Taking Stock: TCIF11

TCIF11Snapshot

 

The Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF) is a five-day improv celebration that includes workshops and performances. This will be the eleventh year of the festival and it will be held at HUGE Theater. Our goal in creating this document and graphic is to provide a snapshot in time of where TCIF is in terms of diversity, and is reflective of the final list of performers provided to us by TCIF. We did not take into account the process of creating the festival, but rather focused on the final product.

Last year, Fair Play MN assessed the gender and racial disparities in the festival — this year, we conducted the same assessment. Out of the 60 performers on Friday and Saturday nights (prime-time slots for the festival), 53% of those performers are women and 35% of those performers are people of color. Out of seven instructors, three are women and three are people of color.

In comparison to last year’s TCIFX, the total number of individual women performing increased by 20 and the total number of individual people of color performing increased by 15. Last year, there was a smaller pool of women performing multiple times. However, this year, not only is there a larger number of individual women and POC performing, but in many cases, each of those individual performers is seen on stage in multiple shows.

In addition to this, TCIFX had eight teachers who were all white males. There were no women or people of color. This year, out of seven teachers, only one is a white male.

What does this data mean?

Fair Play MN came into existence in early 2016 in order to call out gender representation disparities in our community and create a call for action. This process has meant confronting underlying tensions in improv and comedy in general, and has been both a painful and exciting process for our entire community. We have asked performers of every identity to deeply analyze our preconceived patriarchal notions of hierarchy in performance spaces. From TCIF10 to TCIF11 we have watched the conversation about “good improv” change from being defined by tenure to being defined by whether it brings something new and powerful to the stage.

Over the last year we as a community have woken up from a long sleep and we are hungry for something new. Fair Play MN is now a part of a larger drive toward equity, and many other individuals and groups have stepped up to create new spaces for other folks to play. For example, BlackOut Improv played a major role in increasing the number of POC participating in the improv community. In addition to the POC jam there are now Women/Trans/Femme/Genderqueer classes, a Queer Improv jam, new classes for seniors, a 40+ improv jam, and an improv jam for teens. We have seen a major increase in participation and feeling of agency. Theaters have opened their doors to these folks and made space for more opportunities. TCIF11 represents our desire to be better.

How can we as a community continue this progress?

  • We recognize the amount of progress seen this year at TCIF11 and want the regularly scheduled shows in our community to be reflective of the same levels of representation.
  • There is information not presented in this data that is still vital to understanding our community. We are lacking data on LGBTQIA+ identities, age disparities, economic disparities and others. We urge the community to look deeper at this data and encourage a discussion around these points.
  • We want these numbers to continue being an important reflection of our community growth.  

 

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” —Madeleine Albright

 

Notes regarding this data:

    • The TCIF (Twin Cities Improv Festival) team sent Fair Play MN the data regarding performers in this years festival. Using the names of individuals performing in the festival, Fair Play MN compiled the above statistics.
    • On the graphic we created, the percentages reflect just the makeup of the individual performers on Friday and Saturday nights — both an assessment of men and women as well as an assessment of POC vs. white people.
    • Performers were identified as a man, woman, or person of color based on how they identify and how they present. We want to acknowledge that gender is fluid and the gender identity of individuals may be represented incorrectly, may not fall into this binary, or may have changed since this initial count. We also want to acknowledge that there is a wide spectrum of racial identities and there may be incorrect identifications of race as well. We presented the information in this way in order to make a complex issue more visible and understandable. If you have concerns over this issue or want to offer a correction, please email fairplaymn@gmail.com
    • All performers were only counted once. Several people appear more than once in the festival, but they were only included in these statistics once. If we had counted the number of times people appeared on stage, the numbers would be 59 performances by men, 31 by women, 10 by people of color.
    • Stevie Ray’s, BNW and CSZ have rotating casts. These numbers are based on the names they sent for cast lists. Those may be subject to last minute changes.

