35//50 Initiative II
On behalf of Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre, I extend our sincere gratitude to the signatories and organizers of the 35//50 Initiative for the necessary and urgent work they are undertaking on behalf of marginalized artists in our community and workplaces.
While we are a small company, we are proud to be a part of the Alberta theatre landscape, and we therefore have a responsibility on behalf of our artists, audiences, and supporters, to do our part to support the Initiative.
Thumbs Up Good Work has been consistent in its criticism of the current state of the theatre industry, and has always given voice to the real harms done by business-as-usual. The lack of class consciousness from the majority of theatre companies and working artists alike is cause for concern. The white supremacist, ableist, homophobic, misogynistic, abuses that vicitimize so many artists are the result of the neo-liberal capitalist structures we use to produce work. Until we address that the theatre industry, like all industries, is composed of three groups: workers, bosses, and landlords, and organize accordingly we will never achieve equity. We see the 35//50 Initiative as an important struggle that exists alongside many others in achieving the equity we seek.
We acknowledge and affirm with deep respect the harms suffered by Black artists, Indigenous artists, non binary artists, female artists, and artists of colour at the hands of our oppressors, as well as those marginalized artists not addressed by the 35//50 Initiative. We stand in solidarity with you.
COLD HARD NUMBERS:
BIPOC - 2/5 = 40%
FEMALE/NB - 3/5 = 60%
The Born Again Crow - Whitehorse 2020
BIPOC: 3/5 - 75%
FEMALE/NB: 2/4 - 50%
BIPOC: 3/5 - 60%
FEMALE/NB: 3/5 - 60%
The Born Again Crow - Calgary 2019
BIPOC: 3/4 - 75%
FEMALE/NB: 2/4 - 50%
BIPOC: 1/5 - 20%
FEMALE/NB: 4/5 - 80%
The Born Again Crow - Saskatoon 2019
BIPOC: 2/4 - 50%
FEMALE/NB: 2/4 - 50%
BIPOC: 2/6 - 30%
FEMALE/NB: 4/6 - 66%
While we have a few more projects under our belt, these are the only productions that received any public funding. Before 2019, Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre was financed through private funds, using a variety of fundraising strategies, but never corporate sponsorship. As the 35//50 initiative is concerned primarily with access to public funds and paid positions, I have kept our report to the relevant data only.
In terms of BIPOC and gender representation, our numbers are in line with the goals of the 35//50 Initiative, the exception being our crew on the Calgary run of the Born Again Crow.
The artist collective is me (Caleigh Crow, Artistic Lead, Playwright, Director, Performer), Colin Wolf (Artistic Associate, Performer), Sacha Crow (Artistic Associate, Musician, Composer), Sydney Wolf (Artistic Associate, Costume Designer, Properties), and Sarah German (Artistic Associate, Stage Manager) and was established a year ago, after we finished our Saskatoon run of The Born Again Crow. We are typically recognized by granting bodies as an ad hoc collective. We do not have a board of directors and we are not designated as a not-for-profit organization. We do not have an operating budget, and none of the artist collective is paid any salary, fee, or honorarium for their work. When we received our project funding in 2019, we paid all the artists involved, including those in the artist collective, fees solely for their artistic and/or production roles on the project.
The 35//50 Initiative comes at a time of transition for Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre. Our network is growing steadily, our audiences are increasing, and we have new access to public funds. Our responsibility to the theatre community is therefore shifting. It is important to us that going forward we honour our company’s past as a producer of theatre by independent, DIY, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-establishment, feminist artists. The 35//50 Initiative provides an excellent guideline and we will continue to strive for the representation goals outlined by the Initiative.
Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre began as the artistic endeavour of Colin Wolf and me. We are Metis siblings living below the poverty line and we established this company in direct response to the concerns raised by the 35//50 Initiative: no one was hiring us. So we created our own work.
Since that is the basic premise of the company, our history is intertwined with the personal histories and experiences of its founders. I want to tell you mine, and there is a lot to unpack. Marginalized people aren’t usually just one thing, and when you are a person like me (Metis, queer, mentally ill, working class), you never know exactly which identity is the source of your oppression. And so I will share my story with you in a series of personal blog posts detailing the history of Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre and my artistic career up to this point.
I’ll leave it here for now, as to keep the focus on the 35//50 Initiative. Next time, I’ll share a brief history and some insight into the principles of our company.
Once again, many thanks to the 35//50 Initiative. Thumbs Up Good Work Theatre will be watching the response from the broader theatre community with optimism, as there are only good things to come from such an undertaking, namely, food on the table for BIPOC, female, and non-binary artists.