What you do echoes through the generations. – Barack Obama
Drayton Entertainment is a registered not-for-profit charitable arts organization that produces professional live theatre at seven theatres in mostly rural communities throughout Ontario: the Drayton Festival Theatre (Drayton), King’s Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene), Huron Country Playhouse including the Mainstage and recently renamed South Huron Stage (Grand Bend), St. Jacobs Country Playhouse and Schoolhouse Theatre (St. Jacobs), and Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge (Cambridge).
Drayton Entertainment’s artistic mandate includes a mix of Broadway musicals, comedies, jukebox tribute shows, family programming including our annual pantos, and occasional classic dramas. Long-term stability is assured by successfully balancing the demands of quality theatre, fiscal responsibility, and community integrity.
Drayton Entertainment is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors whose desire, from the company’s 1991 inception, is that theatre remains affordable, with comparatively low ticket prices, and accessible to all.
Drayton Entertainment continues to meet the cultural, educational, and social needs of its audience through innovative programs designed to engage people at every age and stage of life. This includes family-friendly programming, fundraising travel getaways and events for seniors, a robust 400-person volunteer program, arts training program for young pre-professionals, school matinees, and a Youth Musical Theatre Program, which allows children and teens to strengthen their skills in all components of live theatre while instilling vital life skills to make them valuable members of society.
These accomplishments are particularly noteworthy because they have been achieved without any assistance for operating funds from any level of government or arts council (including the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Department of Canadian Heritage). For daily operating needs, the organization is completely self-sufficient with 75% of its annual budget realized through ticket sales, and the remainder through fundraising, sponsorship, and donations.
Note about COVID-19
In short, the global pandemic has had a devastating effect on the theatre industry. Right now, Drayton Entertainment is not producing or presenting any productions or events. The majority of the administrative staff were laid off in March, 2020 and those few that remain operate under reduced hours from virtual settings, including their homes. Production departments have ceased operations. The season cancellation has meant all Front of House staff (full-time and part-time) have been furloughed. Sadly, all artist and creative contracts have been terminated. It is impossible to predict when live theatre will be safe, permitted, and viable. There are things we can do internally to prepare for our return to business, but the timelines of the public activities continue to be adversely affected by the closures and restrictions due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
Purpose of this document
This document is, in part, our organization’s acknowledgment and participation in our industry’s and community’s response to the countless acts of exclusion and violence toward Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community members that have elicited a global shift acknowledging historical and systemic racial injustice. It is a declaration of interlinked strategies – comprehensive, but by no means exhaustive – and remains subject to amendment.
More than a response to current events, this is a living document, identifying new initiatives and marking our company’s progress toward Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We do not have all the answers today, or all of our plans in place, but we are committed to doing the important work that is necessary.
Focus on anti-racism
At this time, our focus is on racial injustice, while at the same time we recognize that as a larger organization we can be agents for social change regarding gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities. We are energized by current events to move forward against all forms of inequity and injustice. Social forces and identities are intersectional. This is also to be a document against which we track our progress on all fronts beyond the current focus.
Listening and learning
We are listening and learning. Drayton Entertainment has used this unique opportunity to take the time to reflect on what we are learning. We are acutely aware that this global moment of listening has come late and that learning is slow. It is important that we get this right so we can act definitively to move our industry toward real change.
Communication and action
Drayton Entertainment is urgently being called upon for communication and evidence of action. Our words must lead to meaningful action and our action plan must be implemented with rigour. We must hold ourselves accountable for the results. This is not to alleviate our discomfort and criticism, which we embrace as part of the process of change. Our communication must reflect our core values, and align with our company’s mission, business model, and vision for our organization, our industry, and our country.
Devising the action plan
We recognize that it is our nontransferable responsibility to do the important work of reviewing and aligning our values and policies on race. It is our work to educate ourselves and evaluate our participation in a racially unjust system, and then to create, continue, and accelerate Drayton Entertainment’s anti-racism action plan – an action plan committed to developing intentional strategies to welcome and uplift marginalized identities within our field through land acknowledgement, dissolving barriers to casting, and the recognition of systemic racism to be dismantled generationally through arts education and training.
In addition, we will engage (and compensate where necessary) guides, educators, Elders, consultants, artists, and collaborators from the BIPOC communities. Our volunteer Board of Directors and members of our audience will also advise and assist us on our journey. We gratefully acknowledge the advice and assistance we have received to date from BIPOC artists and artistic leaders from Black and Indigenous companies in formulating this planning document.
We are currently updating our inclusive language and identities in our earlier-written documents.