 

FairPlay’s Year in Review: 2016

2016 was a year of growth and change for FairPlay. In February, FairPlay was built on the collective passion of almost 100 women-trans-femme improvisors to give purpose and direction to their pain, frustration, joy, and hope for the future of our improv community. We formed a leadership team in April and identified our group’s mission – to claim equitable space for all women-trans-femme improvisers – and goals:

  1. Create an improv community that is accessible, inclusive, and equitable to all, regardless of gender identity.
  2. Shift the improv community’s culture away from its traditional male-dominated roots and towards a culture that is responsive to the diversity in the improv community and where individual identities are celebrated, not merely tolerated.
  3. Identify, call attention to, and condemn instances of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in the Twin Cities improv community.
  4. Make room for women-trans-femme improvisors as leaders in the improv community.
  5. Disseminate practical tools to teams, coaches, and theaters to provide guidance for how to create more equitable spaces.

In 2016, as awareness grew, the FairPlay Leadership Team responded to many requests for advice and advocacy. These requests came from survivors of sexual harassment and assault, improvisors seeking to make their groups more inclusive, and women-trans-femme improvisors navigating complex environments. We reached out to local improv venues to identify points of contact for gender equity concerns, and received great support and interest from venues. We published several documents, including “Sexism and Misogyny in the Twin Cities Improv Community;” “Calls to Action to Theaters, Improvisors, and Teachers/Coaches/Directors;” TCIFX equity analysis; and boundary guidelines.

In the past year, we have encountered a lot of feedback, support, pushback, and sometimes outright hostility in response to our work. In many ways, this is all part of creating cultural change. Growth can be difficult, even painful. We have made mistakes, and learned from those mistakes. We have made difficult and important choices because we knew someone had to take action. Despite the challenges we have faced this year, we remain committed to claiming equitable space for women-trans-femme improvisors in the Twin Cities. We remain open to hearing from the community about your concerns, fears, and hopes. As a community-driven organization, we strive to remain connected to the community that we care about enough to hold to high standards.

Recently, public conversations about some of the decisions made by the FairPlay Leadership Team have demonstrated to us the need for more transparency in our work. Because our original, urgent task was to provide support to women who had experienced sexual harassment and assault in the community, protecting the privacy of those who sought our help was our top priority. While that hasn’t changed, we now recognize that the need for privacy means that much of our work takes place outside of the public eye. In order to establish greater transparency between FairPlay and the larger Twin Cities improv community, we want to provide a few clarifications, as well as our commitment to addressing those concerns:

  • We are not in the business of reviewing/rating shows, but when concerns about content are raised, we will follow our established procedures. Click here to learn more about those procedures.
  • We have not and will not use any power we have as individuals to punish anyone for disagreeing with the actions of the FairPlay Leadership Team.
  • Because we are still individual people who have human feelings, we may sometimes step back as we recover from some situations. We will, however, always make sure that the boundaries between actions as individuals and actions as the FairPlay Leadership Team are clear.
  • Our goal in reaching out to individuals or groups is ALWAYS to open up a productive dialogue. We will make every effort to ensure that this intention is always very clearly communicated.
  • We understand that cultural change is difficult and it takes time. We have never claimed to have all the answers, but we’re ready to show up and try to make our community the best it can be. Please join the conversation to help us move forward. Opportunities include:
    • Attending our public meeting on January 15th (open to all genders).
    • Attending our bi-monthly FairPlay meetings (open to women-trans-femme improvisors).
    • Submitting questions, concerns, feedback, etc. to our email address: fairplaymn@gmail.com or via our website: fairplaymn.com.

In 2017, we aim to continue to grow, evolve, learn, and find our place in this community. We will further engage the Twin Cities improv community in moving towards greater gender equity. The FairPlay Public Meeting on January 15th is an opportunity for members of the community to participate in challenging but necessary conversations about creating an improv community that is accessible, inclusive, and equitable to all, regardless of gender identity. Click here to learn more about the FairPlay Public Meeting on January 15th.

