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Transforming Organizational Structures

With Eric Lockley of The Movement Theatre Company

Yura Sapi: Imanalla mashikuna. Imanallatak kanki. Hello, friends. How are you? Welcome to another episode of the Building Our Own Tables Podcast, season two. I’m your host, Yura Sapi, recording from Emberá Native lands on the Afro-Indigenous coast of Colombia in Nuquí, Chocó in the Gulf of Tribugá. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide, and by Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts by creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal, and encourage us to change the world.

I’m interviewing Black, Native, Asian, and other founders of color to find transformative solutions and ways of working together that are not replicating the same white supremacy culture we wanted to get away from. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from Black, Native, Asian, and other people of the global majority who have created arts organizations, movements, initiatives, practices, and beyond that are changing the game, making new things happen within, and building their own tables instead of focusing on getting a seat at existing white and Eurocentric ones. We’ll be learning from incredible arts organizing visionaries on their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome.

In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Eric Lockley, co-founder of the Movement Theatre Company. The Movement Theatre Company creates an artistic social movement by developing and producing new works by artists of color. Their work engages audiences in a rich theatrical dialogue, enlightens communities to the important issues affecting our world, and empowers artists to celebrate the many sides of their unique voice. They create brave spaces for artists of color to discover and unleash their most authentic selves and tell complex stories of both the everyday and the extraordinary. Through their work they refuel, affirm, and celebrate the triumph of resilience as artists. Under the leadership of David Mendizábal, Deadria Harrington, Eric Lockley, Taylor Reynolds, and Ryan Dobrin, who serve as the producing artistic leadership team, their programming cultivates a vision that embraces dialogue and inclusion as a means of community-building. Founded on the culture of family and service to community, they have grown from a small collective of actors and writers to an expanded network of diverse artists from varied creative practices. Led by the principles of collaboration, collective leadership, and active listening, they’ve built a home for artists to experiment, develop and unpack their ideas.

Eric Lockley is an award-winning actor, writer, comedian, filmmaker, and is a founder and producer with two Obie award-winning organizations, the Movement Theatre Company and Harlem Nine. With his organizations, Eric has produced critically acclaimed productions and festivals, published anthologies of new plays, and created initiatives that highlight the complexity and diversity of people of color. Eric’s inspirational podcast, the 180 with Eric Lockley explores moments in guests’ lives when they turn things around. The podcast has over twenty-five episodes available to stream. As part of the Public Theatre’s Devised Theatre Working Group, Eric will have a workshop production of his Afrofuturist play Sweet Chariot, at the 2022 Under the Radar Festival.

Eric Lockley: Who am I? Wow. Deep question. But no, I, as an artist, as an arts admin, as a producer, I really hold at the core—for me individually—I really look at compassion, magic, and comedy as the tools that I often use as a storyteller, and even as a producer, to tell stories, to uplift stories, and to uplift people, to uplift souls. So that is at my core in terms of who I am and how I move through the world telling stories and helping people to share their stories.

Within the Movement Theatre Company, our non-traditional, non-hierarchical, collaborative leadership model is such that we’re called the producing artistic leadership team. So there are five of us, and we all are responsible for the artistic and administrative responsibilities within the company. It is a way that we discovered to share leadership, because especially years ago when we were in our earlier years, we were all doing the work. And we initially started saying, “Okay, Eric will be the executive director, so-and-so will be the artistic director, so-and-so will be the marketing manager,” just because, from looking online, this was the structure that theatre companies had. And so we operated under those titles for at the most five years. However, in doing that, we recognized we were all supporting. It wasn’t like, because I was the executive director, I was the only person looking at budgets. We were looking at budgets together and making some decisions. And in terms of artistic, we were making decisions together.

