Ensemble director Rachel Grossman reflects on some of dog & pony dc’s recent activities as part of the Weissberg Foundation’s Fund for Diversity in Theater cohort and how it’s part of our theatre company’s developing docket of programming: 

“An emphasis on diversity may lead to a lack of quality in theater.” This statement was the last in a list of six put before cohort members of the Weissberg Foundation’s Fund for Diversity in Theater. The statements were designed to get us thinking about our values, beliefs, and actions. Individually did we believe this? Did we see this belief perpetuated field-wide? What are the assumptions that supported this belief and the behaviors that perpetuated its existence? What could we as theatre managers do to interrupt and disrupt beliefs that support systemic oppression in our field?

At this same meeting, the artistic director of Adventure Theatre MTC Michael Bobbitt and I announced that we would be co-hosting a networking event in July to highlight local theatre designers of color, who are disabled, or who are Deaf. Our friends at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company graciously agreed to provide space and beverage support (instrumental components!). Michael and I saw this “Portfolio Review and Meet-Up” as an experiment, the first of hopefully many events over the upcoming years that would emphasize diversity in order to lead to higher quality theater.

Yes, Michael and I (and many other people) agree that diversity is integral because it results in increased quality in theatre, not the opposite. Bringing more different people in the room, allowing for the authentic exchange of varying perspectives and experiences with one another, leads to richer, more complex and interesting productions that entertain, educate, delight, and challenge.

Fast forward to July 20–event day. We had fifteen designers and forty representatives from theatre companies of all sizes casually getting to know each other over lunch for three hours. Some of the people in the room lived and worked in the same community for a decade and a half, and yet had never met. While we are in the process of collecting detailed data, all signs indicate that the event was a success and there will be more equity, diversity, and inclusion -driven “meet-ups” in the future.

The July 20th event is the type of experience that theatre companies typically might expect “arts service organizations” to host at our request, bodies like theatreWashington, Theatre Communications Group, Network of Ensemble Theatres, or even the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. (Thank you to all of them for the amazing resources and opportunities they provide us!) But there comes a time when we ourselves must mobilize and act in order to make positive change happen in our own hometown, region, or across the country.

It seemed odd to the ears and eyes when I first articulated that dog & pony dc was a theatre “performance, advocacy, and service organization.” However: the more we as a company lean into making our work accessible to the widest possible audience base (so anyone who wants to “complete our ensemble” can) the more we need to lean into making our staff, board, and community of collaborators as diverse as possible. As time passes, and the more we lean, the more we want to include others. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion does not end with us; we must work internally and externally to our company.

Therefore: you can expect that dog & pony dc will make new plays and interactive arts experiences as well as host meet-ups and discussion groups. As a theatre company, we’re focused on inspiring self-discovery, forging new relationships, and championing social change. We believe the representation and inclusion of diverse narratives and people of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences throughout our company (and our community) is a responsibility and honor. We hope you join us on this journey.

dog & pony dc’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Statement:
The representation and inclusion of people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences in our ensemble, board, and audience leads to the creation of a more beautiful, joyful, and just world. The ensemble and board’s commitment to this enhances our work, and therefore the D.C. community and dog & pony dc’s growing global audience.