Equity, Diversity, Decolonization and Inclusion

Action Plan to enhance Equity, Diversity, Decolonization,
and Inclusion within the Department of Theatre
Opening Statement

The future of theatre training in Canada requires clear, specific, and sustained efforts to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Department of Theatre acknowledges its historical investment in white colonialist canons, practices, and aesthetics. Such an investment reflects broader patterns of structural racism in both Canadian universities and the professional theatre industry. We recognize that the centering of whiteness has harmed Indigenous, Black, and other racialized students, faculty, and staff; and we are taking active steps to address and mitigate this harm. We further acknowledge that the labour of carrying forward change within the department has often fallen to IBPOC students, faculty, and staff. This historical pattern is something we are collectively working to address.

We are excited by the new opportunities that await.

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Within the department and across the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design, we are working towards decolonizing and diversifying our curriculum to support and encourage new and novel ways of teaching, learning, and research. We are keen to embrace the stories, voices, and perspectives that have been excluded, to ensure that students have a broad range of learning experiences and see themselves represented in the curriculum, performances, and artworks we produce. We are likewise dedicated to harm reduction and creating safe and inclusive spaces that foster a community of care and learning.

We look forward to ongoing conversations about how collectively we might contribute to these efforts and create a better, healthier, and more inclusive community.

EDD1 Theatre

Action Plan

Since spring 2020, the Department of Theatre has undertaken a series of initiatives in response to student and alumni feedback and related calls to action. We have grouped these initiatives into six groups or categories, although this grouping is somewhat arbitrary as many of these activities overlap and inform one another. These initiatives include:

Recruitment of racialized/ IBPOC faculty

Recent (2020-21)

  • Priority: increase the presence of IPBOC full and part-time faculty in the department
  • Concluded searches for new hires in Theatre, Theatre History, and Dramaturgy (part of York’s university-wide commitment to hiring new Black faculty); Playwriting and Devising; Indigenous Performance/ Performance Art
  • A search for a CLA in Acting & Directing was conducted but the upper administration did not approve the hire due to financial concerns

Current/Future (2021- )

  • Welcome new faculty to department
  • Continue to advocate for new focused hires as part of faculty complement plan
  • Provide outlets for connecting with AMPD and university-wide IBPOC initiatives (e.g. Tubman Institute)
  • Continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion (of all kinds) in faculty complement requests
Revisions to courses/ curriculum

Recent/Ongoing (2020-21)

  • Faculty conversations about individual courses and broader curricular emphases in response to student feedback
  • In May 2021, the Department of Theatre identified the following core areas where we seek to consciously develop both our institutional practice and the learning opportunities offered to students. It is hoped and expected that by outlining these areas and how they will begin to manifest in our work in individual course outlines, students will have a beginning framework to engage with this work as well. The intention is to walk and determine this path together, learning from each other and allowing each other to make mistakes and grow. If students have feedback to improve or further build on this work throughout the course, time will be made to further the dialogue in class:
    • Ecology and Environmental Sustainability
    • Decentering Whiteness
    • Decolonizing practices and approaches to curriculum
    • Indigenizing the curriculum
    • Digital Performance and Creation – Virtual Production, Media Design, Online Platforms, New forms of fabrication, Fabrication, Physical manifestation of ideas, prototyping; mediated performance/Acting for Media
    • Health & Well-being / Work-Life Balance/ Safer Spaces – encompasses all aspects of wellness: physical, vocal, emotional, spiritual
  • Faculty have revised individual courses with a view towards greater diversity and inclusivity in approaches/methodologies and subject matter covered. Faculty have identified where/how their courses and assignments respond to the core areas mentioned above.
  • Rethinking crew assignments to better acknowledge student realities (work/life balance)
  • Prioritize inviting IBPOC and LGBTQ2+ artists to speak with classes and lead workshops
Policies & procedures

Recent (2020-21)