So, we determined that, though it seemed like the world needed us to fit into this box of traditional models of leadership, we didn’t fit into that. And why did we feel like we needed to hold up that expectation that was inaccurate for the way we operated? So we were able to work with A.R.T/New York. We did a workshop at A.R.T New York, which is an Alliance of Resident Theatres, and they hold workshops. And through that workshop, we were able to discover and conclude that there is a different way, a better way, a more accurate way of describing how we run the organization, our leadership. And so that’s when we decided that we will be the producing artistic leadership team, because that’s what we are. And that’s, yeah, that’s a description of the producing artistic leadership team of the Movement and a bit about myself.

Yura Sapi: I’m so curious to talk more about organizational structure, because I’ve definitely had many conversations—even teaching at CUNY Baruch with Arts Administration majors—talking about, “you don’t have to do this hierarchical one artistic director, one executive director, then managers and people below that.” And everyone’s just like, “well, what can we do instead?” Or, let’s say some examples. And the Movement has always been a group that has been doing this work—and not only doing it, but also being successful in it, in getting to show this big success on the national level, awards and everything. And there’s a lot of smaller groups and other folks doing it, but I think maybe it doesn’t seem as legitimate because we’re not getting this national attention. But I’m curious to hear about your take on that in terms of the skeptics and what it’s like being an organization that has a non-hierarchical structure.

Eric: Yeah. One of the biggest things that we had to lean into, and that we still lean into, is communication and trust amongst the team. To a certain extent, that has to be built over time. But for the five of us, we have to say, “Hey, I can take this on,” and then be able to take it on, and/or say, “I can take this on,” two days later be okay to say, “Hey guys, actually this thing came up. Can anybody else support?” And I think that is something that we do really well. We are able to lean on each other and trust each other.

And in the early days of trying to figure out how collaborative leadership would work, there were the concerns that I think are steeped in shame, in white supremacy, and the patriarchy around, “Well, I said I was going to do, I have to be able to do it.” And this certain amount of independence or like, “Well, I need to prove to everyone that I’m supposed to be here. So that means I have to take on this work. Or if that means, if I can’t do something, everyone’s going to think of me as bad, or not worthy, or unworthy or not supposed to be here.”

And I think in the early days, that was a challenge, but we certainly have had to have conversations amongst each other to say we must, as a team, operate with grace. We must operate with assuming people’s best intentions. And we must operate knowing that we have a common goal. So we have to discuss our goals. We have to discuss, whether it’s “This season, we really want to focus on fundraising and raising this amount of money” or if it’s “This season, we really want to focus on what does audience development look like, and how can we really expand our audience or expand what access looks like.” So once we share that common goal and we have our eye on the prize, then in terms of who does what, or who does more of what, or who did less of what— it’s like, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here for the goal. So let’s just lift each other up and keep the train moving.

So, I think that it really helps is being able to communicate, being able to trust each other, and being able to be clear on our common goals, our shared goals. And I want to uplift all of their names. My fellow producing artistic leadership team members are David Mendizábal, Deadria Harrington, Taylor Reynolds, and Ryan Dobrin. And so if it’s, like, okay Taylor has a directing gig somewhere, and she’s going to need more time to focus on that, that someone can take on some of her work. And we can all do that for each other consistently. And it’s not a matter of, well, someone’s not pulling their weight. So yeah, that’s a part of our culture, really communicating and trusting each other.

Yura Sapi: Tell us more about how you got started—the origin story of the Movement. And with that, thinking about the leadership transitions, right? So the producing artistic leadership team has changed, and there has been transition of leadership and power, which is important to not just have one leader for ten years in terms of not replicating the same oppressive and white supremacy practices that we’re seeing in these other organizations we want to get away from.

Eric: So, I’m the last founder that’s still involved on the leadership team of the Movement. We started almost fifteen years ago. In 2022, it’ll be fifteen years of the Movement Theatre Company. So that’s wild.