Values Statement (in part), April 2009
“Drayton Entertainment is committed to promoting a wide opportunity of access at all levels. It recognizes that this policy will enhance and enrich all concerned by inclusivity of experience gained… Drayton Entertainment prohibits discrimination because of race, disability, colour, creed, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, military or veteran status, or any other protected classification. This policy applies to all activities of Drayton Entertainment, including but not limited to employment, selection of volunteers, service industry, purchasing and selecting vendors or consultants.” – Board of Directors Manual
Respectful Workspace Statement (in part), 2017
“The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association are committed to the pursuit of respectful workspaces and support for those who have experienced or witnessed toxic behaviours. We will not put up with conduct that is meant to undermine the dignity or self-esteem of an individual, or which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Artists and engagers must speak up against harassment and stand together in addressing problems when they arise.” – Not in Our Space Campaign, Drayton Entertainment as a member of PACT, is participatory
Human Resources Policy (in part), revised March, 2019
“Drayton Entertainment is committed to fostering, supporting, and celebrating a workplace environment that respects the unique characteristics, skills and experiences of all employees where difference is valued. Our goal is to have employees feel empowered to share their experiences and ideas in regards to race, gender, ancestry, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, disability, thinking styles, opinions, and life experiences. Diversity benefits individuals, the theatre industry, and the various communities in which Drayton Entertainment operates. Drayton Entertainment believes that by further increasing the variety of perspectives resulting from diversity, the organization will become more creative, flexible, and productive as it continues to serve its customers.” – Drayton Entertainment Human Resources Policy Manual
Diversity in Casting Declaration, May 2018, updated August 2020
“Drayton Entertainment is committed to inclusion and diversity in casting without regard to race, religion, colour, age, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, neurodiversity, physical disability, deafness, social-economic status, thinking styles, opinions or any other aspect which makes people unique, authentic and whole.” – Drayton Entertainment’s Statement on the Canadian Actor’s Equity Audition E-Drive
Social Media Statement, June 8, 2020
“Recent events remind us all how far we have to go to address gross discrimination, inequalities, and injustices. Drayton Entertainment stands in solidarity with people of colour in our communities and around the world. The live performance arts are needed now more than ever to give voice to these extraordinary times. We are listening and learning how to be better allies toward change. We recognize that now is the time to educate ourselves and take further action. Join us by going to www.blacklivesmatter.ca for learning and action.” – posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, our Website
Map of Ontario with theatres labelled in their respective locations.The Drayton Festival Theatre, Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre, the Northfield Production Centre and the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy in Waterloo are situated within the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee, and Neutral peoples (called Attawandaron by the Huron) on the Haldimand Tract, land promised in the Haldimand Treaty to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
Penetanguishene is located on land which is the traditional and treaty territory of the Anishinabek people, now known as the Chippewa Tri-Council comprised of Beausoleil First Nation, Rama First Nation and the Georgina Island First Nation. We also recognize that the nearby town of Midland is located on the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and the historic homelands of the Métis.
The lands on which Huron Country Playhouse is situated were inhabited by the Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi known as the Anishinaabeg and the Delaware known as Lunaapeew at the time of Treaty #2; Treaty #7; Treaty #29, before which earlier Indigenous people travelled these lands.
It is through their connection with the spirit of the land, water and air that we recognize their unique culture, traditions, and values. It is their belief that they are part of the land that sustains all life, and it is the sacred responsibility of all people to ensure that the environment remains protected.
*To be included where other credits and acknowledgements appear such as in House Programs, Season Theatre Guide, on our Website, etc. We continue to study the history of these lands and their peoples and will update our land acknowledgements with our findings.
Recognition of Systemic Racism
We acknowledge systemic racism as existing and permeating all aspects of societal life. This form of racism is not just a personal trait as evidenced by an overtly abhorrent act. It can and does exist in a historically entrenched system that sets barriers and disadvantages for some races for the benefit and advantages of another. Our attempts at inclusion require a more effective dismantling of the social, economic and cultural barriers that have been built around race. Drayton Entertainment acknowledges its participation in an industry that reflects and perpetuates a system of racial injustice. We are learning about the unconscious biases and deeply rooted prejudices ingrained in the hiring and casting processes.
Canada, Ontario demographics
Our goal is to represent the makeup of Canadian Society and the cultural experiences of its people.
From the Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, we learn Ontario’s Indigenous* population is the highest in Canada at 2.8%. Stats-Can also states the Indigenous population of Canada is 4.9% which includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
The 2016 Census states 3.5% of the Canadian population are identified as Black Canadians*. The province of Ontario has a percentage of 4.7%, enhanced largely by the Toronto percentage of 8.9%. This represents an increase from 10 years earlier when the 2006 Census states 2.5% of the national population identified as Black, although it is now thought that the percentage was seriously understated.
Notably, there is a substantial increase in immigration coming into southern Ontario, a greater percentage of whom are Black and People of Colour. Whereas 10% of the growth in the Canadian population came from immigration in the 2006 census, the current high population growth is driven by significant international migratory growth. Stats-Can reports, “Levels unequalled since the beginning of the current estimate program started in July of 1971”. It is now determined that immigration accounts for 82.2% of Canada’s population growth and with that growth, comes more diversity.
Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers (1945 to 1965) on which Drayton Entertainment’s audience was initially mostly built, now make up more than 50% of seniors (51.1%), who are not reproducing themselves in as significant numbers. The second and third-generation offspring under the age of 15, for the first time in history, do not outnumber the seniors. Meanwhile, Indigenous population growth is reportedly greater than non-Indigenous population growth.
We are clearly in a major generational shift in the composition of the Canadian population that will bring about change in the regions we serve. Our regions will be significantly enhanced by the incoming new, younger, culturally diverse Canadians.
Demographics regarding our communities served
Drayton Entertainment strives to enhance the cultural life of underserved areas in Ontario while simultaneously benefiting local economies. The seven venues are situated in mostly rural communities, where BIPOC in these regions are significantly below the national and provincial averages:
- Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton (pop: 2,111; total visible minority* population: 5.6%).