Our sincere hope is that 2017 is a year of progress, accountability, and equity for the Twin Cities improv community. We are ready to show up and work to make that happen, and we hope to see you there.

Flowcharts!

What happens when someone contacts us to raise a particular issue or concern.

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What happens when someone in the FairPlay leadership team sees something they find concerning.flowchart2_v1

Boundaries Guidelines

One of the issues presented most frequently in the improv community regards the structure of a boundaries discussion. We have had several requests for a clear and defined method around discussing personal and group boundaries. In order to address this topic, we met with a small group of interested folks, came up with some basic ideas, and then tested these ideas with several groups of improvisers. From there, we created the “levels of intimacy” and “Boundaries conversation guidelines” posters as well as a detailed brochure.  All of these are downloadable, and FairPlay offers the following recommendations for use:

  1. Theater venues should print the two posters and hang them in a visible place where performers can reference them. In addition they should print several copies of the brochure and/or make the brochure easy to download on the performer page of their website.
  2. Theater venues should alert new teams performing in their venues to these boundary guidelines and recommend new teams use them before putting their show up on stage.
  3. Directed shows within a theater should be required to use these guidelines before and after rehearsals and shows to create an expected and accepted vocabulary and tradition of conversation in the venue.
  4. Teachers should use these boundaries guidelines and alert their students to the existence of these materials. Teachers should stay on Level A intimacy in their classrooms and use these materials to reinforce appropriate behavior with students.
  5. Teams should use these guidelines to start a conversation with their team regarding boundaries, and come up with a consistent practice of checking in before and after rehearsals and shows.
  6. Individuals should bring these materials to their team, teachers, directors if they notice that these guidelines are not being used/followed, or the group has not yet been introduced to these practices
  7. All questions regarding the use of the materials can be sent to us at fairplaymn@gmail.com. Especially if you have constructive feedback to improve these guidelines and make them more useful for the community.

Please feel free to use these posters and brochure to help create and maintain a safe and healthy community.

Downloadable Conversation Guidelines Brochure

boundariesguidelinesIntimacyLevels.png

Taking Stock: TCIFX

 

 

TakingStockTCIFXFinal

The Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF) is a five-day improv celebration that includes workshops and performances. This will be the tenth year of the festival and it will be held at HUGE Theater.

Before the festival begins, Fair Play MN and Blackout Improv turn to the numbers to show the gender and racial disparities in the festival this year. Out of the 44 performers on Friday and Saturday nights (prime-time slots for the festival), 75% of those performers are men and 93% of those performers are white. Furthermore, for those of you hoping to take a workshop taught by a woman or person of color, you are out of luck. All eight of the instructors teaching a workshop this year are white men. 100%.

These numbers do not represent the Twin Cities community and they do not represent our improv community. What these numbers represent is the time and space that whiteness and maleness take up on our stages and in our classrooms related to the amount of time and space for women and people of color.

What do we want?

  • We want those involved in the festival to recognize that gender and racial disparities exists in improv, including in performing and instructing. We are far from gender and racial equity.
  • We want community members to have conversations about these numbers and why these numbers look the way they do.
  • We want these numbers to look significantly different next year.

 

“And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile and feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.” -Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism”

 

Notes regarding this data:

    • The TCIF (Twin Cities Improv Festival) team sent Fair Play MN the data regarding performers in this years festival. Using the names of individuals performing in the festival, Fair Play MN compiled the above statistics.
    • Performers were identified as a man, woman, or person of color based on how they identify and how they present. We want to acknowledge that gender is fluid and the gender identity of individuals may be represented incorrectly, may not fall into this binary, or may have changed since this initial count. We also want to acknowledge that there is a wide spectrum of racial identities and there may be incorrect identifications of race as well. We presented the information in this way in order to make a complex issue more visible and understandable. If you have concerns over this issue or want to offer a correction, please email fairplaymn@gmail.com
    • All performers were only counted once. Several people appear more than once in the festival, but they were only included in these statistics once. If we had counted the number of times people appeared on stage, the numbers would be 59 performances by men, 31 by women, 10 by people of color.
    • Stevie Ray’s, BNW and CSZ have rotating casts. These numbers are based on the names they sent for cast lists. Those may be subject to last minute changes.

