Statement on the importance of diversity & inclusion

Updated June, 2021

 

At UVic, we each have a responsibility and a role to play in creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive community. The Faculty of Fine Arts and the Department of Theatre agree that embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in all that we do is not only the right thing to do but essential for attracting and retaining people with the knowledge, perspectives and skills we need to achieve excellence.

The Department of Theatre stands with the University against racism and intolerance. As stated by President Kevin Hall on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

“Discrimination and racism exist in all our communities and cannot continue to be tolerated. As a privileged, white male settler with a leadership role at this university, I acknowledge my own complicity in benefitting from systems that are rooted in white supremacy. I reaffirm my commitment to dismantling these systems of oppression.  As a community, we are engaged in an institutional equity action planning process and I urge us to continue to dedicate ourselves to working toward actions that help us realize our collective commitments to equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism.  Together, we must stand in solidarity with all the groups who contribute to the diversity of our university and our community. “

Our commitment is a key part of the vision and values in the University’s Strategic Framework, and Indigenous Plan (2017-2022). Our goals for greater equity, diversity and inclusion are defined in and supported by several existing University policies which apply to our community members including the Policy on Human Rights, Equity and Fairness (GV0200); Discrimination and Harassment Policy (GV0205) and the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy (GV0245)—all which protect against or provide recourse for racist behaviour. Additionally, the Department of Theatre is guided by the Faculty of Fine Arts’ “Equity Plan” (2016) and the department’s updated “Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Guidelines”.

The department acknowledges that anti-discrimination work is intersectional work and a person’s experiences are shaped by the interaction of different social positions (e.g. sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, Indigeneity, racial and ethnic background, ability, faith, migration status, etc.). These interactions are rooted in interconnecting systems and structures of power that in turn produce differential experiences of privilege and oppression shaped by colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, patriarchy, transphobia, queer antagonism, trans antagonism, bi antagonism, and/or any other form of discrimination. We will continue to work to reduce all barriers, systemic and individual.

We recognize that our IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, Persons of Colour) students, staff and faculty continue to experience challenges and barriers that are not present for most white community members. As a department, we have a responsibility to understand those challenges and barriers and do what is possible to mitigate them. All students, staff and faculty are welcome to offer ideas and discuss concerns with the department chair. In addition, they can bring their concerns forward to the Equity and Human Rights office.

The university has numerous health and wellness resources that students can access as needed, as well as faculty and staff. Supports specifically for Indigenous students include the Office of Indigenous Academic & Community Engagement, Elders-in-Residence Program, talking circles, LE,NOṈET Campus Cousins and Indigenous counselling services.

Faculty and Staff Initiatives

Increasing faculty and staff diversity is a priority for the Faculty of Fine Arts and the department. This means that each new hiring process considers the tools and resources available to ensure a fair and unbiased search that supports our diversity goals. These include unconscious bias and fair hiring workshops for the committee, use of the preferential search process (Policy on Preferential or Limited Hiring), and following good practices for the assessment of candidates.

We have actively sought to expand our awareness and build skills in equity, diversity and inclusion, including anti-racism, yet, we know there is more work to be done.

Awareness and Skills Training:

  • Department has held in-house equity workshops for faculty, staff, and sessional instructors such as:
    • “Sexual Harassment on Campus” presented by Kathleen Bellamano (2016)
    • “Introduction to EQHR and Case Resolution” presented by Kylie Buday from EQHR (2017)
    • “Transgender Students” presented by Kingsley Strudwick from Ambit Gender Consulting (2019)
    • “Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Training” presented by Leah Shumka from EQHR (2019)
  • Faculty and staff attended the “Anti-Racism Awareness Workshop: Pathway to self-reflection and action” led by Dr. Moussa Magassa, University of Victoria Human Rights Educator. (2020)
  • Faculty and staff attend equity and unconscious bias workshops, anti-discrimination workshops, and Indigenous acumen training sessions organized by the Office of Indigenous Academic & Community Engagement, Equity and Human Rights Office (EQHR), the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts’ Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator, and First People’s House. (ongoing)

Committee and Planning Initiatives

  • Members of the Department of Theatre sit on the Faculty of Fine Arts’ Equity and Inclusion Committee.
  • The Department of Theatre has formed an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee with faculty, staff and student representatives. This committee has been working on an anti-racism action plan during the fall and spring and expects to deliver the plan to the department by June, 2021. 