- King’s Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishene (pop: 8,962; total visible minority population: 1.4%; total Indigenous population: 18.4%).
- Huron Country Playhouse: Mainstage & South Huron Stage, Grand Bend (pop: 2,683; total visible minority population: 1.1%).
- St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre & St. Jacobs Country Playhouse (pop: 1,988; total visible minority population: 2.4%).
- Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge (pop: 129,920; total visible minority population: 15.6%).
*Statistics-Canada notes the controversial and changing identification of people as Indigenous, Visible Minorities and Black Canadians as it relates to data collection. We will do more study to contextualize Stats-Can’s statistics as they pertain to our regions.
Current numbers of BIPOC performers engaged at Drayton Entertainment
The following accounting was done to neither absolve nor shame Drayton Entertainment. It establishes a starting point. If we are to do better, we need to know our starting numbers to be able to compare and track our progress.
From 2016 to 2020 we cast 146* BIPOC performers (of which 119 are Black):
- to perform 56 roles prescribed in the script to be BIPOC
- and 90 roles not prescribed to be BIPOC
- of which 53 roles were feature roles
- and 6 leading roles
- for an average of 29 BIPOC per year, which is 10.2% of an average 286 contracts per year.
- for an average of 24 Black performers per year, which is 8.4% of an average of 286 contracts per year (compared to 4.7% of the population of Ontario).
*Approximately 40% of the contracts are “transfers” (playing multiple runs at multiple venues) which is equivalent to two, three or four contracts, but counted here as one.
*Included are pending offers. Contracting was interrupted by COVID for 14 roles cast with BIPOC.
*Not included, are the BIPOC children in the children’s choruses and school productions.
From 2016 to 2020 we presented 88 productions:
- 49 productions included BIPOC performers or 56%
- 58% of the productions we cast had BIPOC performers excluding “presented productions”: Ladies Foursome (2016), Cruisin’ Classics (2018), and Glory (2019) over which we did not have casting control.
Barriers in casting
Drayton Entertainment built audiences over three decades by cultivating their appetite for high-quality entertainment. In meeting the demand we created, we are now one of the larger employers of creatives and performers in Canada, playing an increasing role in supporting professional artistic life. Our fare is a mix of Broadway musicals, comedies, jukebox tribute shows, family programming including our annual pantos, and occasional classic dramas, requiring a high level and variety of specific skills from the large number of performers we engage each season.
In working to meet the casting demands, we’ve expanded our search using an increasing number of new and traditional avenues of casting. Traditional avenues include calling for submissions from agents, and posting invitations for artists’ direct submissions on our website and on Canadian Actors’ Equity Association’s E-Drive. We ask for recommendations from colleges, universities, other theatre companies, directors and choreographers, and other performing artists and creatives. And, we hold play-specific and general auditions.
The script-specified needs for BIPOC performers, and our desire to increasingly fill unspecified roles with BIPOC, means a BIPOC performer is more likely going to be considered. However, we rarely receive enough submissions of experienced BIPOC in numbers proportional to the scripted and created opportunities.
Drayton Entertainment recognizes the barriers to access begin to impede inclusion long before the casting calls. Working artists attribute their success in the performing arts to early life experiences, which is reinforced with opportunities throughout the stages of their artistic development. The stream for working artists, of opportunity leading to experience leading to opportunity, for a BIPOC artist can be, instead, a circularity of no opportunity leading to inadequate experience leading to lost opportunities. If performing arts organizations don’t break the circularity early, the system can be virtually impenetrable for BIPOC.
Drayton Entertainment recognizes the need to use other ways and means, to further increase its range and depth in casting. For example, Drayton Entertainment has made use of video submissions so we can consider actors from across Canada. This effectively overcomes physical, scheduling and financial barriers for BIPOC that are common features of live auditions. Actors’ “reels” are also more easily and affordably assembled in the social media era, by which theatres can get a better understanding of an actor’s experience and capability. Asking for reels has increased the number and percentage of BIPOC artists we are able to consider in casting, no matter how distant or remote the artist’s location.
Drayton Entertainment recognizes the need to expand its use of traditional casting calls. We mainly rely on regular providers of new casting ideas – agents, guest directors, college instructors, other theatres, artistic directors, stage managers, actors, casting websites (like Casting Workbook), and from e-posts on e-Drive and our own website. As we look farther, we acknowledge we also need to look deeper through an open lens, to see the suitability of candidates without preconceptions and biases.
We need help. We need new ideas, new practices, new providers and new partners in casting. We are collecting lists of educators, Elders, consultants and collaborators from the BIPOC communities to advise and assist us. We are especially interested in the recent emergence of companies that will advise and assist organizations like Drayton Entertainment in finding BIPOC performers.
In short, our work must go beyond making adjustments to a traditional system of entrenched attitudes that puts the onus to break through the barriers on those for whom the barriers exist.
Drayton Entertainment also agrees that racism is intersectional with sexism, ableism, ageism, heteronormativity and transphobia. To address one of these marginalized communities requires attention be given to all of them. From casting through the artist’s entire experience with Drayton Entertainment, we know we require new codes of conduct, new comprehensive training, and ongoing respect, recognition and protection of human differences.
