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The Dramatists Guild of America, the more than 8,000-member national professional trade association for playwrights, librettists, composers and lyricists for the U.S. stage, has developed its first-ever inclusion rider to encourage the hiring of groups historically excluded from American theater.
Conceived and created by the guild’s business affairs department alongside a special task force of guild staff, committee and council members, it encompasses “all historically excluded communities” and will apply to theatres of all sizes and locations across the U.S to promote a more “equitable, inclusive and anti-racist industry.”
“By providing this voluntary resource and tool to our members, the guild hopes to provide an effective option for writers to use to ensure that our value systems are aligned with our producing collaborators and that our authorial rights to assemble our creative teams and casts are upheld,” Christine Toy Johnson said in a statement. “We remain committed to finding ways in which to foster an industry that is reflective and respectful of the entirety of our population and to create a more complete and authentic landscape of storytelling.”
The rider is a model contract addendum that dramatists can employ, allowing them to work with their producer in the audition or interview process to cast and hire creatives from groups American theaters have excluded both in the past and present. Described as a tool “intended to facilitate a conversation between the theatre writer and the producer about equitable hiring practices,” the rider can be attached to any agreement with either a producer or theater that intends to produce the dramatist’s musical or play. The rider features hiring objectives for cast, crew, creative team and artistic personnel, in addition to recommended best practices for how to conduct auditions and interviews.
According to the guild, the rider will serve as an acknowledgment by the producer that a member exercising their approval rights in the name of these goals is both reasonable and permissible. Ralph Sevush, the guild’s executive director of business affairs, acknowledged in a statement that parties may disagree on whether a rider goes for enough or too far, but that ultimately “it’s a statement by the producer and the author of their mutual intent to work together to address this issue, and it provides both producers and dramatists with a starting point to begin this conversation and move forward.”
Council President Amanda Green called the rider “a meaningful step towards true equity in theatre, empowering theatre writers to use our rights of hiring approval to advocate for fuller diversity and inclusion throughout our industry.”
The guild encourages members to begin with a pre-contract conversation broaching their desire for diverse, equitable and inclusive hiring that “focuses on the sharing and aligning of values between the dramatist and the theatre,” according to the guild.
“The inclusion rider gives authors a much-needed tool — easily tailored for each writer and producer — to ensure equity in any given production,” said Emily Mann, member of the guild’s council, in a statement. “However the individual artists and producers wish to use it — as a reference, as a way to start a dialogue, or as part of a contract — the inclusion rider promises to be a useful instrument in our quest for powerful change in the American theater.”
Alongside the rider, which is currently available for download on the guild’s website, the membership organization is offering a number of tools, including a guide to help members navigate both that initial conversation and the crafting of their individual rider language. Available beginning Sept. 30, “The Art of Negotiating Contracts” assists dramatists with knowing their rights and “the power of No,” understanding the current market — including the role of new media — and being clear on what they get during negotiations versus what employees get.
“I hope to see every writer and every producer I know rocking a ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Stop Asian Hate’ decal on their profile pics putting this rider to use. It’s a great way to put principles into practice,” Chisa Hutchinson, a member of the DG task force that helped conceive the rider, said.
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