Shakespeare & Company’s Commitment to
Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA)
At Shakespeare & Company, we believe that live theater connects us all in the universal pursuit of purposeful existence, and reveals the meaning of our humanity through storytelling. This can only be achieved when theater is genuinely inclusive and reflects everyone’s stories – particularly those individuals and groups who’ve been ignored, diminished, or erased. Some of Shakespeare & Company’s recent IDEA initiatives are detailed on this page.
An IDEA committee made up of board members, staff, and seasonal artists has met every other week since October 2020 to develop a shared vision and charter which will lead to a phased action plan of next steps for the board, staff, and volunteers.
In our workplace and programming, we will continue to develop policies and procedures to prevent and address instances of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and any other discriminatory behavior that is inconsistent with our commitment to a fully inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible culture.
Shakespeare & Company incorporated sensory-friendly programming into its repertoire in 2023. Sensory-friendly performances are adapted to be less overwhelming to the senses and designed to welcome individuals with various sensory needs, including people on the autism spectrum; those living with cognitive, social, or physical challenges; first-time theatergoers, and others.
Sensory-friendly performances offer a more comfortable environment that includes pre-show materials that include story synopses; reduced-intensity lighting and sound effects; dimmed house lights for the duration of the performance; theater maps, and other “what to expect" content. Both the sensory-friendly performance and an open-captioned performance were generously supported by a grant from the GKV Foundation.
Berkshire County Inclusive Leadership Cohort
Artistic Director Allyn Burrows and Chair of the Board of Trustees Beverly Hyman, Ph.D., represented Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshire County Inclusive Leadership Cohort, meeting weekly to further engage in and deepen the work for business and cultural leaders in Berkshire County. This peer-led program helped local, cross-sector leaders refine their own equity and inclusion initiatives through race analysis, and by working toward the goal of positive social impact in our local communities and beyond.
Web accessibility is a series of communication principles that open a website to a larger audience, while improving the overall experience for all visitors. Title III of the American Disabilities Act prohibits disability-based discrimination for places of public accommodation, including nonprofits.
Organizations must make reasonable accommodations to allow people with disabilities to access their services, and this includes website accessibility for users with vision, hearing, mobility, and cognitive challenges. To ensure Shakespeare & Company reaches and remains within ADA compliance – and in turn continues to pursue ideal accessibility – the Company has begun making ongoing accessibility updates to website content, including making all downloadable forms on its website accessible, including those used for program enrollment, employment and internship inquiries, and sponsorship opportunities; incorporating best practices when updating and adding content – i.e. copy and photos – such as adding alt text to all images and creating meaningful text links.
Funding was designated to hire a consultant in Human Resource Management to assess the Company’s needs and work environment. This assessment was completed in coordination with staff in order to devise a long-term plan for human resources, including management of equity and inclusion practices, and to amend and reinforce a system for all staff and seasonal employees to report instances of harassment or bias confidentially.
To continue educating ourselves in Cultural Competency and deepen our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility knowledge, all full-time, part-time, and seasonal staff are asked to complete sexual harassment training, take a class on diversity, which is updated annually, and review an ever-evolving list of resources on various topics within diversity including but not limited to racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, and any other discriminatory behavior.
Introduced to Shakespeare & Company's show offerings in 2023, open-captioned performances are ideal for audience members with hearing disabilities, featuring a large projection screen above the stage that displays the text the actors are reciting via “super captions.”
The Company hopes these performances serve as a starting point for further accessibility options at all shows. Both the open-captioned and sensory-friendly performances were generously supported by a grant from the GKV Foundation.
The #LiveinCompany Campaign
At Shakespeare & Company, we believe three vital questions are at the heart of every Shakespearean play: What does it mean to be alive? How should we act? and What must I do? To continue to explore these questions, the #LiveinCompany social media campaign launched in February, 2022 in conjunction with Black History Month, spotlighting Black Voices that resonate with Company members, artists, and friends. The hashtag was devised to serve as a vehicle for many types of inclusion and diversity messages, i.e. Women’s History Month or Transgender Day of Remembrance, and to call greater attention to Shakespeare & Company’s work in the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility space, with the goal of communicating the Company’s mission and vision to a larger, more diverse audience.
Multicultural BRIDGE Partnership
Shakespeare & Company engaged Multicultural BRIDGE – Berkshire Resources for the Integration of Diverse Groups and Education – to offer training to staff, board members, artists, and educators, in an effort to fully integrate IDEA work into the company.
Thr Shakespeare & Company Board of Trustees completed the first phase of IDEA training with BRIDGE, increasing their awareness of accountability, and establishing the commitment to set aside resources, time, and attention to IDEA and racial justice work. This includes funding in the short term and, in the long term, building a more diverse board. Time to discuss and advance IDEA work is now incorporated into every board meeting agenda.
Pronoun Inclusion in
In 2022, Shakespeare & Company began incorporating Company Artist and Faculty pronouns, when approved by the individual, in marketing materials including press releases, e-blasts, and promotional print materials. The annual Season Playbill includes pronouns for Company Artists for the first time – again, based on the individual’s preference.