The initiative to create the Chicago Theatre Standards (CTS) was born of artists and administrators at all levels of our community working together toward a cultural paradigm shift away from turning a blind eye to sexual harassment, discrimination, violence, intimidation and bullying in our theatres and towards mentoring, prevention, and accountability.
When at risk, artists are often afraid to speak out – particularly where there is a notable power differential. This might be an intern expected to do unsafe things without supervision or protective gear, an actor asked to perform nude after signing on to a project, a costume designer having a fitting sexualized, or agreed-upon choreography ignored in scenes with sexual or violent content. But no one wants to be a complainer, and historically there have too-often been consequences for those that do.
Theatres that choose to adopt these Chicago Theatre Standards seek to strengthen the safety net in their theatres, and provide a process for response without reprisal when conditions are unsafe.
The Chicago Theatre Standards seeks to be pro-everybody: pro-producer, pro-director, pro-actor, pro-designer, pro-union etc. No one is forced to use the document, or shamed for not adopting it. It seeks not to create a community made up of heroes and villains, enact a witch-hunt or create a pitchfork brigade. It seeks not to “call out” members of our community, but to “call in” to mentor and create procedures to improve conditions in spaces that use it, and awareness and standards for all who read it. It is not intended to replace or compete with Actors’ Equity or any other industry organization. This document does not take positions on material, casting practices or artistic values, nor does it prescribe ways of making theatre. It simply seeks to be a tool for self-governance, to strengthen safety nets and create paths for communication, respect, safety, mentoring and accountability.
The Chicago Theatre Standards seeks to be usable regardless of age, size, budget or artistic mission. It is created by artists, for artists. There is no fee, club, not-for-profit status, certificate, or regulatory board. We hope that if a theatre says they are using the document but is not, participants will take the opportunity to read the document and judge for themselves if an organization is honestly trying to adopt it. More essentially, it provides everyone a level of awareness about how things can go. With that information, they can make informed decisions about where they invest their time and talent.
This is not a legal document. It is a cultural document. Dozens have contributed to it including actors, stage managers, artistic directors, violence designers, clowns, managing directors, administrators and attorneys have contributed to it. It was used for a full year by nearly twenty theatres who tested it and contributed critique. It is written with love for our community and compassion for those who make mistakes. We hope that it makes theatre safer for greater risk, and a more enriching experience for everyone. And, yes, it seeks to empower our community to never-again allow a predator to flourish for twenty years with nothing more than hushed warnings to not work at a certain theatre.
This document never would have been written without the courage of a small group of women who came forward and shared their stories of survival. They are heroes. We are in their debt. This document seeks to honor their courage, live by their example, and seek a community that dedicated to the credo NOT IN OUR HOUSE.
Thank you so much for your interest in the Chicago Theatre Standards.
Coordinator, Chicago Theatre Standards
Founder, Not In Our House