Please also see Audition Addendum – Audition FAQs
Systemic Racism, Systemic Change
An individual's circumstances are attributed to their traits, character and abilities, often ignoring or underestimating the additional societal challenges being placed in the way of that individual's entire race in developing and demonstrating those abilities. The issue is the system that provides racialized people with inadequate access to ways and means of success, and then blatantly or unconsciously applies biases to deny them advancement.
Over centuries, oppression of races for the benefit of another has solidified into systemic racism. Our society continues to harbour strongly-held prejudices and unconscious biases regarding race. Today, the spotlight is on the depth of the social, political and historical inequities and injustice. Eradicating deeply-rooted systemic racism will take considerable time and effort. Drayton Entertainment is committed to playing its role in bringing about systemic change.
After 30 years of operation and growth, Drayton Entertainment understands that theatre can contribute to positive social change and improve people’s lives with its themes of compassion and understanding. What’s new is our concerted energy to ensure that the themes of humanity in our art form are taught earlier, and BIPOC are actively provided access to all roles in our artistic processes at a younger age.
Drayton Entertainment can play a major role in what is developing as a generational shift in our industry.
Over time, we have seen the impact we can have on the lives of young Canadians through arts education and training. Recently, prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, we took a closer look at the Kitchener-Waterloo area where we were looking to start expanding our education efforts. We were energized by the discovery of rapidly increasing diversity in this area such that here, we might have our best chance to realize equity through education for, by, and with everyone seeking it.
We are discovering new opportunities in our wheelhouse. Our specific interest and strength in youth education defines the role we can play in helping to dismantle systemic constructs. Our experience, commitment of resources, ability to raise awareness and funds, and inspiring personnel has made us effective in empowering those who will be future business leaders, arts advocates, political activists and influential educators.
Now with a focus on the new opportunities presented to us by more diversity in the general population, we are developing new strategies for greater outreach, inclusion and training for BIPOC so that they will figure prominently in the cultural leadership of the next generation.
Drayton Entertainment's New Youth Academy – Performance
Drayton Entertainment sees its best opportunity to make real and lasting generational change through youth education. We see a tremendous alignment of opportunity in the emerging diversity and in our capability to affect a shift in the cultural fabric of our regions.
From our inception, education has been part of our mandate. “…providing facilities for education and instruction in theatrical arts” – Objects of Incorporation, 1990
In 2016, Drayton Entertainment launched our Youth Musical Theatre Program. To date, our youth educational programs have been housed at Drayton Entertainment’s existing venues. However, with over 800 performances presented annually by an average of 286 performing artists and coordinated by a full-time staff of 50 employees, the facilities, when operating, are at capacity. The new long-term vision for the organization’s Youth Programs is to grow in size and inclusivity. This will require the Programs be housed in a dedicated space.
To maximize BIPOC inclusion, the space needs to be near populations of diverse youth and be made accessible in every way possible.
Our best opportunity to inspire an interest in the arts for young BIPOC and their families and to provide training for future BIPOC arts practitioners, lies in Waterloo (pop: 104,986; total visible minority population: 26.4%). With greater and growing diversity comes greater opportunity. It is from this relatively more diverse demography, that we can build an inclusive Youth Academy.
Drayton Entertainment has just secured a space to host a permanent Youth Academy at 145 Northfield Drive West in Waterloo. The Youth Academy will focus on the development and implementation of artistic programs that cultivate leadership, creativity, communication, and teamwork among young people.
Drayton Entertainment will renovate the former industrial space to create an accessible community hub for learning and creative arts-based activities geared to youth in all its diversity. The result will be a 10,000 sq. ft. new, accessible community asset complete with rehearsal halls, classrooms, music rooms and acting studios enabling thousands of hours of new arts activity per year.
The venue itself will become a community asset. The interior will be designed for multi-use and multi-flex so that area youth may be engaged in a variety of artistic disciplines and culturally-diverse pursuits that foster leadership, creativity, communication, and teamwork. The flex design will facilitate non-traditional teaching techniques that require non-traditional configurations of teaching spaces.
Drayton Entertainment's New Youth Academy – Technical & Creative
The solution in all matters of closed-mindedness is education. Not only educating ourselves about the reality of the concerns and needs of all identities, but being proactive in the accessible, inclusive-centered training and education of all theatre-lovers and theatre-makers. This includes everybody in all departments – performing arts, technical arts, design, stage management and theatre management.
Performing artists comprise the majority of Drayton Entertainment’s artistic engagements with over 286 contracts given each season. However, another nearly 150 creative and managing artists (Directors, Choreographers, Music Directors, Designers for sets, lights and costumes, Fight Directors, Stage Managers and their Assistants) are engaged to lead and support the 18+ productions each year. The building and running of the productions require another approximately 80 wardrobe and production positions each season.
Most new creative leadership and technical support personnel at Drayton Entertainment have developed their craft through a combination of specific formal training and practical experience. Some graduate from credited universities and colleges. Some are coming up from smaller theatre companies. Most started as entry-level performers and technicians and have transitioned into roles with more responsibilities.