Performance-Based Initiatives

The study, creation and performance of plays lies at the foundation of our department’s pedagogical philosophy and the important values of equity, inclusion and diversity must also be integrated into these production and curriculum-based initiatives.

  • The department will annually hold a guest production focusing on issues of diversity and inclusion, replacing the Spotlight on Alumni series. We will invite performances from groups in the community that feature more diversity, such as the Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria. Preliminary talks with the association were held in February 2020 and are in progress for a presentation in fall 2022.
  • Understanding the importance of bringing a variety of voices, artistic practices and directorial styles to the Phoenix mainstage production process, for the 2021-2022 season the department welcomes Métis theatre practitioner, director, teacher, actor, and writer Dean Gabourie, who will be the guest director for our production of Shakespeare’s Women.  Gabourie is the Founding Artistic Director of the award-winning ACME Theatre Co and was the Assistant/Associate Artistic Director with the Stratford Festival.
  • The September 2020 Indigenous Language Revitalization Festival (in planning since November 2019) has been rescheduled to September 2021. This festival in the Chief Dan George Theatre will feature the work of Indigenous artists who engage in creative work around Indigenous language issues.
  • The faculty-initiated research “Staging Equality” is a three-year initiative that looks at how people relate to identity and belonging in relation to their cultural heritage and their relationship to the Indigenous ancestral lands that we live on. Using Applied Theatre workshops, this project will engage IBPOC community members and their allies, UVic faculty, students, and staff from across campus to envision how the Phoenix Theatre can become a cultural hub for initiatives that promote decolonization and diversity. Alongside these workshops, the project will also include the creation of devised performances by IBPOC artists and students around these issues, as well as presentations by faculty and students on how research is mobilized for diversity and inclusion initiatives.  This project is funded by the UVic Strategic Framework Impact Fund.
  • The department has commissioned the development, workshopping and premiere presentation of a new musical for fall 2022. Written by Theatre professor emeritus Dr. Jennifer Wise, Tiresias tells the story of a man who was the blind clairvoyant prophet of Apollo in Thebes who was transformed to live life as a woman. Dr. Wise, who previously wrote and created A Queer Trial (2017) as a theatre course for the department’s 50th anniversary, has been consulting with UVic’s Chair in Transgender Studies, Dr. Aaron Devor. This project has been in progress since fall 2019.

Guest Artists

To expand on the perspectives presented to our students, faculty and staff, as well as the community at large, the department recognizes the need to amplify the voices of IBPOC artists as guest speakers and guest artists wherever possible.

  • In 2021, the department welcomed six guests with funding from the Orion Lecture Series in Fine Arts including Gary Farmer, Dr. Rachel Hann, Ravi Jain, Soheil Parsa, Diane Roberts and Drew Hayden Taylor. As well as their lectures, many guest artists participated in virtual classroom visits. Videos of Orion lectures are posted on our website and available for students and the community at large to view. 
  • Since 2018, the department has worked closely with the Belfry Theatre to engage Canadian theatre artists and especially IBPOC artists to connect with theatre students through on-campus talks and department-wide virtual presentations. Recordings of virtual talks remain available for students to access. Artists have included: Nina Lee Aquino, Tara Beagan, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Nigel Shawn Williams, and Maiko Yamamoto.
  • In general, individual instructors often invite professionals, scholars and alumni into their classrooms. Faculty are encouraged to bring IBPOC artists or scholars wherever possible into their classrooms. An honorarium fund can support these efforts, when available.

Student-Focused Initiatives

The department has encouraged, implemented or participated in various student-based initiatives around the importance of equity, inclusion and diversity, as well as how best to support students who experience barriers to success.