Most of us—I think maybe, at that point, all of us—had either recently graduated from NYU or were students at NYU, and we really were considering where we saw ourselves in the industry. And at that point, some people who had already been out of school and auditioning were like, “I’m tired of auditioning for thug #1, or being told that one day I’m going to be great in the August Wilson play when I look old enough to fill that role.” So, we didn’t feel like there were contemporary stories that were interesting, bold, different, dynamic in mainstream, and—well, not even mainstream theatre, in theatre in New York for us. It was like there were other theatre companies that were doing interesting work, but we just didn’t see ourselves in it. So whether that was New Federal Theatre—awesome work that they’re doing—or if it was La MaMa—and awesome what they’re doing. We thought it was great, but we just didn’t see ourselves, as young, hungry, Black and brown folks who wanted to play. We wanted to try different things.

And so we decided in that coffee shop, well, let’s start a theatre company. And we didn’t really know what that meant. So initially it started, we had a very similar structure to school clubs, and we would meet up, and there were times when we would meet up and have writing sessions and share our writing with each other. And that was awesome. And then there were dues. So it was like school clubs, like, “Okay, pay your dues.” And that was our initial fundraising was like, okay, all of our members, we get to have these opportunities to work together, collaborate, and every month we’ll pay a certain amount of dues. And we’ll also share audition opportunities with folks. So that was how it started.

And then eventually, as we were like, okay, well we should apply for grants. We were like, okay, well we need to have an executive director and an artistic director. So we kind of just said, all right, let’s figure out how we’re going to do this. So I think initially we just assigned it to people. And then, after a year of that, we were like, maybe we should vote. So then we had voting.

All of that to say, like as mentioned, eventually as friends that came together to do this thing, I think people had their own varied priorities around why they were doing it. And when friends come together to do a thing and it starts to get unclear, like, who’s still about it and who is moving on, it’s important to say, “Okay, if it’s not a hobby, and people really want to be a part of it, then what are the requirements?” And I think that’s when we started to get more specific about, well, how are we really running the organization? As we got clearer and clearer about that, it became clear that we need to let go of these titles, because the marketing manager who actually was helping us with this huge artistic project wasn’t getting acknowledged as an artistic contributor to the team. So we let go of those titles, and then were able to really more accurately acknowledge how we ran the organization.

The producing artistic leadership team has changed over the years. Once again, one of the things was us being upfront with each other about where do you see your future in this industry? Where do you see the future for your life, for your happiness, your joy? And being able to have those discussions and figure out if that meant we were in alignment as them being on the team or not, it was important. And those are the things that we felt like were holistic in terms of our approach. We were like, “Hey, let’s have a discussion,” because there may be discomfort from you around duties and things that we need managed. And there may be things that we’re feeling like, okay, growing pains—how do we figure out how to move forward and still take care of what needs to be taken care of for the company, but also take care of you as an individual, as a person? So there were moments where it was like those things weren’t going to work. And so we had to have the discussion about, okay, how do we best support you? And part of best supporting folks was letting you do your thing and always being supportive on the sideline—like the Movement being a thing that you support in a certain way, and we support you in a certain way, but you’re not a part of producing artistic leadership team.

And those discussions were never too tedious because, like I said, I think we approach things with understanding and grace and intentionality, and then just the logistics of either losing a team member. Like, we’ve gone back and forth between being four and five at different times. And whenever we were five and then lost a person it was like, “Oh, no.” It can be challenging, but we were able to manage it. And also just find new people who were interested and invested and excited about the mission, and we were equally excited and invested in them. And it took some time to get to know them, and they were—like, Ryan, for example, who’s the newest member of the Producing Artistic Leadership Team. He was our intern for a year, and then he was sticking around. We were like, okay, “We love having you around. We’re going to give you a few more responsibilities.” And he took them on and was like, “I really like being here.” And we were like, “Well, we like you. So let’s discuss if you’re interested in being officially a part of the team.” So we brought him on.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. Thank you so much. And yeah, in our episode with Anne James, we ended up talking a lot about finances, financial structures, and ways that we’re making it work. And so I’d love to hear more about how the Movement works with its financial structure, because also we’re talking about resources really.