These formal and practical sources of creative and technical personnel have not yielded any opportunities for Drayton Entertainment to engage diversity in these important pursuits. As the “feeder” providers such as schools, agencies and other theatre organizations struggle to attract and develop BIPOC, our recruitment of BIPOC in technical and creative areas is virtually zero. (We have one Indigenous long-term employee serving as a Senior House Technician.)
We have to provide to the providers. Our industry has to instill in underrepresented groups an earlier interest in the arts and a broader awareness of the opportunities to participate in an array of capacities. We need to introduce young BIPOC to careers in technical stagecraft, theatrical design, stage management and wardrobe, for example. Building on our existing and developing relationships with the schools of our regions, we will partner with underfunded arts education programs in the school systems by providing encouragement, resources and opportunities for their students to develop interest in the creative and technical aspects of theatre. Then we need an inviting, safe environment in which to explore and develop their confidence in what might have otherwise been a field they regarded as inaccessible.
Drayton Entertainment’s new Northfield Production Centre will be that place. In addition to the 10,000 sq.ft. Youth Academy, 145 Northfield Drive West will also house a 20,000 sq. ft. production and technical hub. To every technical aspect of production, from page to stage, we will attach a learning opportunity. There will be opportunities to audit and participate. There will be instruction, classes, mentoring and apprenticeships to introduce young people to stagecraft.
Drayton Entertainment's New Youth Academy – Practical Experience, Practicums
Drayton Entertainment will produce at least one “Academy Musical” each season on one of our main stages and extend the learning and training into the practical realm.
The Academy Musical will be cast with Academy students, who will continue their classroom and rehearsal hall experience in one of our performing venues. In a continuation and expansion of Drayton Entertainment’s current practice, Academy students will also be given opportunities to perform in the pantos and family musicals.
Technical instruction and training will also move to the performance venue from the Academy classrooms and new Northfield shop to encompass professional-student mentorships in all aspects of setting up and running a show. We will make room for hands-on technical and creative experiences through mentorships with professionals in every aspect of building and running the production such as lighting design, stage management, direction and choreography,
Facilitated by a new agreement with the Musician’s Association, student musicians will also be paired with professionals when we perform to live music.
We have engaged David Connolly, a long-time associate who identifies as “a theatre artist, who happens to be a double amputee and member of the LGBTQ2S community”, in the leadership roles of Director/ Choreographer, Associate Artistic Director, Head of the Youth Musical Theatre Program, and the new Director of the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy.
“In my personal experience of addressing disabled inclusion in the theatre, the onus of change is shared, but rests heavily on actively seeking and training diverse students through diverse curricula and pedagogy administered by diverse facilitators. These efforts not only ‘bolster the ranks’ but also hopefully create a shift in the current lack of role modelling which lessens the incentive to train.” – David Connolly
Since 2016, David Connolly has been engaged to direct and/or choreograph 21 productions, inspiring hundreds of students and professionals over the scores of weeks of classes and rehearsals. David’s perceptions have led to the casting of a disabled actor to play a role not written as disabled in a mainstage classic production, the casting of a blind child in the children’s chorus of a mainstage musical, and two full scholarships to BIPOC students, one of whom is an above-the-knee amputee BIPOC student who appeared as a lead performer in our pre-professional program’s production, to cite four notable examples.
The inclusion of BIPOC youth in greater numbers at every level and in every facet has become a pillar of the new structure. To ensure BIPOC youth feel welcome and inspired, we will ensure they see themselves represented in the class instructors and group leaders. The composition of the faculty must be aspirational and reflect the future diversity we must have in our industry to reflect the changing communities we will serve in the future.
With each training opportunity for BIPOC youth with the help of BIPOC leaders, we will ensure there is a clear, unimpeded path to advancement, so that BIPOC youth can realize their aspirations and reach the top leadership positions. Then we can be assured the change will be truly generational.
Drayton Entertainment's New Youth Academy – Timeline
Ongoing and future action to bring about generational change by expanding the Youth Musical Theatre Program (YMTP), to year-round youth classes and workshops at a permanent new facility, the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy. Newly underway:
- Commit the nearly $2,000,000 required funds for infrastructure and programming to develop the youth of our regions.
- Retrofit the facility.
- Develop the Youth Musical Theatre Program (YMTP), onsite for the best representation of the professional processes, capturing the youth of our regions in their diversity.
- Continue to study other youth programs for best practices.
- Engage the required quality, inspirational leadership.
- Model and budget programs.
- Add programming and education in diverse cultural expression.
- Link education to production experience:
- Acquire the rights for The Youth Musical, including High School students as performers, stage managers, technicians, wardrobe, associate designers, associate directors, and associate choreographers.
- Negotiate Musicians’ Association for the inclusion of Student Musicians.
- Remove Cultural Barriers:
- Ensure multi-cultural representation in instructors and session leaders.
- Add programming and education in diverse cultural expression.
- Remove Economic Barriers:
- Provide an increasing amount of full scholarships and bursaries considering diversity.
- Some programs will have participant fees; others will be made available free of charge and/or subsidized through bursaries or grants for families experiencing difficulties.
- Remove Communication Barriers:
- Provide access through video auditions when necessary.
- Devise Marketing and Outreach Plan for maximum diversity through access to cultural, artistic and non-artistic networks, to encourage participation from families, communities, and groups.
