Our country is reeling. While a pandemic has seismically changed our communities, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery confront us with the unending issue of racism that has plagued our country since its founding. Portland Stage mourns these tragic deaths—deaths that have been added to the all too many who have been abused or killed because of the color of their skin— and as an organization, we must face head-on the unjust, violent, unequal treatment of Black people in America. We must acknowledge our role in the problem, and we must work for positive change to the system.
Theater is about inclusivity; it is about walking in another person’s shoes, it is about building community. As such, the board and staff of Portland Stage must affirm that Black Lives Matter and that at Portland Stage, we continue to grow in understanding and lean into this truth. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Black artists, staff, board, audiences, students, teachers, and members of our community to say no more to white hate, no more to white indifference.
Portland Stage must fight against racism and oppression both inside and outside our theater. We need to look within, to make sure that we are living our beliefs and working to dismantle the systemic racism and oppression that is our country’s legacy. We must play our part in righting this wrong. As Sarah Bellamy of Penumbra Theatre Company in this beautiful American Theatre article articulates:
“Rather than white people feeling like, ‘How can I hold space for people of color?’ I want them to call other white people into their spaces and say, ‘We need to talk.’ Now more than ever, we need white folk to get their white folk.”
As a predominately white theater company in Portland, Maine, we need to educate ourselves and invite our community to join us as we seek to find ways to help change our world and learn to practice anti-racism. This must become part of our Strategic Plan. At our Annual Meeting in June, we will add this call to action to our Plan and set aside time to discuss the positive actions that Portland Stage can take.