Eric: Right.

Yura Sapi: Sometimes the money is what’s actually getting the resources, and a space rental is what we need. And sometimes we can get that space without having to pay money for it. So, yeah, thinking about your financial structure that you have now and how that kind of works with the organizational structure in terms of making sure that you’re getting paid what you’re worth.

A headshot of the guest, Eric Lockley, against a galaxy background.

Eric Lockley of The Movement Theatre Company.

Eric: Yeah. The financial structure that we have really—currently, we have reinvested in ensuring that with our artists and with us as the producing artistic leadership team, we’re able to prioritize paying more than any minimum for artists and that we’re able to give ourselves a small stipend. Because we were volunteer-run, so everybody on the producing artistic leadership team was a volunteer up until about two or three years ago. And it took us having a real discussion about how is it that we can take such great care of the artists, but we’re not taking care of ourselves financially. And we said, that is problematic for who we purport to be, who the organization purports to be. Because the Movement can’t take care of itself if the people who are running it have been rundown and don’t have any resources. So we were able to apply for grants and to utilize some of the funds from fundraising campaigns to say, okay, let’s begin to give ourselves a small stipend that can perhaps pale in comparison to the work that we’re putting in right now, but it’s definitely a big step from us being volunteers.

And so, as we have continued to both grow and also be able to assess where our finances are meeting our values, we have more intentionally been able to say, okay, also when we pay artists now—whether it’s for reading or for larger things—we want to say, this is a certain amount that is for your health insurance. Because we care and want to make sure that you have a health insurance stipend that you can use as you wish. But we’re saying that this is for health insurance because we care about your health. And we recognize that you taking the time to be here to share space with us means you are healthy, and we want you to continue to be healthy.

Financially, we are now catching up to our values, and in making sure that—in terms of what we’re asking for within mainstream institutions that are talking to us—we certainly are aware that we need to ask for our value, for our worth. And we are unabashedly doing that in multiple ways. Because I think another thing that we discuss sometimes is yes, this institution could give us money to do our production or to do events or whatever it is, but there’s also value in crediting. There’s also value in how they speak about our involvement. And if they’re doing that, it is of some benefit to them. We also must be getting some benefit, whether that is finances, or if that/s just, okay, our name is now associated with that institution. So that’s beautiful, but we want to make sure that our name is acknowledged because we’ve also put in the work.

Yura Sapi: That’s incredible. I love that addition, the healthcare addition, to the payment, and I wish more people would make these kinds of additions. And I’m curious to know if there are any other strategies or these little things that end up being big things that you’re doing to be more inclusive and to offer solutions to some of the problems we’re experiencing in these other institutions.

Eric: Yeah, we did it before the pandemic, but the pandemic helped us to really be so intentional about acknowledging our humanity and our artists’ humanity. And that we don’t expect an artist to come to us to do work. We want our artists to bring their humanity. So, one of the things that we did in—I think we started in April. So, the pandemic was started in March 2020, for the US. And I think by April, or maybe May, we introduced this program, 1MOVE: DES19NED BY… where we commissioned fifteen designers to create a three- to five-minute piece. They could do whatever they wanted, and it would be highlighted on our website in part of the 1MOVE: DES19NED BY… commission.

And in doing that, we helped some folks with their immigration status who needed to work in order to stay in the country. And that is a thing that… There are designers that we know and love and care about, and some that we don’t know, but we want to be this space where we can acknowledge, “Hey, this is a need that you have.” We know that designers oftentimes, especially during the pandemic, they were out of work, but weren’t really being supported. We centered that community because we knew that they had value and we knew that they had needs.

