July 1st, 2020

Dear DAI Executive Leadership and Board,

 

I’m writing to you as a recent Dell’Arte graduate (MFA 2019), a recent staff member (Prison Arts Program teacher 2019-20) and a current Blue Lake community member.

I was disheartened to read the board’s letter in the North Coast Journal last week responding to the Collective Response call to action. Though it hit the points necessary to be considered "professional" and "concerned," I was not left with a feeling of hope, and instead sensed that Dell’Arte is primarily focused on saving face. It was vague, perhaps being careful not to commit to or take responsibility for too much, and the unfortunate effect of this was a dismissal of the voices that were raised and the urgency of the current situation. Inviting the authors of the Collective Response to meet with you is, based on the experiences shared in their statement, another opportunity for your BIPOC colleagues to be put into a personally and professionally dangerous space. I feel strongly that your letter only serves to perpetuate the current state of affairs. It is clear that you do not see.

We have a unique opportunity, with the pandemic having turned the world on its head and the cracks in our society’s systems becoming more clear than ever, to co-create a new future for Dell’Arte. For you, Dell’Arte’s leadership and board, to continue to downplay this situation would be a dire mistake. This organization has existed for more than 45 years and it must shed the skin that no longer nourishes it in order to move forward and thrive, and to be an example of love in the world. Don’t let Dell’Arte stagnate. Don't allow valuable staff and faculty to be turned away through the diminishment of who they are and the gifts they share.

In an interview just this month with Robin DiAngelo by the Family Action Network, she stated that “white people will never understand what we need to know if we aren’t listening to black people and other peoples of color.” And it is not just about listening, but about engaging with the leadership that has been offered. If you do not move forward with the recommendations put before you, my question to you is, what are you clinging so tightly to?

I love and respect the people of this organization and the experiences I’ve had here. I fully support the Collective Response call to action, and I challenge you to respond as recommended.

 

Sincerely,

 

Melanie Schauwecker (MFA 2019)

 

June 23rd, 2020

posted on Facebook

My heart dropped when I read this post. It is still dropping. Dell' Arte Please don't apologize in this moment. Please don't say you'll do better. And whatever you do, please don't put a Person of Color out front to be the spokesperson for your response. I CHARGE EVERY CURRENT OR PAST STUDENT, FACULTY, STAFF, AND GUEST ARTIST TO REPLY TO THIS POST. NOT BY ADDING A LIKE OR A HEART, BUT ACTUALLY COMMENT. We (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) need to HEAR YOU! I remember first coming to Dell Arte as a guest artist in 1994. The first thing Michael Fields did when I arrived....was to introduce me to the Folks at the Fire Station, the Blue Lake Police Officers, the Post Office, and the owners of the Logger Bar. I viscerally will never forget having to do the 'good negro' walk in Blue Lake. Michael Fields may very well have saved my life that day. I am stunned silent by the words of this post. As an Alumnae I await the response. As a Teacher I await the response. As a Black man I await the response. Much Love!

Stephen Buescher  (Alum, Company member, former Faculty)

June 28th, 2020

This is the time for DAI and other organizations to decide what your identity is. If organizations are truly dedicated to equity and balance, putting a new coat of paint on the house with a crumbling foundation will not help. The whole house needs to be rebuilt. Use the designs that still work and change that which does not. If one of the core principles is to be diverse and inclusive, then the process of reconstruction must also include diverse voices. An organization which holds ensemble as a foundational principal must be created with ensemble. Anything short is lying to yourself and the world. Dell’Arte international, who are you behind your statements of solidarity?

Joël Vining (MFA 2020)

June 26th, 2020

To be clear, I am not BIPOC. I too had questions about "trickle down community engagement" although I did not have those words at the time for my feelings.  In hindsight, it is also incredibly odd that for an international school, all my main faculty were white, with POC teachers only in twice for special workshops.

Kate Mura (PTP 2005)

June 24th, 2020

posted on Facebook

Heard, read, and I support this wholeheartedly. As both student and staff, I can look back on my experiences at Dell'Arte now and recognize how insidious WSC affected my education and the work. I acknowledge that it is real, powerful and must be stopped. Here to listen and support the work, however needed.

Tyler Olson (Alum, Company member, former Staff and Faculty)

June 23rd, 2020

I am in support of all recommendations listed in the collective response open letter to DAI. I support seeing BIPOC lead this conversation. I support this because I love dell arte, and as a white student I know we can do SO MUCH more to dismantle white supremacist culture within our school and our minds. Let's get to work!

