A Letter from Anita Dashiell-Sparks

July 5, 2020

Dear Stella Adler Center Community,

I am both humbled and honored to serve as Artistic Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for Stella Adler Center of the Arts. As a BIPOC artist, educator, director, and EDI practitioner, I firmly believe in the transformative power of art and theater that can and should be inclusive, culturally responsive, equity-minded, empathetic, compassionate, and supportive of all intersectional identities. I believe that the theater is a transformative space where “the invisible is made visible.” We are in an urgent and necessary moment and movement of foregrounding BIPOC voices and experiences that have been marginalized, silenced, dismissed, and rendered invisible for far too long. This is a necessary action and catalyst for change. I am committed to being a part of that change.

In my new role, I will help foster and nurture a culture and artistic learning environment that does not tolerate racism, white supremacy, systems of power and oppression, a colonized or euro-centric canon of literature, sexism, and other discriminatory practices.  Towards that end, a system of reporting bias, discrimination, harassment and other concerns for students, faculty, and staff will be established and implemented by Artistic Director of EDI along with subsequent follow-up and review protocols.

We want to ensure that all members of the Adler community know the power of their voice, to use it as a tool to advocate for themselves and as an ally for others without fear of retaliation. I’ve outlined several action items that I recently shared with Tom Oppenheim about how to begin and implement our EDI organizational change work. A ten-point plan will be put into action immediately. Through these concrete actions, we will do better and we hope that our students, faculty, and staff will keep each other accountable. Our collective commitment and collaboration as a community is imperative in doing this work as part of our practice.  These actions are outlined below.


Anita Dashiell-Sparks
Artistic Director of EDI, Stella Adler Center of the Arts

  1. DATA COLLECTION & TRANSPARENCY: I requested current data about the racial and gendered demographic of faculty and staff for Stella Adler Center in New York and Los Angeles. We will create an EDI database that will house this data and information that allows us to examine and assess patterns, trends, and identify gaps to strengthen the diversity of faculty and staff and individuals who hold leadership roles/positions within the organization.  The database will be accessible to Stella Adler Studio Community.
  2. RECRUITMENT & RETENTION OF DIVERSE FACULTY, STAFF, AND STUDENTS: Systematic Review of current policies and practices regarding hiring of faculty and staff, and auditioning students for conservatory programs, casting a wider net of outreach, and implementing best practices and approach of equity-mindedness in all of these processes.
  3. MANDATORY TRAINING & FACULTY DEVELOPMENT: Ongoing training, workshops, and professional development facilitated and overseen by Artistic Director of EDI and others as needed that include the following topics: Unconscious Bias, Anti-racism; anti-black racism, white privilege, white fragility, equity-minded teaching, gender identity & gender expression, sexual orientation, harassment prevention, building cultures of affirmative consent, and intimacy guidelines/protocols in theater. Stella Adler Center faculty and staff have committed to ongoing education and will be engaging this summer in a comprehensive guide that addresses several of topics listed above to help understand structures of systemic racism and to foster inclusive and culturally responsive/sensitive learning environments. All students are encouraged and invited to participate in Justice in June educational guide as well: https://justiceinjune.org/. The material covered in this guide will be discussed and unpacked in faculty/staff meetings throughout the summer and next year.
  4. CURRICULUM: A systematic review of curriculum and plays selected for productions will be done in order to diversify and decolonize the canon of literature.  Intent is that students are exposed to a wide array of stories, experiences, and perspectives to investigate, analyze, personalize, and embody within their studio work where their own identities are actively welcomed into the room and tho work, art being created. This is part of an inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogical frame and equity-minded teaching frame.  The catalogue and library of theatrical works will be diversified and regularly updated by students, faculty, and staff to reflect identities across multiple categories of experiences
  5. CASTING & REPRESENTATION: A review of current casting protocols for auditions, for productions, as well as conservatory programs will be implemented with the goal of being equitable in this process being mindful of access and opportunity of experiences for all students at Stella Adler Studio.  Best practices of inclusivity will be integrated into casting processes across various identities.
  6. REPORTING SYSTEM: A system of reporting incidents of bias, discrimination, harassment, will be created and implemented including follow-up and resolution procedures.
  7. CLIMATE SURVEY: A survey is currently being developed to assess and analyze the current climate of Stella Adler Center for faculty, staff, students, and alumni. This is another metric and tool of accountability that will happen in August 2020 and be repeated every 2 years to measure effectiveness and identify areas that still need improvement
  8. FOCUS GROUPS: Beginning in July-August 2020, Artistic Director of EDI will hold focus groups for faculty, staff, students, and alumni, in New York and Los Angeles as another metrics and top of collecting quantitative and qualitative data that will inform and shape EDI programs and initiatives moving forward.
  9. STRATEGIC PLAN: The data gathered and collected from Focus Groups and Climate Survey will be formulated and synthesized into creation of a 3-5 year EDI Strategic Plan for Stella Adler Center with specific goals to be accomplished in years 1, 3, and 5 of the plan with benchmarks and measurable objectives for accountability.
  10. ARTS JUSTICE: As the mission of the studio values and foregrounds how theater can be used as a catalyst for individual change and social justice, we are excited to explore and expand programs and initiatives for faculty, staff, and students to engage with this social justice work.
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