as•sem•bly |ə-sěm'blē| (noun)
1. a group of people gathered in one place for a common purpose.
2. a public facility to meet for open discussion.
3. the action of fitting together component parts of a machine or
4. a collective of artists dedicated to realizing a new American theater.
AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY IS CENTRAL TO THE ASSEMBLY’S MISSION
The Assembly believes in the importance of community and the power of live performance to create and sustain it. We strive to collaborate closely with a wide variety of artists to create theater that is rigorous, relevant, and inclusive. We actively investigate different ways of being in the world, and prioritize genuine, vulnerable connection. In order to reflect and negotiate the nuances and perspectives of all collaborators in the room, our work takes time to develop. It is built largely through conversation and consensus, inviting artists and audiences to consider the complexity of the world through multiple, often contradictory, angles, and we gauge its success by how many people stick around after the show to talk to us, and to each other.
However, the lack of diversity in The Assembly’s leadership prevents us from fully upholding the breadth of perspective that we prize as central to our work. As a predominately white, straight, and cisgender company, we have benefited from entrenched bias in our industry. We recognize our responsibility as individuals and as an organization to root out the legacies of white supremacy in our practices, our art, and our communities. We take seriously our role as both gatekeepers and community members.
With the realization that this bias was integrated into the fabric of our company from the beginning, we determined to shine a light on our process and our culture, and to begin dismantling the barriers to creating a more inclusive company. Through Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) workshops and anti-racism training for the majority of our company leadership and board, we were able to start to articulate a vision for The Assembly’s evolution. Further galvanized by the demands of We See You W.A.T., and with gratitude for their labor and outreach, The Assembly has developed a series of goals and action steps. We acknowledge that the changes we must make in our organization are long overdue, and we are dedicated to staying uncomfortable and being held accountable when we fall short.
Diversifying our artistic work
In 2019, The Assembly created the Deceleration Lab, in part to address the lack of opportunity for BIPOC, transgender and other marginalized artists to develop new work within our own theatrical practice, and to serve as a vehicle to building deeper relationships with artists. With the support of a three-year grant from NYSCA, the program launched in 2020, providing two Deceleration Lab artists each year with two weeks of rehearsal space, a budget for artists’ fees and materials, and access to The Assembly’s administrative team and infrastructure for a full year. Within our next season of three new works, we commit to fully producing at least one project led by a BIPOC artist.
We also recognize that as members of the New York theater community, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to support BIPOC-led companies and projects now, by making more conscious and thoughtful choices about what shows outside The Assembly we work on, contribute to, and attend. We are committed to making space for a healthier and more diverse theatrical ecosystem.
Diversifying our staff and board
The Assembly aims to achieve demographic parity at every level, spanning entry-level, decision-making, and artistic positions, including writing, directing, curating, and producing over the next five-to-ten years.
As we have diversified the artists who collaborate on productions, we recognize that the Assembly’s leadership, our core company of artist-administrators and our board, has not kept pace. In 2020, we partnered with CUNY Cultural Corps to create a paid position within our producing team, providing mentorship and work experience for a current CUNY student entering a career in NYC’s arts and cultural institutions. We are building our capacity within the next three-to-five years to have two permanent positions for BIPOC members of the company. At the same time, we plan to grow our board with at least two BIPOC board members.
In addition to diversifying our board and staff, we are also committed to continuing our EDI and anti-racism training. Members of The Assembly’s staff and board have already participated in A.R.T./New York’s “Diversifying Our Organizations” with the Raben Group, The Indie Theater Fund’s Inclusion and Equity Training with Daniel Lim, “Coming to the Table” with Jodie Geddes and Tom DeWolf, and “Anti-Racist Theatre” with Nicole Brewer. We consider this the beginning of our journey in this regard.
Creating safe spaces for collaboration
The Assembly is committed to providing a safe, professional work environment free of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and sexual misconduct. As part of that commitment we have created a community standards agreement that details our commitment to inclusion and fostering an environment of trust, as well as paths to report or address violations of these standards or harm occurring within our work. This document is distributed to every collaborator upon hire, and signed at the beginning of each rehearsal process as an acknowledgment of this practice. You can view these community standards on our website here.
The Assembly will make Native land acknowledgments a regular practice in our programs and at first rehearsals and events.
Within the next two years, we intend to engage an ombudsperson for each production to serve as an independent advocate for all collaborators and as a resource for resolving conflict within a project.
Holding ourselves accountable
We will stay true to this mission by regularly evaluating our work. At least once a year, we will assess our progress toward meeting these commitments, evaluate their efficacy, and form a detailed action plan for moving forward. We are committed to determining specific, measurable, and public goals, in order to hold ourselves accountable to our values and our community.
This is a living document and will evolve with The Assembly. We are grateful to those who are a part of this process.