Hannah Buston (MFA 2020)

June 24th, 2020

I believe that DAI is a magical, transformative place. I believe that DAI has deeply rooted practices that reenforce white supremacist culture and marginalize BIPOC voices interwoven throughout its training pedagogy, and organizational practices. Now is the time for DAI to listen to the experiences of those from these marginalized communities who also love DAI and want to see it transform itself. Now is the time to find a new way forward.

I love DAI. I am an alumni. I am a donor. I cannot continue to donate to support DAI if things do not change. I cannot be proud of my alma mater if a change of course is not taken.

I will be waiting and I will be watching. Make me proud.

Sean Andries (PTP 2010)

June 23rd, 2020

I haven't really been part of the Dell'Arte world much since I left in '99 other than holding an audition or two here in Toronto or being asked to write an alumni statement a few years back. To be quite honest, I didn't feel welcome and I don't know why. I am white so, to me, it speaks to a greater culture of elitism simmering beneath all you have expressed that I entirely believe based on my interactions there but, of course, can never fully perceive or understand.

Becky Johnson (PTP 1999)

June 23rd, 2020

My experience, when I describe it to those who don’t know the school, often leaves people staring back at me as if I’m a trauma victim revealing horrific details of my experience...When I first heard stories from others about how furious they were about the behavior of the faculty, I brushed it off at first.  My privilege asserted my authority that because I was okay with the abuse i received, everyone should be okay with the abuse they received (this mindset I know now also stems again from my own trauma mindset)

Erica Fladeland (PTP 2010)

June 30th, 2020

Let me first respond by saying I support your message and have been for some time now.  

 

As a former student of DAI, I voiced a concern, both as a veteran and person of color, to a particular faculty member who exhibited his white privilege through verbal and physical abuse.   I am a veteran with PTSD, and hoped to go through any experience that involved veterans with special care and attention.  In this moment with said faculty member (during the melodrama window), I did not receive this attention nor even a heads up. After meeting with the board members on several occasions, decisions were made to move forward. I can say, at the time, those decisions made sense to me and I received support from the school regarding this matter.  Nonetheless, the issues being raised today are significant in its own right, and I hope change is coming.

 

Becca and Tushar were the first colleagues to reach out and support me as a friend, or really moreso a human being with feelings.  Five years later, I have never forgotten their love at that moment. 

 

I send this because I felt my time there was abrupt and I missed real opportunities to build friendships with amazing people. 

 

In peace and solidarity,

Jason Barlaan (PTP 2015)

June 23rd, 2020

Hello,

 

I want to amplify the incredible, thoughtful letter written holding Dell Arte accountable for ways that it perpetuates white supremacy.

 

Dell Arte should listen, believe and act on all demands put forward.

 

Dell Arte is about fostering trust, often leading to life long creative partnerships. In my time at Dell Arte, my class was majority white. My teachers were majority white. That’s where I built the trust to work as an actor/creator and the creative community that I continue to draw almost exclusively from. 

 

There is work that I can and need to do to rectify this personally but change also needs to take place at the institutional level. BIPOC need to be included, heard, believed at Dell Arte. White supremacy must be dismantled in our education institutions. 

 

Your POC/ally staff have put in the EFFORT to hold you accountable, they’ve taken the RISK to come forward with their demands. Now DAI must use this MOMENTUM and not continue to rely on BIPOC community members to keep them honest. 

 

And we all know where effort, risk and momentum lead.

 

Juliana Frick (PTP)

June 25th, 2020

Hi Collective Response at Dell'Arte,

 

I stand as an ally with the BIPOC folx and allies who wrote the call for accountability within Dell'Arte to dismantling WSC. I look forward to seeing a public acknowledgement and apology, a timeline for the audits that have been suggested, and a new board and leadership team. It is deeply saddening to hear of what has been going on for staff and recent stories from alumni, and hopeful DAI will take on these great suggestions offered as direct and immediate actions to take. I know I am also dismantling WSC from my own companies and actions within the theatre, and having DAI as a model for possible change would be inspiring.

 

Thank you,

Sabrina Wenske (PTP)

June 25th, 2020

I feel it is a huge act of love for you to offer this.

