The Grand Theatre works to dismantle oppression with new practice

File photo by Alec Ross,

Though Black History Month is drawing to a close, the Grand Theatre in London is keeping the conversation going with a plan to battle systemic racism within the industry.

The theatre said the news comes after months of examination following the unnecessary and tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement.

“With no performances scheduled to be on our stages for an undetermined period of time, our focus turned to the work we felt needed to be done to address inequalities and racist practices within our own workplace and our role within the context of the broader theatre community,” said Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum.

In its first phase, the theatre’s board and staff have been working with E.B. Smith of HC Smith Ltd. to assist with the development of its anti-oppression mission statement, and to help with strategies for on-going meaningful conversations across and between departments.

“Using this period of forced intermission of performances, what we can and are rehearsing are our administrative practices. Using a metaphor that resonates with our theatre community – we are reading the scripts of the past, present, and future; we are rehearsing, taking notes, going back into the ‘rehearsal hall,’ and examining how we must put these notes into practice,” Smith noted.

The Grand said it has also added six new members to its board of directors from communities underrepresented in the past. Going forward, the theatre has contracted with locally-based firm, Rumina Morris, to deliver anti-racism training.

The Grand’s Executive Director Deb Harvey explained through coaching, they will identify and confront systemic barriers in all the work they do.

“There are many more hard conversations to be had and much more work to be done. I am so proud of our staff and board who are leaning in to effect lasting, positive, meaningful change both personally and professionally.”