  • Motion to form a department committee to support and facilitate ongoing conversations about anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the Department of Theatre. This committee will include representation from graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty, and will report to the department. At least one member of the committee will liaise with the newly formed AMPD-wide seed committee (and any subsequent standing committee at the Faculty level) and the IBPOC Artists Association.
  • Department EDI committee defined mandate and governance structure
  • Student associations involved in selecting student representatives to serve on search committees (a new practice)
  • Reevaluating approach to Land Acknowledgments – supporting statements with concrete action
  • Reevaluating approach to making contracts and other formal agreements with Indigenous artists and scholars. Consulting with Indigenous artists and theatre companies to better understand existing practices
  • Area-specific policies to acknowledge and address past harms and work towards harm reduction. See Acting Area documents. Production Area “ad hoc” agreement

Current/Future (2021-

  • First formal meeting of EDI committee
  • Continue to liaise and strengthen connections with IBPOC Artists’ Association and the AMPD EDI seed committee
  • Revisit department mandate and mission statement
  • Participate in workshops and related sessions run by KOJO Institute (initiative led by AMPD Dean’s Office)
Building awareness, transparency, and accountability through workshops and related events

Recent (2020-21)

  • Faculty workshop with Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion on anti-racist teaching practices
  • Prime Time workshop (1st year students) on discrimination, micro-aggressions led by Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Guest lectures and workshops as part of Performance Studies (Canada) speaker series:
  • Developing and sharing resources for faculty and students — e.g. expanded list of plays/monologues for IBPOC actors; list of plays by women of colour; bibliography of articles that address systemic racism/ Black theatre in Canada
  • Fundraising and donations-in-lieu of box office to support community activists and socially-minded organizations (for some performances and festivals)
  • Participating in EDI conversations with community partners, arts institutions, and other university Theatre departments across Canada
  • Continuing to support Accessibility efforts through training, workshops, curricular development

Future (2021-22)

  • Two workshops with the Centre for Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion scheduled for Prime Time (September 2021)
  • TRC Reading Challenge – to begin week of Sept. 30 in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Preparations for additional workshops, lectures, public events
Season selection: Theatre @ York

Recent (2020-21)

  • Guiding Principles for season play selection
  • Documenting/archiving past Theatre @ York shows in an effort to improve transparency and accountability in season planning
  • Ongoing work with the newly renamed “Season Building” committee, including frequent community updates on selection process. This committee includes students from all areas of the department.
  • Ongoing conversations about creating safe, inclusive spaces for theatre creation, including panel conversation on Intimacy in Theatre Training with Siobhan Richardson, Nina Lee Aquino, Peter Davis Hinton, and Michaela Washburn

Current/Future (2021-22)

  • Ongoing work for the season building committee; developing a catalogue of all plays being read as potential for future seasons, with notes for each based on committee discussions
  • Investigate funding potential for developing an artists-in-residence program
IBPOC alumni/community engagement

Recent (2020-21)

  • Rebooting Surprise! Surprise! to privilege companies that that centre IBPOC artists and narratives
  • PS Canada Speaker Series talks and workshops (visits by Sadie Berlin, Dylan Robinson, and others)
  • “(Re)Setting the Stage: The Past, Present, and Future of Casting Practices in Canada” (May 1-June 2021), featuring artists from throughout the GTA and beyond. Panel 1 video available here; panel 2 video available
  • Support for newly established IBPOC Alumni Theatre Hub (guest visits by Weyni Mengesha, Anand Rajaram, Jani Lauzon)
  • Funding to support Canada-wide student participation in Seeding the Future, a creative response project connected to 21 Black Futures. Partners included Obsidian Theatre, CBC Arts, Brock University. 


This is very much a living document, one we are committed to using in the interests of transparency to track progress and hold ourselves accountable. This work will unfold in concert with broader efforts led by the Dean’s Office, which will involve all AMPD students, faculty, and staff.

If you have comments or suggestions for revision or inclusion, please forward them to the department’s Equity, Diversity, Decolonization, and Inclusion committee at EDDItheayork@gmail.com.