CALL TO ACTION

The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging it, and then it’s time to take action. Fair Play MN has created a list of suggested steps that specific groups (theaters, improvisors, teachers, coaches, directors) can take to move us closer to a community that is respectful and inclusive of all improvisers. Change will not happen overnight, but every single member of the community can take action towards positive change.

Call To Action: Theaters

In order to provide a safe space for teachers, performers, students and audience members, Twin Cities comedy theaters should take the following recommended actions:

Prevent:

  • Post anti-harassment policies in highly visible locations.
  • Communicate a set of specific consequences for individuals who break the harassment policies.
  • Provide a set of “performer expectations” to shows that have performances at the theater. This should include the aforementioned harassment policy. These expectations should be sent to all new teams in shows that are both produced by the theater, or produced by others but performed at the theater.
  • Increase the level of professionalism required to maintain a position as performer in the theater. Specifically set a list of parameters to determine “fire-able” offenses.
  • Create a protocol for teachers regarding expected outcomes when issues arise in the classroom. Create a reporting system for teachers who want to report things that they are unsure how to deal with. Additionally, create a reporting system for students who want to report issues they are having with their teachers.

Address:

  • Believe survivors when they make a report.
  • Create a formal process for reporting incidents, and appoint a specific person to take in-person reporting, as well as an anonymous reporting process.
  • Formalize a process for following up with complaints. Determine a set of specific, actionable steps that are taken after a report is submitted.
  • Document incidents in order to track repeat offenders.
  • Maintain anonymity of victims, even if you know them or their background.

Create:

  • Prioritize creating a safe space in all classrooms.
  • Hold all improvisers, staff, teachers, volunteers and administrators to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.
  • Create a culture of responsibility among persons of authority in the improv community.
  • Actively seek out and promote a diverse set of shows, particularly those featuring marginalized groups.
  • Hire teachers and staff with a variety of backgrounds.

 

Call To Action: Improvisers

Improv as an art form allows for limitless creativity and opportunity. In a world where everything is possible, it is our job as improvisers to make choices that challenge the norm of patriarchal misogyny, rather than reinforce it.

Ask Permission:  

  • You must ask permission in order to touch someone on stage. If you have not asked whether you can touch someone before a show starts, keep your hands to yourself.
  • Promote a cultural norm for improvisors to discuss boundaries with every new group that comes together.

Be Supportive:

  • Empower one another to speak up and stand in support of teammates and friends who do. 
  • Be present in the moment and speak up to redirect or stop the situation.
  • Celebrate and reinforce positive choices in the moment.
  • Promote a culture in the improv community in which all improvisors are welcomed.
  • Actively seek out and support a diverse set of shows, particularly those featuring marginalized groups.

Listen:

  • When problems arise, listen to understand instead of to react.
  • When someone tells you that something you did hurt them, accept that as true.
  • Pay attention to those around you and check-in privately if there is indication of discomfort.

Reflect:

  • Examine your personal prejudices and and understand how they affect your performance.
  • Educate yourself about harassment.
  • Recognize the line between humor and harm.

Speak Up:

  • If someone you perform with is perpetuating harassment on stage or off, if they are exhibiting behaviors that demean others it is your responsibility to speak up and report that person, or speak with them directly about what you see.

 

Call to Action: Teachers, Coaches and Directors

As a teacher, as a coach or as the director of a show, we occupy a position where we have the power and the responsibility to push for change and for inclusive and respectful improv.

