WE’RE CHANGING OUR NAME AND WE’RE BURNING IT DOWN.
Five years ago, The Tribe Theatre Co. was formed by a group of mostly-white, mostly-male friends from college. This message is coming from those white founding members of our company in collaboration with the existing ensemble signed at the the bottom.
At our conception, the word “Tribe” resonated with us in the most base of possible ways - because our “members were all from the same place.” In other words, we felt deep ownership of a word that was never ours to use.
WE WERE WRONG.
We chose to simply adopt the literal dictionary definition of the word “Tribe" because it suited our needs. We felt because we set out to foster togetherness, unity, and community, we could ignore and whitewash the reality of the word’s greater cultural context and its origins.
Origins which specifically belong to the cultures and traditions of Black and Indigenous people. We only took the time to adopt the definition that suited us, and not the word as a whole.
The fact that we chose to move forward with this name, in this blatantly ignorant way, is indicative of a greater structural problem within our company. And moreover, the fact that we are only addressing this now is a reflection of how slow we have been to take action when instances of injustice (both internal and external) required immediate attention.
SO WE’RE STARTING OVER.
What we mean is that we are dismantling the version of our company that operated under this nomenclature. This version and its membership structure did not serve our Black, Brown, and Indigenous co-creators or hold us accountable to a mission statement we never came close to honoring.
A company content to blindly make art in a vacuum without acknowledging our participation in systemic racism in the arts, the communities we inhabit, and the world at large will no longer exist.
We believe strongly that the work is not done online. As individuals, we are working to UN-learn what we thought we knew and RE-learn what it means to be anti-racist, amplify BIPOC artists, and decenter whiteness.
As a company, we are effectively dissolving as we deepen our understanding of what it means to have the responsibility and the privilege of a platform. We are not rushing to rebrand, choose a new name, finesse an empty mission statement, or announce events/programming.
This process is slow and will happen best in phases that will and MUST be earned by the collective. A collective that through this process will look and function in a radically different manner as we prioritize building a new “us” that will accurately reflect the communities we seek to engage. Only when we have taken the time and steps necessary to complete a phase will we move on to the next phase.
HERE IS AN OUTLINE WITHOUT A TIMELINE:
PHASE 1: Acknowledgements (What you’re reading. How we got here.)
PHASE 2: Rebuilding (Bringing in new artists, reexamining leadership structure, and revising our membership process.)
PHASE 3: Declaration of Work (Statement of Intent, Purpose, and how we’ll stay Accountable.)
PHASE 4: Reintroduction
PHASE 5: Programming
We’re going to be as transparent as possible as we move through this process and keep our plan posted on all of our social platforms. We do this in an effort to hold ourselves accountable at every single step, continually check ourselves, move through our failures and the discomfort that comes with that, and earn back the trust of a community that has put so much trust in us.
While we take time as a company to do this internal work we will be leaving this space dark.
We acknowledge, first and foremost, the make up of our company. We acknowledge that the majority of our company members are white and we have done little in terms of inclusion of artists of color when it comes to our core company members. We further acknowledge that this was brought to our attention by artists of color in the past and we did not move quickly enough if at all to expand company membership.
We acknowledge that we have been sloppy in our usage of the terms diversity & diversify. While we have always strived to tell stories centering POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community, & women, we have done little to make sure the rooms in which these stories were being created reflected the world we were putting on stage, and, more accurately, the world around us.
We acknowledge that we have cast BIPOC artists and relied on their artistic talents and emotional labor without supplying the tools, support, and representation in the room necessary to make for a genuinely safe and equitable process in which whiteness is de-centered.
We acknowledge that for the majority of our productions, we did not hold open auditions or interviews while building creative teams. We did not take this extra step to reach outside of our immediate community, which did not make for an inclusive process.
We acknowledge that there has been a lack of authentic, direct engagement with the communities in which we’ve performed or held events. We have been complicit in and participated in the gentrification of areas and spaces by ignoring the Black and Brown communities directly outside of the walls in which we have created art.
And finally, we acknowledge that it is a privilege to educate ourselves about race and racism. The new version of this company will absolutely continue to make mistakes as we move forward. We want to acknowledge ahead of time that we will own these mistakes, listen to impacted individuals, and work urgently and actively to implement new practices for the future. We acknowledge that this is an active journey not a completable task.
Thank you for showing up with your time, trust, energy, good vibes, artistic sensibilities, financial investment, expertise, voices, dreams, thoughts, critiques, bottles of wine, suggestions, eagerness, kindness, patience, dance parties, open hearts, and whole selves to this community for the last five years.
Our inbox is open. Please DM us with any thoughts, critiques, or questions.
We look forward to honoring you as you have honored us.
Nick Browne, Maddie Bucci, Nik Duggan, Phil Feldman, Jenny Lester, Scotland Newton, Ryan Novakovich, Lindsey Sherman, Alex Walton.