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equity, diversity, inclusion

West Edge Opera is uniquely situated in the Bay Area, which is rich with diverse voices from the Black community, LatinX community, Asian community, South Asian community, Muslim community, Indigenous community, LGBTQ and non-binary community, along with many other voices that make up our greater Bay Area region.


We commit to working toward the goal of becoming a more diverse organization that reflects the audiences that we seek to serve. This is not a contract to do this work, it is a promise that we will do our best to accomplish this goal.


These are the steps we have already taken or are in progress:
 

Strategic Plan:
In 2020 The West Edge Opera board approved a three-year strategic plan which included the following values and guiding principles:

West Edge Opera Values and Guiding Principles:

Above all, we are committed to the highest quality of innovative theatrical and musical
experiences for our Bay Area audiences and beyond.

WEO is committed to excellence, accessibility, and inclusion. These goals are achieved in a
variety of ways including the:
● promotion of diversity in race, age, and gender in all casting and staffing
● support of new opera from diverse artists
● presentation of musical works in innovative spaces that are rich in historical legacy
● availability of affordably priced seats
● offering of events that are dedicated to welcoming new, diverse audiences.

Believing that we have a responsibility to make opera more accessible to diverse audiences, we look to partner with organizations that strengthen our commitment to accessibility, inclusion and excellence.



Diverse Opera Development:
We are commissioning the opera Bulrusher based on the play by Eisa Davis. Davis is the co-librettist. Bulrusher is about a young black woman growing up in rural northern California in 1955. Aperture is our online commissioning and development program. At this writing we have eight operas in development. Every opera has diverse characters at the center, including one new black opera written by an entirely black team. Of the nineteen participants, ten are BIPOC.  All decisions in Aperture are made by a diverse team of 8 curators. The funding is from the program’s members who pay monthly to follow the progress of the operas through produced videos.

Code of Conduct:

We have expanded the company’s anti-harrassment policy to include a commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression.​ We have renamed this policy: “The West Edge Opera Code of Conduct.” This agreement is supported by the entire board and will be signed by every employee, contractor, and subcontractor of the organization. Here are the pertinent excerpts that refer to racial equity:


• West Edge Opera is committed to a work and creative environment in which all individuals are treated with respect. West Edge Opera expressly prohibits discrimination and all forms of harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, economic, military or veteran status, or status in any group protected by state or local law.

• West Edge Opera is also highly committed to anti-racism and anti-oppression. It is our policy to confront any instances of racism including “micro-aggressions.” Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team is charged with reviewing and making recommendations when instances occur. They may recommend disciplinary action, education or termination.

• All members of the West Edge Company are encouraged to report instances of harassment or racism.

A list of names to report to is provided on the official policy.

The EDI Team:
We have assembled an Equity/Diversity/Inclusion team that will advise on all matters of racial equity. The EDI Team includes members of our community, board, staff, advisory council, and will be facilitated by a trained racial-equity facilitator from the Bay Area.

 

Leigh Rondon-Davis

Member of our Aperture Curatorial Staff and trained racial-equity facilitator

Debbie Chinn

Member of our Advisory Council, Board President, Theater Bay Area

Laurene Wu McClain

Member of our Advisory council, West Edge Major Donor, Attorney

Shawnette Sulker   

Soprano, frequent West Edge Artist, Member of the Black Opera Alliance

Anne Shortall   

West Edge Opera Board President

Derek Jandu   

Senior Manager of Corporate Engagement, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

West Edge Opera Board Member

Mark Streshinsky   

General Director, West Edge Opera

Valden Kamph   

Director of Operations, West Edge Opera

We hereby pledge to do the following: 

1. Make best efforts to hire artists who reflect, at minimum, the racial demographics of the San Francisco Bay Area for both outreach and mainstage projects. This action works to restore equity for BIPOC performers and enables audiences to digest living art that reflects multifaceted experiences, encouraging diversity in donors and increased patronage of the opera. Active recruiting from institutions of higher learning, young artist programs and studios, and online resources will be utilized to help achieve this result.

2. Move toward requiring that administrative staff, orchestra members, and independent contractors reflect, at minimum, the racial demographics of the San Francisco Bay Area.​ This will build infrastructure that supports equity in our hiring practices through active and dynamic recruitment. This level of intentionality will allow for powerful opportunities to deepen the organization’s impact, relevance, and advancement of the art form. Inclusive organizational personnel is sure to bring a broad range of ideas, skills, and views that would not otherwise be considered. 

 

3. Program and prioritize works by BIPOC writers and composers on the mainstage, especially those that feature storytelling true to the complexity and broad experience of diverse cultures. Hire more BIPOC creatives and production personnel at every level of the organization in order to tell those stories. We will continue to hire more BIPOC stage directors, dramaturgs, and librettists. This validates the humanity of the community we serve and strengthens our commitment to include, empower, and uplift diverse perspectives on the stage and throughout our organization. We will also be sure to hire BIPOC stage managers, conductors, costume designers, hair and makeup artists, and lighting designers etc. If the size of the candidate pool is insufficient, apprenticeship opportunities will be created to actively recruit BIPOC creatives and production personnel in order to ensure this result. 

4. Require that wig technicians, makeup artists, and lighting designers are well versed in successfully presenting diverse artists onstage. BIPOC artists will never be asked to provide their own makeup for shows. West Edge Opera has zero tolerance for Blackface, Brownface and Yellowface.

5. Review the organization's hiring practices and administrative policies for inherent racism and/or implicit bias. ​ EDI team will ensure the soundness and sufficiency of this review process. The EDI team will also review and consult on hiring budgets in order to provide better transparency around artist wages and staff promotions. 

6. Review the board's recruitment culture and decision-making methodologies for inherent racism and/or implicit bias. This includes providing better transparency around organizational leadership hires. The company will publicly announce all General, Artistic, and Executive Director searches and pursue equitable measures to ensure that diverse candidates are actively sought for the applicant pool. The board will work with the EDI team to identify any specific blind spots that preclude the onboarding of new diverse directors and develop focused strategies to dismantle such barriers. In addition, The EDI team will advise when and if anti-racism training is necessary and warranted for any member or group of the West Edge Company including board, employees, contractors and sub-contractors.