  • In coordination with UVic’s Equity and Human Rights office, the “Spotlight on Inclusion” workshop has been developed for all faculty, staff, sessionals or student working on a production. Workshops must be completed prior to the rehearsal process at least once a year. The workshop—facilitated by EQHR—addresses discrimination, harassment, sexualized violence, consent, microaggressions and other issues around equity, diversity and inclusion in the rehearsal/production process.
  • A revised Department Handbook is being developed for all theatre students that better communicates curriculum expectations for the students, department guidelines around the choice and casting of plays, as well as theatre-specific harassment policies. This guide is being will be available in September 2021 for consultation with students, staff and faculty.
  • In consultation with the department, the student-led Theatre Course Union has created a new Student Support Liaison for students to act as intermediary to help students with concerns around discrimination connect to the Chair’s office and to resources on campus.
  • The department continues to support and facilitate the sharing of student presentations and performances for other students in the Phoenix building. Many of these activities are student-driven initiatives that often explore equity, diversity and inclusion issues, including JCURA presentations (eg. Kansha, an exploration of Japanese culture and ancestry by Hannah Mariko Bell), fourth-year applied theatre and directed study presentations, and those of the Student Alternative Theatre Company (SATCo) (eg. Ngaii Duk by Justin Lee, which examined hybrid cultural identity between Canadians and the Chinese diaspora).
  • The Department of Theatre was a sponsoring partner for the Canada-wide IBPOC Theatre Grad Fair (May 3, 2021) that created networking opportunities between IBPOC theatre grads (and recent or soon-to-be grads) and offered conversations with leading Canadian artists and arts leaders about career paths. 
  • The Faculty of Fine Arts partnered with educational institutions in Victoria and Regina, SK, plus various performing arts groups (including the Belfry Theatre), to create an IBPOC arts leadership training program. This initiative is spearheaded by Theatre PhD alumnus Taiwo Afolabi, now an Assistant Professor at the University of Regina, and will run throughout 2021-22.
  • In 2019, we started offering the Tools for Change, Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response workshop to all first-year Theatre students. The plan was to ensure all students enrolled in this program for each new cohort of students; however, the program was paused in 2020 due to COVID but will continue.

Related Department Research

The department encourages and supports students and faculty in their research around issues that include equity, diversity and inclusion.

Students:

  • Dennis Gupa (PhD candidate, Ocean Networks Canada's Artist-in-Residence, Centre for Studies of Religion & Society Graduate Student Fellow [2019-2021], Center for Asia-Pacific Initiatives' Student Research Fellow [2017-2018]):  Dennis's research explores Philippine Indigenous ecological knowledge by examining sea rituals and fishing traditions in island communities affected by the onslaught of climate change. He is interested in broadening his research in applied theatre by looking at the persistence of Indigenous performance forms in Southeast Asia as social processes and interventions from the incursion of modernities and colonialism. As a theatre director, he serves as an artistic associate of Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage Society (SEACHS) and  Artistic Principal of National Pilipino Canadian Cultural Center (NPC3). Dennis is a Vanier scholar.
  • Lindsay Delaronde (PhD candidate): An Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, Lindsay is a Visual Arts MFA alumna and also holds a Master’s degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling from UVic. She was selected as the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence, and sees both her art and counseling practice as intertwined. She was also the inaugural Resurgence Coordinator for UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Her specific area of research for her Applied Theatre PhD is “Embodied Earth & Empowering Acts of Cultural Resurgence,” an exploration of resurgence in connection to Indigenous ritual and land reclamation.


Faculty:

  • Conrad Alexandrowicz (faculty member): Alexandrowicz is a director, writer and choreographer whose research and published works investigate queer and gender representation issues in performance and performance training. Recent publications include: “Straight-looking, straight-acting: Countering Effemiphobia in Actor Training” and “Acting Queer: Gender Dissidence and the Subversion of Realism.”
  • Yasmine Kandil (faculty member): Dr. Kandil is a Egyptian-born applied theatre practitioner who’s research has centered around using theatre as a tool for self-expression with communities that are disenfranchised, including the use of celebratory theatre to find deeper connections with practitioners and community groups. Her recent research includes work with Victoria’s immigrant and refugee community through the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.
  • Sasha Kovacs (faculty member): Dr. Kovacs’ research focuses on Canadian theatre historiography, with a specific interest, to date, in the construction of the performance history of late Mohawk (Kanien'kehá:ka) Six Nations poet/performer E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake). She is a co-research lead for the Staging Equality initiative mentioned above.
  • Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta (faculty member): Dr. Sadeghi-Yekta’s applied theatre research focuses on Indigenous theatre and language reawakening. Since 2016 the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Society and Kirsten have collaborate and are recipients of several SSHRC grants to engage with communities on Vancouver Island in support of Coast Salish language reawakening.