How did the convesation about the Foundational Standards start?

MNTAC hosted a series of community conversations starting in the fall of 2019. These talks included participation from over two hundred theater makers in MN, including performers, production workers, managers, designers, theater educators, playwrights, artistic and executive directors. The main takeaway was this: something needs to be done to address past, present and future harm in MN theaters. 

What are the MN Theater Foundational Standards for Safety and Accountability?

The Foundational Standards document was created by a group of dedicated volunteers. These theater makers collectively spent thousands of hours researching issues, then developing and vetting the final content. They established six core values that address safety and accountability across all areas. They are:

Why do the Standards exist?

The MN Foundational Standards were inspired by similar documents generated in Chicago, Cleveland, NY and LA. They exist as a unifying document of best practices to give theater makers and organizations a shared language if and when conflict arises. The intention in writing these standards was to create an environment where safety is the top priority and theater makers can feel comfortable advocating for themselves and others in their work. 

I wasn't aware there was such a big problem in our MN theaters. Why is that?

Traditionally, people who experience unhealthy work conditions, harassment or abuse in theater settings don’t talk about it for fear of retribution or they don’t feel comfortable being a whistleblower. Our work is primarily contract work, and speaking out about problematic behavior or issues might result in loss of work and a tarnished reputation. Also, antiquated adages such as “the show must go on” and “we must suffer for our art” keep people from addressing problems and advocating for themselves. 

Why is it important for me to endorse these standards?

Those who work in theater tend to be transient workers. The Foundational Standards provide a shared understanding of expectations. We need more transparency between theaters, and the standards provide a blanket of care that can help you feel safe wherever you work. Having a shared understanding and common language helps ensure our collective needs will be taken seriously by theater institutions and theater makers. Standards for safety and accountability can vary among theaters and/or performing arts education depending on size, location, and available resources. By endorsing the Foundational Standards, you are committing to uphold the values in the standards to the best of your ability, and to continue to learn, grow, and evaluate how you are participating in and contributing to our community culture. 

What if the theater I'm working for already has policies for safety? Why would I sign these?

We’re glad that so many theaters have developed their own policies! It’s an important step for any institution invested in making their spaces safer. However, they only cover workers in that institution. The Foundational Standards can function additionally or concurrently to the values established by a theater. Your support of a community wide set of standards protects not only people at one theater, but everyone in the community so we are safer as a whole.