- Remove emotional, cultural, language and gender barriers to effective communication through experienced support and equipment when needed (eg. sight, hearing impairment).
- In the future, produce, present and co-produce Theatre for Young Audiences, geared to young people, families, teachers and collaborating peers with themes reflective of the increasing diversity in our regions. Give the very young BIPOC in our region and their families an early-life connection to a theatre experience.
- In the future, create a Young Company training program inclusive of more BIPOC youth. Produce Young Company productions, disseminating their work with presentations throughout our regions thereby increasing the BIPOC representation in all the communities we serve.
Drayton Entertainment's New Youth Academy – The Future
Investing in our Future
The only way we can truly represent the communities we serve and harness the potential of our diversity is to grow the number of BIPOC leaders across our industry.
Comprised of more BIPOC, the youth of our region will learn the craft and get the confidence and opportunity to lead this industry to change. They will be the next generation of storytellers and theatre makers bringing their diverse life and professional experiences to the people of this region. Their lens will change the way we see the art. They will undoubtedly change how we create, produce and present theatre.
Our programs will also engage and develop the next generation of arts enthusiasts, arts performers, arts leaders, and arts advocates. The programs offered will not only provide a foundation for the development of a specific skill set that is required in theatre, but will also provide a greater overall development of skills and diversity of perspectives that will be useful in all aspects of a participant’s life. The programs will provide the guidance and tools BIPOC youth need to set and achieve their goals, not only as theatre performers, but that are transferrable to many aspects of adult life.
Drayton Entertainment can be most effective in combating systemic racism in applying its energy and resources toward generational change. Ensuring the leaders of tomorrow have equal opportunity today is critical to building more inclusive companies and communities that can achieve their greatest potential.
Creative, Artistic Leadership
Gender, a current focus of leadership development
Informed by the findings of the Women’s Caucus Advisory of PACT, we’ve noted the lack of women in the artistic leadership assignments of Director and Artistic Director in Canadian theatre. Since 2016, Drayton has specifically looked to provide opportunities for female leadership by engaging experienced female directors, widening the searching for, and engaging, emerging female directors and developing and engaging new directors who are transitioning from performing.
Since 2016, we have increased the number of productions directed by women to between three and four each season from an earlier average of two. Women are also directing the more widely-seen plays that are being transferred to multiple venues. In the last two seasons, seven runs of plays were directed by women, compared to two to four runs per season in 2016 and 2017.
New focus on BIPOC leadership development
We recognize the lack of diversity of directors and choreographers getting assignments at Drayton Entertainment, across Canada, and throughout our industry. With large productions requiring efficient rehearsal periods, we’ve historically engaged directors and choreographers who have experience with previous or similar plays and musicals.
Drayton Entertainment is encouraged by the growing number of BIPOC directors and choreographers with an increasing number of productions in their experience. We are tracking the development and readiness of this generation of directors and choreographers, while we help develop the next generation of directors and choreographers with education, training and first opportunities so that we can bring new perspectives in directing to our stages.
Drayton Entertainment is providing initial opportunities for BIPOC artists to train as directors and choreographers. In the last few years, several positions of Assistant Director and Assistant Choreographer have been created for BIPOC artists seeking experience toward their career trajectory. For example, most recently we have added assistant directing and assistant choreographing assignments to the productions of Twelve Angry Men (2019), Elf (2019), A Few Good Men (2020), and the cancelled 2020 production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (2020) for Black performers seeking to develop their skills as directors and choreographers.
Drayton Entertainment's Business Model
Drayton Entertainment’s artistic mandate includes a mix of Broadway musicals, comedies, jukebox tribute shows, family programming including our annual pantos, and occasional classic dramas. Long-term stability is assured by successfully balancing the demands of quality theatre, fiscal responsibility and community integrity. Without any operating funding from any level of government, paid attendance is essential to our continued existence.
Drayton Entertainment’s business model prescribes producing and presenting musicals and plays that will attract a sufficient audience. We are continually testing the limits of where we can take our largely rural audience in sufficient numbers, and are most proud of our work developing audiences when they enthusiastically embrace new works that have central themes of understanding and compassion for marginalized people.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, we are looking not only to increase the diversity on and off stage in our organization, but also to accelerate the diverse interests growing in our audiences. Our starting mark is over half (58%) of Drayton Entertainment’s shows have BIPOC casting since 2016.
To that end, Drayton Entertainment seeks theatre works that advance social equality and resonate with our communities on the forward edge of their sensibilities. We recognize our role in our communities and that, within the scope of our influence, we can shape our audience’s interest. With new vitality, within our mandate, we will expand our search for works written by BIPOC that give rise to greater numbers of BIPOC-led presentations and collaborations.
Bring the underrepresented to the underserved
A feature of Drayton Entertainment’s business model is that we take larger productions, most of which include BIPOC performers, into smaller, underserved communities in which BIPOC are underrepresented. Already, the average percentage of BIPOC represented on stage is greater than in most communities in which we perform. Any further advancements made in inclusion of underrepresented peoples in our plays get shared with our smaller, underserved communities.
Although Drayton Entertainment itself receives no operating funding from the Canada Council for the Arts or the Ontario Arts Council, we will work within our industry network to advocate for easier access to more funding for BIPOC companies to tour and present their work.
