and process commitments:

  • Charter a non-hierarchical and representative Anti-Racism Transformation Committee to lead this effort over the coming 10 months to gather input on how Trinity Rep has contributed to systemic racism in our community and to define the steps and timeline the organization will take to develop and implement a bold new vision for theater making, education, and community engagement for Trinity Rep, founded on the principles of genuine equity and anti-racism.
  • Retain an experienced firm or individual(s) by the end of September 2020 to provide consulting, training, and facilitation services for the continued advancement of Trinity Rep’s equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and anti-racism goals and initiatives.
  • Establish mandatory formal anti-racism training and an expectation for continued learning for board, artists, and staff, including cultural competency and bystander training, while committing resources for intensive initial trainings and ongoing trainings to ensure the work continues.
  • Review and revise all current practices, policies, procedures, stated values, codes of conduct, systems, and structures to better align with anti-racist values. The review will include, but is not limited to recruiting, hiring, performance evaluation, and compensation; programming; funding; and the effectiveness of employee resources and benefits.
  • Host an EDI/anti-racism working discussion forum for board, artists, staff, students, and community members.
  • Engage all members of the board, staff, resident acting company, partners, patrons, students, and other community members in our process, including the creation and structural support of affinity groups, without placing the emotional labor of the work on our BIPOC staff and artists.
  • Develop a new EDI/anti-racism strategic plan, which will include specifically defining what it means for Trinity Rep to be an anti-racist organization with measurable goals, metrics, and reporting systems.

This is a living and dynamic process that will be updated and shared publicly based on our ongoing work and the feedback received from within and outside the organization. We invite input on these actions from any member of our community, which can be submitted below. We pledge to protect from retribution those who speak out or hold us accountable for this work. Updates on our progress and specific goals and actions will be published publicly at least once each quarter.

Thank you for holding us accountable and for joining us on this journey to move our community forward.

As of September 11, 2020

We acknowledge the lands where Trinity Rep stands in Downtown Providence today as once the lands of the Masswascut-The Land between the two rivers, and the territory of Meshanticut, which are the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett, Pokanoket and Nipmuc people.

We also acknowledge that as contemporary Rhode Islanders, we hold the legacy of this state’s economic foundation through its participation in the triangle slave trade. We encourage you to research and personally acknowledge these legacies, and support our contemporary Indigenous and Black communities in actionable ways.

Feedback Form

This is a living and dynamic process that will be updated and shared publicly based on our ongoing work and the feedback received from within and outside the organization. We invite input on these actions from any member of our community, which can be submitted below. We pledge to protect from retribution those who speak out or hold us accountable for this work. Updates on our progress and specific goals and actions will be published publicly at least once each quarter.

Please note that name and email fields are not required so that feedback may be shared anonymously, but if you would like a reply, please include contact information.