And then the next round of 1MOVE: DES19NED BY… we had all Black designers, and all of them have the opportunity, we commissioned them to do a three- to five-minute piece. But in addition to providing them money, we also said we will donate a hundred dollars to an organization of your choosing. So they received their full commission and then an additional hundred dollars that we then donated to an organization. And so once again, it was like, hey, we know that you’re doing the work and that we’re able to pay you to do the work. But in addition, especially at that moment, because it was in June and July of 2020 that we were asking these designers to create. We acknowledged that this is a privilege that you get to create, and that it’s a privilege that any of us get to be here and say we’re creating art. Is there another place where you want your money and attention to go? Because we also acknowledge that whether that was helping people with bail money, or if that was helping Black Lives Matter, or different organizations, that that’s also a part of who we are. So yeah, those are some ways in which we really have been trying to center artists as full human beings—complex, who have needs, who need resources, and who also need an outlet and who also, yes, who are fully humans.

Yura Sapi: Yep. Yep. Centering humanity and centering Blackness, Black people, Black stories too, because you named that in the second round, you wanted to highlight and center Black designers.

Eric: Yes.

Yura Sapi: Can you speak more about that decision? And also, in general, centering Black folks within communities of color.

Eric: A friend said to me, once, was like, “I’ve determined that in America, at least, if you’re able to uplift the Black community”—and I’ll go as far as to say the Black trans community now—“if you are able to uplift that community to the highest point possible, whatever that means, but if we’re able to uplift them, then it is much easier for things to get aligned for other communities.”

And so, I think, in terms of centering Blackness, specifically in America—but even I’ll say, I’ll go so far as to say globally—we are undoing a lot of the racism. If we have the potential to undo a lot of “-isms” that plague us and have plagued us for so long as a result of the continuous oppression that the Black community and Black trans community has endured. I think at a certain point, especially within discussions at the Movement… Because the producing artistic leadership team is not all Black folks, we have Black and brown folks on the Producing Artistic Leadership Team. We are an organization that is committed to artists of color and not just Black and brown. We’ve done work with people who look all types of different ways. But for us, a discussion around centering Blackness was that we will embrace it and no longer think of it as a choice that denies other communities. Because I think there was a point where we were like, “Well, does this mean that we don’t do this? And we don’t do that?” And there have been in the past folks who thought we were a Black theatre company, or defined us as a Black theatre company. And we were like, hey, we appreciate that, but the reality is we don’t define ourselves as a Black theatre company. But we serve a whole community and we do often center Blackness.

And so, yeah, we had to have intentional discussions around what that meant. And the number one thing is like, it doesn’t mean that we exclude other communities. I think that is really important because the other aspect of that we are able to acknowledge now is, like, Blackness is so diverse, and Blackness is diasporic, and, yeah, it’s so much larger than one thing. So, it is exciting for us to be able to say we can center Blackness and also include lots of varied communities as well.

Yura Sapi: Yeah, it seems like you’re able to get more into nuanced conversation and specific other identities and intersectionality. So it’s not an exclusion or saying less, it’s actually an invitation to go deeper and to get more.

Eric: Yeah. We’ve worked with artists that—I honestly hate to say “different backgrounds,” “different ethnicities,” because it sounds like, “Oh, we’ve done this.” It’s like, “Let’s pat ourselves on the back.” But I think the thing is authenticity is so beautiful from the communities that you’re in. And I think that’s what we’re most attracted to. And so I think people see that, and people respond to that, not from a place of, “Oh, it’s so exciting to work with a theatre company that has a certain amount of Asians, and a certain amount of Indian folks, and a certain amount—”it’s like not that. It’s just, I think that people see the Movement and are able to see people who celebrate difference and celebrate uniqueness so authentically. And that is why they come to us. That is what they want to see. And that’s what they expect when they come to anything, from a party to a production. They expect to be celebrated for being exactly who they are.

Yes, it involves race, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality. All of that is included and celebrated. But the point is not to say, to point the finger at, “Okay, yes, we have the LGBTQ community here.” No, we have people who are beautiful and special and we uplift them just as they are.