Our volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of local community leaders. The participation of some Board members dates back to our founding in the small, rural town of Drayton over 30 years ago, where their advocacy was key to our formation.
Over the years, we have augmented the Board with community-minded local leaders who have business acumen and artistic interest. Our board recruitment matrix helps us identify candidates with a combination of skills, networks, experiences, and backgrounds that will help the organization in its forward trajectory. Because we serve several different communities, regional representation is a priority for the Board.
While representative of the business leadership in the general population of our regions, our Board composition does not represent the diversity in our communities. To gain new and incoming cultural perspectives, we are striking an Ad Hoc Committee of the Board of Directors to review our Equity Diversity and Inclusion policies and practices as they relate to Board composition and recruitment.
Drayton Entertainment will expand the basic Health and Safety training, and policy and practice familiarization, with mandatory Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) education and training delivered by paid BIPOC consultants, and Elders. Under their guidance, we will provide bias training, anti-racism resources, and project-specific inclusion strategies. Specifically, we will engage BIPOC educators to specifically educate us in order to eliminate unconscious hiring biases.
We recognize the importance of not just training existing members of our organization, but creating a system for onboarding all new members of the company, including staff, production, volunteers, and the Board of Directors.
We have acquired, and are studying, Guidelines of Inclusive Language for Written and Digital Content to update all of our documentation with inclusive, respectful language. Expressions of sensitivity, acceptance and respect with regard to gender and orientation includes using the gender pronouns with which a person identifies. A first step: our Human Resources policy reflects updates to the singular pronoun ‘they’ to eliminate arbitrary gender dividers wherever possible.
Our HR Policies will be updated to extend protections and channels of communication to BIPOC staff, production personnel and volunteers. In alignment with the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, we identify racism as a safety issue. We will expand the distribution of materials and talks about safety and harassment (as part of the Not in OUR Space! Campaign) to ensure BIPOC performers feel safe, protected, and able to voice concerns, diverse opinions, and recommendations without anxiety or being labelled as difficult.
As HR has done with issues of sexual harassment, Drayton Entertainment will detail and administer formal recording and reporting processes to track and resolve incidents of racism. We will strike a staff committee to periodically review our anti-racism effectiveness and our alignment with best practices in our industry.
Drayton Entertainment is developing an EDI Guest Speakers Series. Paid BIPOC speakers will address our Board, Staff, Production Personnel, Volunteers, and Resident Artists. We see this EDI Guest Speakers Series as a Series of Town Halls, also extended to the public, providing ongoing education to our entire organization and constituency, maintaining momentum and keeping us current regarding social issues.
Drayton Entertainment’s EDI (paid) Guest Speakers Series will be offered in a Series of Town Halls to a paying audience, brought together from our database and community-at-large. The proceeds will be donated to a charitable BIPOC advocacy organization. Through its extensive database and wide-reaching marketing, Drayton Entertainment is a successful event producer and presenter. This EDI Guest Speakers Series will be presented across our multiple venues and will introduce new perspectives to all of the communities we serve.
In addition to creating a more informed community, the EDI Guest Speakers Series attendees will more closely associate Drayton Entertainment with BIPOC in social leadership roles. This would serve as an invitation to the increasing number of BIPOC in the community-at-large to come to see themselves better represented in all of the Drayton Entertainment offerings. In this way, we might develop a more diverse audience from our events and presentations, as well.
Early on, our staffing drew from the local community and the region surrounding the village of Drayton. Now operating seven theatres in five Ontario locations, we have an efficient, relatively streamlined staff compared to other like-sized theatre companies. We still draw our staff mostly from our communities, but now we also recruit from the theatre community in southern Ontario.
Pre-pandemic, Drayton Entertainment employed 50 full-time staff, three, or 6%, of whom identify as Indigenous (Provincial Indigenous population is 2.4%). Zero identify as Black. While there is BIPOC representation in seasonal, co-op and student positions, our full-time staffing complement clearly lacks diversity. Being future-minded, we are:
- Studying other institution’s EDI recruitment strategies. Especially during this time away from producing, we are engaged in the private study of the comprehensive lists of resources.
- Exploring internal education and training resources to recognize and create more opportunities for more inclusion. We will engage a consultant, possibly from the list of consultants and consulting firms the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) has provided, that can guide us as we work on our perceptions to better see EDI opportunities.
While no one knows what the business of live theatre will look like when the industry returns to operation, there will undoubtedly be new challenges and opportunities that will most likely result in a different staff complement. Regardless of the size of the staff in the near and distant future, we anticipate opportunities to implement our new engagement and hiring strategies.
Administration, recruitment of apprentices, and full-time and part-time staff
Drayton Entertainment engages a strategy for attracting and hiring the best qualified candidates for full-time, part-time and apprenticeships and helps to ensure an applicant pool, which includes women and underrepresented groups including visible minorities. From our Recruitment Plan:
- Drayton Entertainment operates on an ‘Open Until Filled’ model, where postings remain open and viewable on the organization’s website until filled.
- A variety of internal and external recruiting sources is utilized to attract candidates who reflect the diversity Drayton Entertainment aspires to in its workforce. Every effort is made to conduct a thorough search by advertising widely before filling the position.