Prevent:

  • Actively seek out tools and guidance for handling problematic behaviors in the classroom.
  • Create a classroom culture in which discussions of discomfort, offense, and fear are encouraged, heard, and handled with care.
  • Set behavior expectations ahead of time regarding interactions between classmates and between teacher and students. Establish and disseminate a clear process for reporting incidences.

Address:

  • Model how to address issues between performers when they arise in class.
  • Avoid victim blaming in the classroom. If an improviser is being harassed on stage or off, the perpetrator of said harassment should be addressed, rather than the victim being told to “stand up for themselves” or “feel empowered.”
  • Take direct action when a problem arises and be clear about consequences.

Create:

  • Prioritize a safe place in all classrooms.
  • Hold all improvisers, staff, teachers, volunteers and administrators to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.
  • Create a culture of responsibility among persons of authority in the improv community.
  • Promote improv choices that are inclusive, respectful, and go beyond recurrent stereotypes.

A Very Feminist Valentine’s Day

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FairPlay MN is pleased to present A Very Feminist Valentine’s Day! This comedy show will feature an incredible cast of performers and content representative of and dedicated to creating equitable space for women-trans-femme improvisers in the twin cities.

DETAILS:
February 10, 2017
Show @ 10:30p // Doors will open shortly beforehand
Tickets sold at the door for a minimum suggested donation of $10+. If you can’t afford the suggested donation, you will not be turned away. If you can afford more, we welcome it!

All funds will be donated to local organizations that support women, trans and queer communities – specific organizations to be announced shortly.

FEATURING:
Jenn Schaal
Taj Ruler
Lauren Anderson
Gregory Parks
Meghan Wolff
Mary Kane
Rita Boersma
Ben Wagner
Janay Henry
Jen Van Kaam
Denzel Belin
Beth K. Gibbs
Lucas Vonasek
Kory LaQuess Pullam
Katy Kessler
Anna Tobin
Damian Johnson
Doug Nethercott
Will Roberts
Madhu Bangalore
Erin Sheppard
Tyler Mills
Becky Wilkinson Hauser
Liz Council
James Rone
Hannah Wydeven
Gubby Kubik
Sophie Brossard
Sally Foster
Lizzie Gardner
Sarah Busch
Karina Strom
… and more!

Welcome to our new leadership team member: Sally

fairplay-leadership_sallyWe are very excited to announce that Sally is now joining our leadership team, which will be now composed of 6 members!

Why did you want to be a part of the leadership team?

Over the past year that Fairplay has existed, I have watched the community evolve in so many positive ways – I have watched us all ask ourselves and each other difficult questions and seen us each be confronted with our own shortcomings as we examine how we all contribute to the systemic issue of sexism. While so much of the change has been good, I have also seen the ugly side of asking the difficult questions. I have seen the fire of confrontation and accusations spread; and I recognize that in many ways, Fairplay lit that initial spark. I have watched people I care deeply about be dragged through the mud, and I have watched the Fairplay leadership team carry on despite this, even as the emotional toll wore them down and out.

I have also witnessed and experienced first hand the real and tangible difference that an organization like this can make in empowering women to confront the unfair standards that we are held to by our male counterparts, and often times, by ourselves.

At its core, I wanted to be a part of the leadership team because I thought it was a good idea to have a fresh perspective both on the organizational/logistical aspects and on the role of the group itself. I wanted to bring new energy into the group, and I did not want to be an armchair advocate in the community.
What experiences have you had that you feel prepare you for your role on the Fairplay leadership team?

Defining how I am “qualified” for this is so subjective – we each have different ideas as to what level of experiences really makes a personal qualified to do anything, and while Fairplay has never claimed to be “qualified” to take on this role, I understand that by doing so we are inherently claiming we do, in some ways. As far as informal training goes, I am a woman who has lived in a patriarchal society since birth. There’s really no better qualification for wanting better for ourselves and other women, and I hope that Fairplay has played a part in inspiring confidence that we are each worth speaking up for.