Yura Sapi: So I want to ask about your vision thinking towards the future, thinking about—we say this in the podcast already many times—seven generations ahead and what that actually means to be thinking about. And so, yeah, I would love to hear about what you’re thinking about for the Movement, but also that will connect to what you’re thinking about for the whole field and even for the world, getting a bit existential.

Eric: What I imagine, what I really want to see for our field, and how I think the Movement will be most useful in that it is really uplifting bold, new visions from communities of color that explode the theatrical expectation, explode the current theatrical canon, that give us opportunities to be as imaginative as we want to be. So, I mean, one of the projects that the Movement is working on next is a play that I’m writing entitled Sweet Chariot. That is an Afrofuturist piece that takes place on Earth, and then on a spaceship, and then on a new planet. And that excites me—I mean, obviously I’m writing it. But it is so appropriate that the Movement is helping to bring it to life because really what we, at our core, all of our productions are really bold and in-your-face and unapologetic. And I think they push our imagination in a certain way.

And I know that from the mainstage productions that we’ve done to the smaller things, like we’ve had Harlem Nights, which is programming where we bring a theatrical event to a business in Harlem. And the event, in the past, has been everything from like a monologue slam where actors compete doing song lyrics as monologues, to it’s also been like a horror night where artists were asked to reinterpret classic horror films and either create short plays, or a poem, or a music video, or different things. And we did that at an indie cinema in Harlem.

So, what I really want us to be able to bring to the theatrical field is just more artists who are challenging what theatre looks like in the future, and challenging what it means to be a person of color in theatre, and to be able to say, “Hey, we don’t have to write the mom-on-the-couch plays. We don’t have to write the historical dramas. We don’t have to just write the things that for decades and decades and decades has been the expectation of people that look like us. We can do something completely different.” And I think that is what—yeah, I’ll say queering. Yeah, I’ll go as far as to say I want us to be able to queer the American theatrical canon, so that more voices, more diverse and out-of-the-box voices are welcomed and uplifted and celebrated.

Yura Sapi: You know the work that we’re presenting is also visions of the future.

Eric: Yeah.

Yura Sapi: Afro-future, Afro-Indigenous future, globally Indigenous futures, because that’s what we need, right? It’s like a collective manifestation that’s happening. And so we need to be building and collecting that positive energy that things aren’t going to just be an apocalypse, another apocalypse, because for communities of color globally, the apocalypse has already happened for us many times, and it’s still happening. And so we want these visions of the future that aren’t the same apocalypse in ways that it does work out, and that we can do that with our art.

Eric: Yeah. And that for sure, for sure, that is a thing that I’m personally passionate about is, like, I say if you’re a storyteller that has the opportunity to tell stories of a different future that can imagine things differently, please take that opportunity. I mean, of course I do believe that there’s a place for every type of story, but I love when I see someone say, “Hey, this is how it’s been for hundreds, thousands of years. Let’s do this. It’s a play.” You know what I mean? Let’s do this completely different thing that probably maybe never would happen, but yes, yes, that’s what I want to see because it’s a play. This is a story that you can tell. We have every right to tell. And when we can imagine something different, it makes it much more believable that it’s possible that we can make it happen in reality.

Yura Sapi: You have that with the Movement as well. There’s so many ways in which we’ve already done it, and we’re going to keep doing it.

Eric: Yeah, yes.

Yura Sapi: I love to know if there’s any final tips you have for anybody who might be starting off in terms of creating their own spaces, building their own tables, or thinking beyond the table, even envisioning the future.

