Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Fringe

The Vancouver Fringe Theatre Society has a Vision of Theatre for Everyone, but we know that we’re not there yet. The theatre community is rallying around conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and as producers of an un-juried, uncensored festival, the Fringe is uniquely able to offer space and support to emerging artists from diverse backgrounds. We know that not all voices are heard and not all members of our community are represented on Fringe stages, and we’re committed to making equity, diversity, and inclusion a priority at the Fringe. Please reach out to Equity Diversity Inclusion Director, Siobhan Barker, to discuss your EDI needs at equitydirector@vancouverfringe.com.

What we have done:

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Audit:
With financial assistance from the BC Arts Council and the Vancouver Foundation, in May of 2017 we partnered with ShapeShift Arts. lee williams boudakian, Anoushka Ratnarajah, and Gavin Kade spoke with staff, board, community members, and artists of all backgrounds as part of the process. The Audit was completed in January, 2018.

Executive Summary: Click here to read the two-page summary of the Audit Report, which includes a list of recommendations in brief.
Full Audit Report: Click here to read the report in full (49 pages). As this is a large document, it may take some time to download.

With a detailed report and recommendations we have new insights on the work needed to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Fringe!

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program:
With funding from the Vancouver Foundation, TD Bank Group, and the BC Multiculturalism Grant, we have been able to move forward with our EDI Program. We have hired a year-round Communications & Outreach Coordinator and an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Director.

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee:
In June 2018, we established an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee composed of Fringe staff and board members to oversee the Fringe’s ongoing EDI work through regular meetings.

Relationship-building with community groups
As part of building a more inclusive Fringe, we are engaging further with groups from underrepresented communities by going to events and building relationships with different arts and culture groups. We also provided complimentary tickets to cultural groups from underrepresented communities.

Inclusive Hiring and Casting Practices Workshop:
During the 2018 Fringe Festival, we hosted a round table on inclusive hiring and casting practices featuring Rohit Chokhani (Project SAT {South Asian Theatre}), Marisa Emma Smith (Alley Theatre), Mily Mumford (Nebula Company Theatre), Raes Calvert (Hardline Productions), and Susanna Uchatius (Theatre Terrific). They shared how they found success and how they’ve learned from their mistakes in creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable teams.

Check out some photos by Mona Wu from the Inclusive Casting Round Table:
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Code of Conduct:
In 2018, the Fringe’s Executive Director, Board President, and Board Treasurer created a Code of Conduct, which is one part of our commitment to ensure that the Vancouver Fringe Festival is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for all. Read the Code of Conduct here.

Accessibility Training for Staff and Volunteers:
In collaboration with PuSh Festival’s Anika Vervecken, the Fringe hosted an accessibility training session for Venue Captains and Crew Chiefs in July 2018 to equip them with skills that will help them engage more meaningfully with audiences with various accessibility needs. In Fall 2018, we partnered with PuSH Festival for further accessibility trainings, which Fringe staff and volunteers participated in.

Fringe 101:
In November 2018, our Communications and Outreach Coordinator Karla Comanda conducted two free information sessions in the community so that people can learn more about the Fringe, how to get involved, and ask questions from Fringe staff and alumni. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) Artists were particularly encouraged to attend these sessions which were held in Vancouver Public Library’s Mount Pleasant branch and Strathcona Community Centre. Karla talked about how an Artist can participate in the Fringe, while longtime Artist Services Coordinator Jess Amy Shead spoke about what happens after someone has been accepted. They were joined by Fringe alumni Diana Bang and Rohit Chokhani, who spoke about their Fringe experiences! Watch more videos from these Fringe 101 sessions on our YouTube channel.

Keep an eye out for more Fringe 101s in the fall, details to be announced in our newsletter!

Check out some photos by Neil Bryan from the November 21 Fringe 101 session:
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Increasing Accessibility in the Fringe
The Fringe consulted with Artistic Sign Language and VocalEye to select shows that would be appropriate for ASL interpretation and live description, and audit d/Deaf and hard of hearing-friendly and low vision-friendly shows, respectively. Click here to learn more about accessibility at the Fringe.

The Program Guide’s Welcome Page
The Welcome Page is one of the first things Fringers see when they flip through the Program Guide. This year, we endeavoured to be more inclusive of Vancouver’s diverse communities by reflecting on who was speaking in the Welcome Page. We invited our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director Siobhan Barker, Diwali in BC Artistic Director Rohit Chokhani, Neworld Theatre Artistic Director Marcus Youssef, and BC Arts Council’s Treasurer Derral Moriyama to extend invitations to the community and celebrate the Fringe’s diverse shows, volunteers, patrons, and artists.

Accessible Parking Program:
In response to the parking changes on Granville Island, the Fringe instituted a trial accessible parking for people who found the cost to be a barrier to seeing multiple shows on Festival weekends (September 7-8 and 14-15). There were a limited number of parking subsidies available on each day.

TD Fringe Forward Award:
Created in partnership with Neworld Theatre and generously sponsored by TD Financial, the Fringe present the TD Fringe Forward Award at this year’s Festival. This new award honours and celebrates a production that centres the work of artists from historically marginalized communities and approaches the work from a place of authenticity. The winner of the 2019 TD Fringe Forward Award is tadpole.: the last episode, while Monica vs. The Internet: Tales of a Social Justice Warrior and Where the Quiet Queers Are were named runners-up. Learn more about the TD Fringe Forward Award here.

Are We There Yet? Next Steps in Arts; Equty, Diversity, and Inclusion
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director Siobhan Barker led a lunch chat and discussed what’s been done recently in service to new models of brave space, intercultural and transcultural practices, and unpacked how diversity and identity intersect in these conversations. Siobhan was joined by Davey S. Calderon, Jillian Christmas, Marion Landers, Renae Morrisseau, and Tom Pickett in this conversation. Read more about this workshop here.

Gathering for BIPOC Fringe Artists

The Fringe hosted an online meet-up for the BIPOC Fringe community of past, present, and possible future Fringe Artists on June 25 at 12pm PST. The gathering’s intention was to hold a safe space to connect with the BIPOC Fringe community as we all grow towards understanding anti-Black racism. This event was exclusive for BIPOC participation, and Black voices were centred in this discussion. Accessibility was supported with a BIPOC Live Captioner.

Gathering for BIPOC Fringe Artists during the September mini-Fringe

The Fringe hosted an online meet-up for the BIPOC Fringe community of past, present, and possible future Fringe Artists on September 17 at 12pm PST. This event was exclusive for BIPOC participation. Participants were asked to engage in themed questions on how artists have pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic. This event was exclusive for BIPOC participation. Accessibility was supported through Google Meet’s auto-captioning feature.

The Hills Have Pens: A Generative Writing Workshop for Equity-Seeking Artists

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director Siobhan Barker and Communications and Outreach Coordinator Karla Comanda led a generative writing workshop where participants explored themes of isolation, longing, joy, nature, and privilege through writing prompts. The workshop was exclusive for Equity-Seeking community participation (includes BIPOC, living with disability, neurodiverse, LGBT2Q+, low vision, d/Deaf). Accessibility was supported through Google Meet’s auto-captioning feature.

You can stay up to date on the Fringe’s EDI work by checking back on this page regularly, or by signing up for the newsletter.