 

I stand with you on taking all steps necessary to ensuring that DAI becomes a place which is a safe and supportive learning environment for all students to engage in the awesome, challenging and dangerous work of the actor-creator in ensemble. It should also be supportive and safe environment for the artists and staff. The ensemble of teachers and staff and board must be at least as strong as we hope the ensembles of our students to be.

 

Thanks for your work in identifying and making public your recommendations. I am listening and prepared to keep working.   

   

Tony Fuemmeler (PTP 2003, current Adjunct Faculty - Mask, Commedia dell'Arte)

June 23rd, 2020

As an alum of the PTP class of 2019, I stand in full support of the charges and challenges put forth in this letter. No doubt you have seen it, but it is attached in case you have not. I am deeply proud of and indebted to the education I received in Blue Lake, and I can only hope that the organization has the fortitude and courage to stand up to and face its faults when they have been illuminated so directly.

 

in solidarity,

Mitchell Manar (PTP 2019)

July 1st, 2020

I am white, and so cannot speak to the experience of BIPOC students at Dell'Arte, but I will say what I observed. Throughout the year, we had only one conversation explicitly about race and racial equity. It was facilitated by Stepping Stone Diversity Consulting. Notably, that was our only formal conversation, and I remember that it felt like it could have been the very, very beginning of a productive school-wide conversation. But the school prioritized other things, and there was never any follow-up after that. 

With an ensemble-based pedagogy - really with any meaningful work - I am understanding more and more that the work can only be as fully realized as its participants. From what I have heard from BIPOC students and what I read in this statement, it is clear to me that the work created up until now has been made within a culture that has stifled BIPOC voices and needs. And that means that this institutional culture has stifled the work itself. 

The basis of this school is ensemble-devised work, which in my opinion means everyone must feel equally heard and supported in the work. And I feel that can't be done without doing away with white supremacist culture and working towards racial equity"

 

Shara Tonn (PTP 2020)

June 26th, 2020

I support the recommendations put forth by the former & current Dell'Arte faculty and staff members. 
The behavior outlined in the open letter would not be tolerated in the rehearsal space, backstage or onstage at Dell'Arte. The same treatment of Black, Indigenous, & People of Color needs to translate to the office and meeting spaces at Dell'Arte. 


Sincerely,

Andrew Lupkes (MFA 2020)

June 29th, 2020

I write this with the "DAI Board Response" in mind, but applying to all of us; I wish that every person who read the Collective Response Letter would consciously notice if any resistance occurs and if so ask themselves why. Maybe there are “good" excuses but what do they matter when BIPOC are still getting hurt and treated unequally? This is truly the time to listen, acknowledge, trust and believe in what POC staff are saying is true and valid issues. Of course there is often "another side of the story", it's tempting to want to tell -but it doesn't help in this case. This is a bigger story.

This is the time for us to be humble, apologize and then move forward with actions taken from there. Now is the time for all of us to question ourselves, to look inwards, to deconstruct the way we perceive the world and with new knowledge build it up again. In this way we can question the world around us, deconstruct and rebuild it - together. This is hard but it’s so so necessary. 

I believe that DAI has the potential to lead the way and become a huge inspiration for more people and other institutions if they want to do the necessary work, and listen to the brave POC faculty who's risking a lot by putting themselves in a very fragile position!

-With their help DAI now has the gift and possibility to be the ones who show everyone how it's done.

Sigrid Norheim Ørntoft (PTP 2020)

June 26th, 2020

Dear all,

I just want to say that I stand in solidarity with you and I support the changes you are proposing. It is about time. I appreciate you putting this all out in the open and I wish more of that had been happening for longer during the time I was in school; I hope that this opens up a new era of communication and trust between future ensemble members and also within the staff and faculty. Everyone deserves to feel seen, heard, respected. Period. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you are doing! 
 

Love,

Sara Kei (MFA 2020)

June 24th, 2020

I am sitting with the words of this letter. I am letting them change me. I stand with Dell'Arte, in solidarity and with compassion, as I find these statements are true of all the well-meaning white spaces I inhabit. Thank you to all the creators, and especially to those who have risked, and given, so much: their jobs, their bodies, their dignity, their time.

Emily Giugni  (PTP 1999)

June 23rd, 2020

I firmly support the recommended actions outlined in the document recently released to social media, entitled “A Collective Response to Dell’Arte International.”

 

Thank you all for your bravery and leadership in voicing your concerns.