Eric: Whoo, okay. I think taking time and being in the practice of honing your own artistic voice is really, really important. Day to day, week to week, being able to get clearer and clearer about what excites you. Whether it’s the TV show you watch, whether it’s the script you recently read, whether it is figuring out the reason you almost started crying in the grocery store, you know, all of that speaks about who you are artistically and what stirs your soul. And I think being clear on that, both as an artist and as in arts admin or producer. As you get to understand who you are and who you are artistically in the voice that inspires you, it all helps to be able to be clear on what you offer when you get to the table and as you’re building your own table. So that when you get on a team, you can say, “hey, this is what I’m really passionate about. These are skill sets that I know I really bring to the table, and these are skill sets that I want to be able to work on.” So I think continuing to get to know yourself and being intentional about keeping some type of record, being able to say, “Hey, these are the things that really excite me.”

And for me, one of those things was being able to write. I had to write a personal mission statement, I think back in 2017 or 2018. And I had never done that. I’d written mission statements for the company, for the Movement. I’d written mission statements for other organizations that I work with. For example, Harlem Nine. But for me, as an individual, I hadn’t done that. Being able to do that was really insightful and has kept me on track in terms of when opportunities come up, I get to say, “Hey, is this on mission for Eric?” So I think that’s a really important thing that I would love for folks who are either getting in the industry or there now to consider doing. So I think that’s super helpful.

Yura Sapi: I actually do these workshops called strategic planning workshops with folks, thinking about, you know. I’ve done it for students looking to create a plan for your career. Different people who are maybe starting off a new project organization and want to do it for that. And then also just folks who maybe are wanting to re-check in with, what are you doing? What am I doing? Where am I going? What’s my track? And so, yeah, every time I do the workshop, I kind of check in on my own work as well. And so lately, yeah, I think the last mission statement that I really have stuck with for me is to heal the world we inherited. Which, the challenges with that end up being that I am encouraging myself to really put the weight of the world on my shoulders. But ultimately it’s like, it can be big and huge about the whole world, but it’s also like my world and my family, my intergenerational trauma that I hold within me. I’m thinking about how starting with myself actually is healing everything else. And so that’s really where I focus in on it as well. Thinking more internally, and especially these past few years have been—yeah, working more local, thinking global, acting local. And local, starting with myself.

Eric: Wow. Well, I love that. For me—but no, at the core I want to impact and uplift communities that feel underserved and unappreciated. And individuals that feel underserved and unappreciated. And the way that I do that is through typically comedy, compassion, and magic, in one way or another. And I know that storytelling is a huge way that I do that. And a huge thing that I encourage others to share. I think we all have multiple stories to tell. And when we share those stories, it’s both healing for others and healing for ourselves. And I always want to feel like I am creating space for people to share their stories. And that can look like, literally, “Hey, I am producing your play or your reading.” That can look like that, or it can say, “Hey, person I just met. How are you doing today? Oh, do you want to talk about it?” And then creating that space. But I know that that is a huge part of my mission is getting people to find value in their story and to be unafraid to share it.

Yura Sapi: This has been another episode of the Building Our Own Tables Podcast. I’m your host and producer, Yura Sapi. Our editor is Daniel Umali. Original music by Blackos the Producer and Julian Var. This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this series and other HowlRound podcasts in our feed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search HowlRound Theatre Commons podcasts and subscribe to receive new episodes.

If you love this podcast, donate to support future episodes at advancingartsforward.org. You can also post a rating and write a review on those platforms to help other people find us. There is a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content available on howlround.com. Have an exciting idea for an essay, podcast, or TV event the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the Commons.

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Thoughts from the curator

I hear talk about wanting for racially diverse populations to “get a seat at the table” or “bringing chairs to the table for POC,” meaning that we want our people to have a position at existing organizations and institutions with decision making power. For me, a few years ago, I decided to not focus on infiltrating existing organizations, but rather start my own. I know I’m not alone. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from BIPOC founders of various organizations in and related to the theatre industry changing the game, making new things happen within, and expanding beyond white and euro-centric experiences. We will learn from these incredible visionaries who have created their own tables of arts institutions, movements, collectives, initiatives, and more. We learn about their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome. This is an outside-the-classroom leadership learning from folks who are doing the things.

Building Our Own Tables


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