Six months ago, Rachel Berger, Founder and Executive Director of The Artist Co-Op, and Kate Lumpkin, casting director, decided that the theatre community was finally ready to have these challenging conversations. After decades of ignoring rumors and fighting impermeable power structures, creatives were sick of articles not getting published and stories being left untold. The news was flooded with accusations, thought pieces, and tweets galore, but we realized that there was no home, open to everyone, providing a space to tackle those challenging conversations in person. We wanted to redefine creative boundaries, address those difficult conversations, and cultivate a more informed community, and we wanted to do it now — with no agenda. So, we created TAC CONversations, a series of monthly live streamed panel-based conversations, led by industry leaders, that allow the theatrical industry to continue to explore truly difficult and progressive topics in a public and community-based setting.
On January 19th, our first panel, “Sexual Harassment in the Theatre,” was hosted by Claire Karpen, and included Diana Oh (performer/actor/singer-songwriter/theatre-maker/artist of color working to queer the world with her radical non-complacency), Shakina Nayfack (actress, activist and Founding Artistic Director of Musical Theatre Factory), and Alexis Williams (Literary Agent at Bret Adams Artists Agency), with Robin Sokoloff (Founder and Executive Director of Town Stages) serving as an on-site community counselor. The women touched upon important topics dealing with sexual harassment, such as microaggressions in the workplace, knowing your legal rights, and how to find allies.
Each panelist, coming from a different background within the theatre community, was able to speak from personal experience and encounters to offer advice for anyone who has dealt with or is currently experiencing sexual harassment. The panel opened with Claire, the moderator, providing a resource list for victims of sexual assault, which you can find attached to this article. Shakina Nayfack, highlighted her experience as a trans actress. One story that stuck out was by Shakina, in which she described her experience of repeatedly being called “Sir” by a stagehand, and though she corrected him multiple times, he would not address her by her correct gender identity. There was no one to whom Shakina could report this incident, which illuminates the need for these important conversations. Performer, Diana Oh, shared how excited she is by the new roles being developed to create a safe space in the rehearsal room. These new roles, called “intimacy directors”, facilitate consent training, anti-harassment protocols, pre and post-show practices, fight/intimacy call options, and emotional fitness techniques for the actor. Lastly, Alexis explained how as a literary agent, she is actively seeking women and people of colors’ narratives to diversify the stories being told on today’s stages. The hour-long panel concluded with a question and answer session with the live audience.
After the panel, we gathered in the co-working space to share lunch, provided by The Artist Co-op. This allowed for continued personal conversations between panelists and the audience on these important subjects. We understand this one conversation is just a drop in the bucket, but we believe that it will create a ripple effect in the conversations about sexual harassment in the theater industry. As we continue to host TAC CON, we want to hear from you about the topics you want to be discussed and ask that you reach out to your community to join the conversation.
Upcoming panels will include discussions on mental health, race politics, inclusive casting, branding, and content creation. Please join us for our second TAC CON on Thursday, March 22nd, at 12-2 P.M.: How to Hustle as a Content Creator.
For more information, or to sign up to join future conversations, please visit www.theartistco-op.com. Follow us on social media with #TACconversations.