- Drayton Entertainment is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals, consistent with current employment legislation and existing association agreements.
- Drayton Entertainment works to foster a workplace environment that respects the unique characteristics, skills, and experiences of all employees. Diversity encompasses many individual attributes such as gender, race, ancestry, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, disability, perspectives, opinions, and life experiences. Diversity benefits individuals, the theatre industry, and the communities in which Drayton Entertainment operates.
- Drayton Entertainment believes that by further increasing the variety of perspectives resulting from diversity, the organization will become more creative, flexible, and productive as it continues to service its customers.
- Drayton Entertainment posts all positions to the Employment Section of its website. The site receives in excess of 20,000 unique visitors per month.
- Government of Canada Service Centres resumé banks such as www.indeed.ca, and campus recruiting (colleges and universities with dedicated Theatre training programs) are useful wider recruiting mechanisms.
- Local media is used to expand our scope beyond the arts and culture sector to reach prospective employees in diverse fields.
- LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are useful alternative recruiting sources. Drayton Entertainment’s email contact list exceeds 90,000 active accounts. Facebook likes are just under 30,000; Instagram likes are just under 6,900; and Twitter followers are just under 5,000.
- Job fairs such as those aimed at diverse candidates or specific to certain industries (such as live theatre) are still considered one of the best methods for meeting potential candidates in a single event.
- Youth receiving their first employment experience are supported through extensive orientation and onboarding by their supervisor, HR Coordinator, and Health & Safety designate. They are participants in the Theatre’s established mentoring program so they may be nurtured and taught skills for a career in the arts. Many of the administrative skills are easily transferred to another profession such as red seal trades, accounting, marketing, and/or business communications.
- Drayton Entertainment is committed to Equal Opportunity within its Human Resource policy: “The organization is committed to providing equal employment opportunity to all individuals.”
- Drayton Entertainment is committed to Cultural Diversity within its Human Resource policy: “The organization prides itself on fostering a workplace environment that respects the unique characteristics, skills, and experiences of all employees. Diversity encompasses many individual attributes such as gender, race, ancestry, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, disability, thinking styles, opinions, and life experiences. Diversity benefits individuals, the theatre industry, and the various communities in which it operates. By further increasing the variety of perspectives resulting from diversity, the organization will become more creative, flexible, and productive as it continues to service its customers.”
Anti-racism perspectives and practices
From the Arts Consulting Group* action checklist, we agree to:
- Promote governance and board recruitment models that move theatre companies away from activities that reinforce white supremacy and towards practices that amplify diversity of both people and perspectives
- Proactively identify, cultivate, recruit, and place people of colour in our organization
- Ensure job opportunities are publicly available and position announcements are widely distributed
- Establish and maintain pay equity
- Partner with organizations that support emerging leaders of colour in the field
- Collect demographic information and deliver diversity metrics so that the company can more readily understand itself and its communities
- Increase public communication about BIPOC matters
Pledge to take these actions is only the first step. We also strongly encourage clients to be proactive participants in their efforts to disrupt and end systemic racism by embracing the following S.A.F.E. actions: – Arts Consulting Group*
- Set institutional policies that strengthen equity, diversity, and inclusion in programming, staffing, governing, and serving communities.
- Assert their commitment to anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, and equity with position announcements.
- Form inclusive committees with an equity lens, including those who are not currently members of the existing board power structures.
- Evaluate qualitative and quantitative data to minimize unconscious biases in assessments, employment, and decision making.
*The Arts Consulting Group (artsconsulting.com) is a leading provider of hands-on interim management, executive search, revenue enhancement, strategic planning & community engagement, and facilities & program planning services for the arts and culture industry.
In 2017, Drayton Entertainment consolidated its work developing and maintaining a healthy and conducive work environment by creating a Human Resources Department with a dedicated staff position. Since our policy creation, implementation, revision and review have strengthened the company’s ability to identify, prevent, and resolve Human relation issues.
Now in 2020, Drayton Entertainment is positioned to better support antiracist action with policies, materials and avenues of communication regarding incidents of racism. We now have the personnel to reactively hear and resolve racist incidents, but also to proactively coordinate and implement preventative measures. Important work lies ahead of us, in our onboarding documents and first-day speeches, to establish specific internal and external lines of communication and remedies for BIPOC to address issues arising in our offices, shops and rehearsal halls.
The goal is that everyone feels safe, they belong, their opinions are welcome, and they can address any issues, including race, without fear of being labelled or ignored.
In 2018, Drayton Entertainment participated in an investigation by the Pay Equity Commission into Pay Equity among professional theatre companies in Ontario. We engaged a recognized Pay Equity consulting firm to lead us through the detailed analysis. The findings supported Drayton Entertainment’s commitment to Pay Equity across all departments regarding gender. Through this extensive process, Drayton Entertainment acquired a clear set of industry-accepted guidelines, formalized processes, and objective measures such that we ensure compensation policies and practices are fair regardless of race.
As devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been to the entire world, the interruption in theatre production has provided time for Drayton Entertainment to carefully examine and collaborate on the development of actionable steps toward improved anti-racist ally-ship within our organization and as an industry as a whole.
Do the best you can until you know better; then when you know better, do better.– Maya Angelou