 

Jordan Rosin (MFA 2019)

July 7th, 2020

Thank you for speaking up and sharing your stories, your voices, and for demanding accountability and change.

Adriana Chavez (MFA 2010)

June 23rd, 2020

I stand in support and solidarity with Sayda Trujillo, Pratrik Motwani, Zuzka Sabata, James Peck, Laura Munoz, Sarah Peters, Alex Blouin, Rebecca Finny, and Tushar Mathew in all that they have written in their collective response to Dell' Arte International.

Marguerite Boissonnault (MFA 2020)

June 23rd, 2020

I apologize for not understanding this was happening while I was a student there in 2003-4.

You are all amazing.

Thank you

Wyckham Avery (PTP 2004)

June 23rd, 2020

I fully support your list of demands and recommend actions for the leadership at DAI. 

 

In this current moment, as a white individual, I am taking a step back to examine and reflect upon my work and time as a student at DAI. My partner Patrick (PTP 14) and I (MFA 16) are having active discussions about lessons, work created (or own and others we did not hold accountable), and teaching practices that perpetuated white supremacist culture, and how we were complicit through silence, privilege, or ignorance to it.

 

In particular, I continue to look back on the various iterations of Jane Doe in Wonderland. With every version, we have acknowledged the ways in which while addressing extremely important issues, we presented the topic in a way that perpetuated damaging stereotypes for various individuals of color. We continue to do this work, looking back as we become more and more educated to recognize what we did and the potentially damaging choices we may have made, and as we become more educated and aware, we continue to hold ourselves accountable. We also have acknowledged that in order to produce any further work on this piece we cannot continue as 4 cis-gendered white playwrights being the sole creators. I mention this because many of you witnessed or acted in the initial production and it was created within the school system you are working to dismantle. 

 

It was eye-opening to read the administrative perspective regarding the level of discrimination and supremacist culture you have encountered in working for the school. I am sorry for any part I played in perpetuating that culture as a student. 

 

Thank you for your time. 

Here to act and to raise my voice - yours in solidarity.

Erin Johnston (MFA 2016)

June 23rd, 2020

I am writing in support of the recent letter from DAI faculty. I call upon Dell'Arte to take the actions outlined in the letter as quickly as possible.

Ania Upstill (PTP)

June 23rd, 2020

Having some insight into the administrative culture of the place I recognize how much courage it took to make this statement and I am grateful for all the hard nut of it. It has really been a prod to start an examination of the ways I may have been complicit in these practices when I was in a position of "authority" at the organization. And a prod to the recognition of ways in which, as a white person in "authority", I was blind to what I was doing.
 

Dell'Arte International has been so foundational to my development as an artist and as a person... both in response to and rejection of aspects of the experience. Hard lessons were learned, but there was also joy and camaraderie. I hope that joy and camaraderie can be more equitably distributed going forward.
 

Thank you for standing up, for calling attention, and for holding us accountable. Talk (including my own) is easy. Now is the time for change.

Barbara Geary (DAI Staff)

July 28th, 2020

Really, really, really heartened by your words and fire and collective efforts.  If you need any more labor from someone all the way in Boston, I'm just an email away. I'll do whatever I can to help.  
 

Nathaniel Justiniano (MFA 2008)

June 24th, 2020

I saw your post about racism at Dell Arte and just wanted to respond as an alumni that I support you all, and am grateful for your commitment to speaking publicly about your experiences and calling for action. Aside from continuously examining my own privilege as a white performer and continuing a racial justice dialogue over the long term in my communities, I will enthusiastically take more specific actions as useful to support the recommendations listed and any other next steps related to them.

Follow up, July 6, 2020
The statements you all made, along with some of the other brave actions for racial justice we’re seeing now locally and around the world, have inspired some good local conversations among some friends (many of us alumni) about how white theater makers can seek to actively dismantle racism and forms of oppression in our creative work. I hope and believe our dialogues will lead to something useful and larger than just talk.  I was a community organizer for many years and I’m so grateful to see these essential and in some ways familiar dialogues happening more prominently in the circles of creative folk that are so dear to me.

Ari Rapkin (PTP 2013)

July 11th, 2020

Been meaning to send this email. I support this statement. Let me know how to help further.

Anthony Arnista (MFA 2013)

July 12th, 2020

I am in support of your recommendations. I am deeply grateful for your action, diligence, and clear, unwavering communication of what will help. 
 

Olivia Lehrman 

copyright 2020 by Zuzka Sabata