How We Began
Chicago Begins a Movement
In January of 2015, Chicago actor Lori Myers, after hearing an account of the fourth incident of sexual harassment about the same person and theatre company, made a Facebook post that decried such acts with the rallying cry, “NOT IN OUR HOUSE.” Hundreds of responses revealed that the problem was well-known, but no one felt safe enough to speak out. The theatre in question was highly regarded and offered opportunities to emerging artists, who often got noticed by the press and eager audiences. On January 12th at New Dramatists, a meeting was held of members of the theater community, including representatives from the Dramatists Guild of America, the Actor’s Equity Association, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. That discussion eventually became the inspiration for the Chicago NIOH Standards. By March of 2015, the standards were underway. Co-ordinated by Chicago actor Laura T. Fisher, a small group of theatre companies and artists crafted a draft over the course of a year. Twenty theatres agreed to pilot the document (The Pilot Group); adopting it in their theatres and periodically meeting to improve the document, and discuss implementation strategies.
DC Joins the Movement
In June of 2017, Arena Stage's professional development program, Actors Arena, arranged for Laura T. Fisher, to speak to the local theatre community and present the NIOH Chicago Standards. Laura detailed the scope of the work thus far gave the D.C. community permission to use the NIOH Standards in any way it saw fit.
theatreWashington, a service organization, initially led conversations with a loosely formed group of committed local artists. This group of artists began to meet regularly in July to create the DC Theatre Standards. They conducted a survey inquiry regarding harassment, abuse, and misconduct which received over 450 responses and confirmed our community's need for safety, dignity, and accountability. In February of 2018, the first town hall was held at Shakespeare Theatre to share the survey results, discuss the Declaration of Purpose, and to talk about the progression of the work. A second town hall has been scheduled for October 1st 2018 at The Anacostia Playhouse to present the NIOH DC Theatre Standards for community feedback.
As members of the Washington DC Metro Area theatre community, we recognize an obligation to one another to create a culture of respect, safety, inclusivity, and trust for the art to flourish. Where there is disrespect or cruelty, where any of us is unsafe, or where trust is violated when we make theatre, the well-being of our entire community is diminished and the integrity of the art is compromised. We believe that our community will be emboldened and uplifted by placing value on consent and mutual respect.
We assert that an environment of building consent that allows a response to boundary violations can broaden our opportunity to be challenging and fearless in our work. We seek to ensure that in the adventurous and brave collaboration intrinsic to our craft, no one is at personal risk of harm, abuse, or harassment. In the event someone is harmed, we seek to offer affirming and effective channels for a tangible response that is endorsed by the community. We value a call-in invitation to reconciliation and healing, but also want a community-created and -endorsed course of action for hostile situations.
Adapted from a document originated by the Not in Our House Chicago Theatre Community movement, The Washington DC Theatre Standards were developed by an ad hoc group of DC Metro Area theatre artists including designers, playwrights, directors, actors, producers, and technicians. The Standards are a comprehensive guide to procedures and preventive best practices, as well as a framework for how to handle complaints when these standards are breached. It is meant to be a living document -- flexible and accommodating of as many types and styles of theatre as possible.
Theatre organizations are invited to adopt and endorse The Standards and apply to themselves for the good of the community. The Standards are entirely voluntary and not subject to enforcement by any outside body.
The goals of The Standards are to build a support network of individuals and institutions; streamline and endorse existing language concerning discrimination, violence, intimidation, and sexual harassment; and ensure accessibility to proper complaint paths. Our intention is to actively avoid standards that reinforce white supremacy and economic privilege, restricting access to and availability of safety.
Our hope is that as more and more local theatre organizations adopt The Standards and do so publicly, individual theatre artists will recognize a culture of concern because a theatre’s leadership is committed to
upholding these standards out of respect for each staff member and artist and the art they help make
building a space of openness, consent, and honesty wherein they can respond promptly and meaningfully to complaints
providing a fair structure within which those who have little power have the ability to speak up and be heard by those with the power to make change
recognizing and preserving everyone’s agency to protect one another’s rights as workers and colleagues
erasing cultural violence and appropriation, and building a theatre in which representation and equity matter
The institutions that collaborate to build The Standards will gain a set of concrete goals and benchmarks to improve the working environment for their staff and artists. The practitioners who collaborate to build The Standards will have a clear set of reasonable expectations to allow them to advocate for their own safety and well-being.
Through participation in NIOH, we hope that a cultural shift will happen within the local and national theatre communities. The shift will include strong protections from violence, building a community in which these patterns cease to thrive. Together we can create a foundation for a vital and safe environment aiming towards reconciliation, integrity, and dignity.
Though this document is long and detailed in order to cover many specific situations, its overriding values are really very simple: consent, accountability, and mutual respect. We believe that the more individuals and institutions in our theatre community share investment and pride in these values, the more we will all be free to be fearless in our work. Created in DC, it is meant for all Metro Area theatre organizations and artists.
Not In Our House DC