As far as formal training goes, I served on the staff of a non-profit organization whose sole purpose was empowering youth aged 14-24 for three years. I was then elected to chair the organization for two consecutive years. The organization – Summer’s End – was the only organization of its kind to our knowledge. It was run by youth, for youth. I have seen a lot of the same principles of that community apply here. In my role as chair, I created the sexual harassment and formal “harshing” policy. I have extensive training in mediation, conflict resolution, and specifically on communication in consensus based communities/discussions. I have also worked in law and finance since college, so I tend to approach things from a very analytical point of view.
What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I love my job as a mortgage underwriter for a major bank. I spend a lot of my time focusing on civil rights movements and equality; I recently successfully pitched a project to install gender neutral restrooms at my workplace which was accepted and will eventually be implemented nationwide. I also work on a show called Minnesota Tonight, which I really love because it’s a satirical news show that focuses entirely on issues impacting our state. When I’m at home, I love to read, hang with my cats, eat at restaurants in the ‘burbs, and watch HGTV.
3 Dumb words you like the sound of:

Yogurt, elephant, oregano.
Where can we see you perform?

HUGE Theater, Friday nights at 8pm with Throwback Night in January and February 2017. Then, starting in March and April, I will be running crew for the Neutrino Video Project on Saturday Nights at 8pm (also at HUGE). You can come see Minnesota Tonight at Brave New Workshop on the fourth Wednesday of every month starting THIS month (Jan 25) for only $10!

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

One. You. Because you are enough.

Meet the Leadership Team: Gubby

10805803_10152426380842805_5709003479189802109_nThe FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 women who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders; Gubby. You can find Gubby performing in a multitude of shows, spreading her talent all over this city. She is a force to be reckoned with and is demonstrating what it looks like to be performer who is unapologetically queer and feminist.

Why did you want to be part of the leadership team?

After Beth Stelling posted about her abusive relationship with a fellow comedian and Chicago women opened up about sexual harassment and abuse in their improv scene, a group of Twin Cities women also met up in person and talked about how we felt as female improvisers. We talked about things that had happened to us during our improv careers, on and offstage. That night I heard brave stories from friends and acquaintances that were moving and sad, and all I wanted to do was change it. To make it stop. To have our community understand what was happening and that it wasn’t was supposed to be happening.

I also reflected on my own experiences–as a spectator and performer–and how in both I felt trapped by the choices made by unchecked male improvisors who were somehow able to take a limitless world of possibilities and destroy it in favor of rehashing the worst tropes and world-views that plague us in our reality offstage.

As I get older, I realize more and more that support is about listening and caring, but it’s also very much about having hard conversations. Support is about creating the world you want to live in, doing the digging and the building. I’m tired and bored of this world where only a subset of the same-looking people are “allowed” to succeed. I’m ready to tear down and build up anew.

What are you most excited about in regards to FairPlayMN in the improv community?

I am so excited about FairPlay in the improv community because I can already see changes happening. Men are checking in after shows and groups of improvisers are discussing physical boundaries before going on stage. This is so encouraging to me because I feel that this brings everyone in the community and the group closer together.

What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I spend a lot of my time working on my master’s degree and licensure in special education with an emphasis in Deaf/Hard of Hearing education. There are a lot of elements that I love, like disability justice and American Sign Language, but it’s also a lot of work fulfilling teacher requirements. I also spend my time cooking, learning guitar, and watching reality tv!

3 dumb words you like the sound of.

Bolognese, Ueberraschung, Terp

Where can we see you perform?

I’m performing a lot at Huge right now it’s awesome. I feel so lucky to be a part of such great shows. Right now you can see me in:

July and August (minus Fringe dates)

  • 8pm Fridays:  “And the Award Goes to…”

  • 9:30pm Saturdays: Second Wave Feminist Nightmare Enclave

September and October

  • 9:30pm Fridays: Survivors of the Undead Plague

  • 9:30pm Saturdays: Super Good

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A clown car of improvisers. In a silent film. With Bjork playing in the background.