February 12, 2018 SATP Continuing the Conversation…Outcomes

February 12, 2018 SATP Continuing the Conversation…Outcomes are now available. If you would like to have a PDF copy, please email us at sask.theatre@gmail.com

Here are the notes for the evening as it happened.

February 12, 2018 SATP Continuing the Conversation…

Colleen Ostoforoff, Executive Director of SATP introduces herself along with SATP and its special events.

Notes that the Sexual Assault and information centre is unable to attend, and notes that their phone number is at the front.

Co-Chairs Skye Brandon, Jennica Grienke Committee Members Yvette Nolan, Ed Menzies, Heather Morrison.

Yvette acknowledges the desire to move the conversation forward and form it a different way. The committee looked for different ways to frame the conversation. She looked for people who could facilitate the discussion in the ways that this needs to be talked to.

Cindy Hanson at U of R recommended Heather Fox-Griffiths. Facilitates counselling, etc.

Introduces Heather to the group.

Heather’s area of interest and focus has been in victim and survivor studies. Has personal, academic, community experience in the field. Heather hopes to move the conversation in a way that facilitates and involves all of the people in this room. When we talk about power inequities, victimization, trauma, difficult complex social situations, oppressive actions, racism, social inequity, etc., we understand these are complex and they intersect.

To construct solutions will also be complex. This isn’t about dictating policy and law. These policies and laws already exist. How effective are they? Not as much as we think. People complicate these issues. The solutions lie in people. When addressing these, there needs to be a transformative moment on an individual level to make change.

#metoo movement: What’s missing in the dialogue is an equivalent #metoo from men who have been raised and indoctrinated into making it “no big deal”. References Melania Trump’s assertion of “locker room talk”.

While we are here to address issues specific to our community, we don’t know what kind of trauma each other person in this room has already experienced. Gendered violence is never just about men as the perpetrator and women as the victim. Privilege informs the situation. There are many complexities we may not be aware of, and exploring these more deeply and openly would inform it.

Would like to personalize this experience for us.

Groups of 4 -> Will move through a couple of processes. Share with each other times when you have experienced power inequity, or when someone close to us has. Open up the conversation that makes this more real and identifiable. Write down what kinds of experiences we’re talking about.

5 minutes, then re-group.

Re-grouping with one note taker at each table. Note taker, stay where you are, everyone else re-position.

One more step in the process. More complex issues, and likely won’t be coming up with a solution this evening. The hope is that we will come up with a way that we can support ourselves and our organizations.

In ways that are reflective to you and your organizations, what can you do with this stuff in a way that contributes to change?

Group together again to take a few minutes to discuss ideas of “How can you contribute to change”.

Big share session:

Without sharing intimate details and violating someone’s choices in what they shared, give a general rundown of general themes of things that were discussed on the first page “What happened”, then move to point 2 “What did you do with it”, and point 3 “What do you WANT to do with it”.

Jonathan shares:

Power imbalance out of Student teacher, director actor, experienced peer/inexperienced peer.

“How do you speak up”? Is a question that came out of this. We are scared to be the one who has to stir the pot, if nothing will happen. We would like to widen the bubble and figure out when these situations are happening, and offer support. Zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour. Could be a small course correction, letting the person know that this is a problem that his happening. Continue learning.

Heather clarifies that being allies is an important strategy.

Angela: Educating students and newcomers by setting the expectations of what is and isn’t appropriate, and we need to teach our leaders to be good leaders so power isn’t abused.

Sarah G: Being the least experienced person in the room is a power struggle. As an emerging artist you have a lack of experience knowing what is and isn’t ok because you have no baseline. Fear of never working again if you speak out. Not being respected because of your inexperience, or gender as females. Being the only marginalized person in the group can bring eyes to you when you’re the only person of that group, and then you feel pressured into setting the line. When you’re a bystander, it’s easier to speak up. When you’re a victim, it’s easier to gaslight yourself. Harder to say something when you’re the one at the lower end of the power spectrum.

As a call to action: Hiring more people from marginalized groups so they aren’t the only ones in the rehearsal hall, programming to ensure that this is a possibility. Recognizing that if an organization is in the situation where they are the person in power, they need to step up and step in on behalf of those who are inexperienced. Finding a third party non-biased support system that can help this. How do we take this seriously in a way that makes people feel comfortable to speak up without fear of repercussion?

Heather: If you become the poster child for being the minority, you don’t have a network or allies, which complicate the situation.

Use of power for personal sexual gain, people in power not being able to be challenged because of their importance to the company, how can we not cause someone to have a mental breakdown on stage? Need to not push people beyond mental capacity.
We aren’t taught how to be treated by those in people in power, and this is a problem. Sometimes we don’t realize things are wrong as hindsight is 20/20. Going through a proper channel and reporting this: When the perpetrator is confronted, how can we ensure the safety of the victim? Competition of peers to be used as leverage. How can we eliminate this?  - Education of what to expect day to day in theatre school. Need to learn the proper ways to report abuse. Auditionee needs to know what is expected in a rehearsal hall, and the auditioner needs to know the comfort zones of the actor.

Heather – Informed choices will help this.

Eventually, we would like to ensure there is some leeway in comfort zones so people don’t need to be pushed. We need to continue the conversation within the community and continue to be open and look out for each other.

Heather – Being an ally is crucial**

Skye – Difference of power: Senior artist/inexperienced artist, design team as well, fear of standing up in fear of potential fallout. Verbal consent against one’s own desires (people pleasing).

What we’ve done: If a senior artist, they can be in a position to call out behavior. Sometimes, we have done nothing. Relied on friends or partners to vent or be allies. Going to the SM which puts them into a tough situation.

What can we do: Continuing talks like this, learning how to call out behaviour, have a discussion at the beginning of each rehearsal process, preventing, when someone is brought in there is a responsibility to the community to have this person be aware of our communities policies, talkbacks, programming to engage the public and make them aware.

Heather M– Power imbalances: People pleasing will take a long time to un-train. When women are caring for other people, it can help them train as allies and help them speak up.

Most of the examples came from the top down

Calls to action: Speaking up, continuing conversation, setting great examples, clarifying with who would be the perpetrator on what the intent of their action was, creating an atmosphere of this person is “just a little sexist” this, or “just a little grabby”, no more playing.

Jennica – Power imbalances: In an instant between contemporaries in a work or social environment like an inappropriate touch of some kind. “Girls at the front desk” language. Class as a power imbalance, the complexity of knowing when to start the analysis. It feels like it’s been happening since childhood.

Reactions: Staying silent, discussing privately with an ally, not taking action, when someone did meet the situation, they did it at great personal risk.

Actions: We need to be willing to speak up and be a resource with an open door, culture of communication. We need to deny our “training to be nice”. Dismantle the hierarchy.

Heather M clarifies that taking care of someone becomes a motivator for women to speak up.

Heather FG – Would like to point out that the domain of speaking out when taking care of someone isn’t the domain of women. People have to be willing to speak up. If someone had already experienced victimization, to say that this person has to speak up may not be possible or a reasonable expectation. Allies are integral for this reason. There are times when people aren’t going to speak up and they want a different kind of support. Standing alongside and letting the victim determine what the support is.

Caitlin – A power balance between friends can occur. Part of the fear is not knowing what’s going to happen: What happens if I never get hired again, or what happens if my friend never gets hired again. Not knowing the consequenses makes it too vague.

Krystal – Power Imbalance - Educational imbalances can take away your voice, auditioning, director v.s. actor: unlike another job, actors audition every few months, and the market is heavily saturated with actors so job security is lacking. Mental health can create a wide variety of imbalances that are not always clear on the surface.

What we’ve done: discussing with family and friends as victims and bystanders and still not knowing how to move forward. Doing nothing. Leaving the situation at cost. Networking can become part of whether or not you’ll have a career so you end up vulnerable to be at someone’s whim, you ego stroke and bend to the whims of the people in power. Setting boundaries can cost your career. Micro-aggressions are insidious. These can be accepted in the moment and then this builds and builds the limit until consent is eventually implied.

Calls to action: guidelines to intimacy in scenes that can be agreed to by the theatre community. We need to normalize and acknowledge the difficulty of our jobs and the scenes we may potentially endure as these are above and beyond the expectations of an everyday job. Gender balance in the governance structure of theatres. Having neutral parties that can help us report. Being able to talk to the organizations about how we need to be cared for and making this part of the discussion.

Rob – Acknowledges the senior artists coming up at their discussions. For some people, the language and tools didn’t exist back in the day so people couldn’t comprehend the situation. This stirs up a lot of things from the past and provides a challenge for senior artists who can’t change or fix the past. How often are we dealing with a bully/aggressor that the choice was made in the past to adjust our own behaviours to cope/deal with it. Canadian behaviours.

What we’ve done: If there was someone who was targeted, redirecting onto one’s self. There are problems with this, but if the person feels strong and capable, this can be a way to soften the blow. Shares privilege. By speaking up and calling things into question, you can show other viewpoints in the room (i.e, being an ally).

Solutions: Need to admit in the theatre, in the way it’s structured, there are problems with the structure of our way of working including audience, funding, boards, companies, leadership. The way people stay entrenched in positions of power is through. 10-year limits on AD positions. The only way to get new voices and perspectives is to either start your own or impose these limits as there’s no other way into the institutions. Come at the aggressor outside the room to diffuse to prevent the double down; make the aggressor aware that they are in fact an aggressor. Even though things need to be called out, this can backfire. Pressure in theatre to “always know”. Being able to admit that you don’t know things can be very reassuring to those around you. We don’t necessarily need leaders to have all the answers. To engage in a more democratic process within the room. One thing that Rob personally found disconcerting, when we work on shows together, we are allies and are on a team together while that goes on but when it ends there is an immediate shift to being competition. “Only on each other’s sides when we’re together on a show”, but we immediately become competition afterwards which can add to the problem.

Kate – How hard it is to be an ally and bystander. What is striking her right now is we keep having to look deeper into the nature of the rehearsal room to see what behaviour is acceptable. From theatre school straight to professional world it’s been flirtatious and it feels like we have permission to behave freely but creates an environment where flirtatious is the norm. As a bystander, it’s tricky to find a way to address either party in a flirtatious environment without the tools to properly do this. Would feel like “a buzzkill”.

What do we want our environment to be? How do we swing closer to being safe? So everyone who is on the receiving end of flirtation can determine whether or not it’s ok?

Carla – Educational perspective – Teacher/student is a huge imbalance. The University thinks they’ve addressed it, but drama and chemistry are two different beasts.

Call to action: has asked the department to have a better look at how students are being trained so that they know what is and isn’t acceptable and students need to know the avenues that are available to them. As someone who doesn’t cast people, she feels that she’s in a safe place.

Kristi – When we’re in a show we’re intensely involved with people in the room and are involved with our own community. Mental health – when a show comes down, we come down with it. Everything stops: we don’t have those people and that support network anymore and that can feel lonely in this community (theatre as a whole, not just Saskatoon). There aren’t many opportunities where we get together that aren’t directly related to the shows we do, and expresses that this is something that is missing in our community.

Kathy – Would we be interested in artist meetings? Mentions the city is refreshing its culture plan. A lot of the issues are the same across artistic communities. The city has the capacity to organize events like this

Colleen – SATP is having an event to this effect in March and another in October.

Heather FG – Will share a questionnaire for distribution for us that we can utilize in our organizations to give important feedback.

? – We need to hold each other accountable for the content that we produce. The content of what we produce can contribute to what we do with each other. We need to be conscious of the ethics of what shows we’re putting on. Not just putting on shows for shock value.

Rob – As another point, what are we doing for the new reality rather than the old reality. Being more critical of our programming choices.

Torien – Are we punching up or punching down difficult content? Sometimes a play can suffer from the point it’s trying to criticize? Is it directed in a way that reflects that values have changed? Should more space be made for new work?

Emma – We often do things that were canon, but what about works that were overlooked?

Angela – Calls to action: Bystander intervention workshops?

Colleen – Notes that this is in the works.

Angela - Can we publicly identify as allies?

Danielle – Doesn’t know how much it’s worth naming these. Points out the situation in the Fringe world where people named as predators signed on as allies in a similar effort.

Kate – There should be a vetting process of some sort

Heather FG – Clarifies that we all need to be more allies.

Angela – Would still like to be an ally, publicly announces as such.

Everyone rejoices.

Angela asks about next meeting - March 26th is the reply, for a fun networking meeting rather than a continuation of this topic.

Krystal – Is there a way to have trauma training prior to this intimacy training workshop?

Heather – Workshops from a trauma informed perspective are integral. Notes that a huge percentage of the population has dealt with trauma, and that we need to keep this in mind.

Jo Arnott – Question – How do we enforce in our curriculum that intimacy training is required? Is there a way to reach out to our schools and make it part of the curriculum?

Carla – “You just did”. She is part of a committee on academic programing

Heather FG – Creating a process for students to bring this up is important.

Sarah – DSA/Faculty could use a representative that people could come to with issues.

Amanda is the name of the girl who didn’t introduce herself.

Heather FG – Thanks us for our willingness to come together and address the issues. If this evening was triggering, contact the sexual assault center and/or Heather FG if anyone needs a follow-up. Notes the committee and board are responsive as well. She hopes we continue to engage with each other as we are uniquely able to communicate effectively with each other.

Meeting ended at 9:51pm