Dear Omaha Arts Community:
Theatre Arts Guild is terminating its relationship with local arts organization Nebraska Shakespeare. For the past year, we have watched this organization actively harm members of our arts community who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), while making and breaking promises and commitments to change, and failing to hold themselves accountable to an organizational history deeply rooted in racism and white supremacy.
On July 10, 2020 current staff, alumni artists and allies wrote and signed the attached ‘Call to Action’ for the Board and Staff of Nebraska Shakespeare (ref: https://www.calltoactionnebraskashakespeare.com/). The letter calls attention to ways the organization has harmed numerous underrepresented communities, and makes a number of specific demands to right those harms. The demands included the termination of Executive Director Mary Ann Bamber and a personal statement and resignation from Artistic Director Alan Klem, as well as immediate changes to Board structure.
When those demands were not met by that Board, the entire staff except for the current Executive Director, Artistic Director and Director of Production resigned.
Nebraska Shakespeare met with key Black stakeholders in the community to form a plan of action to move forward. The outcome of this plan is attached (page 1, page 2), including the artists whose time and emotional labor was used to formulate this plan. Nebraska Shakespeare’s staff committed to a number of action items and a new era of transparency, but has failed to enact any action items transparently.
Recently, Nebraska Shakespeare chose to feature Governor Pete Ricketts in a social media promotion (see attached), a politician who continues to marginalize our BIPOC communities. In the past year alone, Gov. Ricketts vetoed LB 1060, a bill that banned hair discrimination in Nebraska and passed through the Legislature with a vote of 27-12, referred to Black community leaders as “you people” following the murder of James Scurlock, and failed to implement protocols and protections to fight Covid, a virus that disproportionately hospitalizes and kills BIPOC people. When called out by members of our theatre community, Nebraska Shakespeare chose to delete their comments to save face, rather than engaging in open discussion, again reneging on their July 2020 commitment to transparency.
In consideration of this most recent post, coupled with a continued pattern of harm and an unwillingness to honor their commitment to change, action, and transparency, TAG has officially dissolved our relationship with Nebraska Shakespeare.
Effective immediately, Theatre Arts Guild will no longer promote shows, job postings, or general information concerning Nebraska Shakespeare. Until Nebraska Shakespeare demonstrates clear and actionable change, TAG will no longer associate with their organization.
We cannot in good conscience support this organization because we, as your TAG Board, do not feel this is a safe place for our community of artists to work. This organization harms the artists we exist to advocate for, and we cannot be in community with them. We will not work alongside any organization that harms our artists. Period.
This action sets the groundwork for how TAG will function moving forward. We are an organization for artists. We advocate for artists. This is the new Theatre Arts Guild.
Theatre Arts Guild Omaha Board