We have begun our exciting work with Stanton Adams LLC. Our Board of Directors and executive leadership are engaged, and our DEI council is meeting weekly to create a foundation for our long term dedication to this work.
CDT has begun talks with our local musicians’ union to explore how we can bring equitable and inclusive hiring practices not only onstage, but backstage as well.
For the new Music Man company members, our on-boarding process included sharing a statement about the company’s intentions for taking active steps towards anti-racism. Communication channels have been opened for the cast and production department to provide feedback to the theater leadership and to the DEI Council on any relevant issues.
We have announced our auditions for Footloose via our website, Minnesota Playlist, and the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) portal. Because of AEA guidance regarding COVID, we will be doing the majority of casting for Footloose via video submission. Previously, we had entered into discussions about how we can make our live auditions more welcoming and inclusive, but with virtual auditions being needed at this time, our hope is to provide tools to make submitting materials for auditions accessible for all candidates.
We have had our Footloose pre-production meeting with our production team and community members to discuss color-conscious casting within the play, and how that casting can contribute to the story that we want to tell. It was a very enriching and exciting meeting and certainly useful as we start the casting process.
As we move forward in doing the necessary work to create long-lasting, systemic change in our organization, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) is excited to report on a new partnership. Stanton Adams LLC (stantonadams.com) will be guiding us in the next phase of this important work. The company founders Cecilia Stanton Adams and Malissa Adams will be an incredible resource to CDT and will be working with us closely over the next 12+ months.
During that time they will:
- Continue to guide our leadership and board on DEI issues and how they affect all departments in our company.
- Train all department staff on cultural competency and department managers on hiring and training practices.
- Create tools that CDT can use in the future for all employee onboarding, so that the expectations regarding our commitment to DEI are consistent and clear.
- Lead our DEI committee in creating a charter, lead the committee in a “DEI Bootcamp,” and help to create communication tools to allow for implementation of the collective ideas.
In addition to our work with Stanton Adams Consulting, we have also become Allied with Broadway for Racial Justice (bfrj.org). This national non-profit acts as a sounding board for theatres in their efforts to create structural change to create safe and equitable spaces for BIPOC. We will encourage use of the BFRJ Hotline, which is a safe place to voice any concerns that might arise among those in the theatre department.
As we look to reopen fully, we are proud to share the ongoing steps that we are taking to secure positive and lasting change for our BIPOC artists and staff.
After careful consideration and with our ongoing commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has made the decision to cancel our upcoming production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Our hope in beginning the production process again with a new title will allow us to put into practice an intentional process based on the work we have been doing towards equity and inclusivity.
In addition to changing future programming, we are establishing new pre-production protocols. We will be inviting (and paying) BIPOC artists to analyze the production with our creative teams through a new DEI lens – looking to expand the voices that are at the table and impacting the storytelling. This conversation will happen before the design and casting process has begun. We believe this new process will allow us to tell the story in a rich way and allow us to live out our commitment to identity-conscious casting and becoming a more intentionally anti-racist theater. As a creative team, Michael Brindisi, Tamara Kangas-Erickson and Andy Kust will be holding each other accountable to ensure fair and equitable practices in all areas of casting.
It is important to note that we are also in the process of analyzing other production areas that have been brought to our attention including auditions and rehearsals – we are committed to safe, equitable spaces in all areas, and we will continue to update our DEI statement as we explore and refine these plans with our teams.
We are excited to announce that following The Music Man, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres will be producing Footloose! This show was hugely successful for us when it ran 11 years ago, and we are excited to explore it again in a new context. Details about auditions will be announced in the early summer. In addition, we will soon be accepting submissions for replacements in our current production of The Music Man, with a strong priority placed on casting BIPOC artists to join the cast. This announcement will be posted on our website and MN Playlist in upcoming weeks.
Last June, after the killing of George Floyd, a call to action came from theatre artists across the United States and in our own community to foster change in our industry in regard to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) – both on our stages and within our creative teams and administrations. We have taken this call to heart. Since that time, leadership has been looking deeply at our practices, our biases and historical mistakes we have made with open hearts and minds to change. As theatre artists and business leaders, we are fully committed to having not only our stages but our entire organization be a reflection of the beautiful and rich diversity in our society.
We understand that now is the time for transparency about the actions we have been taking to learn, train our teams and make meaningful change across our organization. Our focus is on doing the work, not just talk about the work, but recognize that our larger community wants to hear where we stand, and we want to make our actions clear.
To assist us on this journey we enlisted the guidance of a DEI consultant. To date our consultant has facilitated:
- Assessment and goal setting meetings with senior leadership.
- Training session for senior leadership and managers.
- Meeting with managers without senior leadership present to assess current attitudes, goals and barriers to the work at CDT.
Planned next steps:
- Training and assessment with the Board of the company.
- Creation of staff DEI committee who will work collectively on these efforts including input into the creation of our anti-racism statement and commitments.
- Town-hall style listening sessions with our alumni artists and theater makers to get crucial input on their experiences and perspectives as we prepare to make work together again.
- Policy review and updates with teams across the organization including marketing, hiring and casting processes.
- Full staff training and listening session.
We are committed to working towards a more equitable organization, and building back to a complete and healthy business. When we were forced to close our doors in March of 2020, our production of The Music Man had just had its press night, and we must bring The Music Man back to life as soon as we are able. Not only do we have a responsibility to the 33,000 guests who currently hold tickets, but we also have a responsibility to our cast, musicians, crew and creative teams. As positions open up in this show and for our future productions, we will make decisions based on our new resolve to ensure that our casts and creative teams represent the entire community.
As we become a more equitable and anti-racist organization we will be setting measurable goals and action steps. We will share our progress through email updates and on our website. We ask for your support in this vision for our future.
Michael Brindisi, President
Tamara Kangas Erickson, Vice President
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres