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Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access

IDEA JOURNEY: an update

June, 2022

Like many of our theatrical colleagues across Connecticut and the nation, Goodspeed Musicals continues its commitment to reckon with the cultural shift taking place following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, as well as the recent violent attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific-Islanders (AAPI) and members of the BIPOC communities. The clear drive to increase diversity, demonstrate inclusion in more than name, and improve—and in some cases, introduce—equity into our industry and workplace sparked internal mobilization and action within Goodspeed that is ongoing and permanent.

We wanted to share just how Goodspeed’s staff and Board are weaving these inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) strands into our work and how you will see them reflected in our programming and on our stages, and as part of our organization, as well.

Throughout summer and fall 2020, Goodspeed reviewed and discussed the statements and demands of various theatre-focused antiracist organizations which called out what has historically been a primarily white, homogeneous industry. We quickly recognized that outside training would be the right place to start in preparing our response and actions going forward. With support from our Board of Trustees, we engaged The Woke Coach to share their From Ally to Accomplice® program with our staff. This multi-month engagement which took place in 2021 has proven invaluable in showing us to ourselves and giving us tools and vocabulary to continue having the conversation about these issues with our colleagues long after our training ends. We knew the entire organization should have the opportunity to receive The Woke Coach’s guidance and leadership. Thus, a second cohort of staff began their training in early March 2022. It is our goal for all staff to successfully complete this program. Our IDEA work has been generously funded by the Burry Fredrik Foundation, the Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation, Inc., Webster Private Bank, and Dr. Anne Rothstein and Ms. Jane Hellman. We will seek additional financial support to help us continue working with The Woke Coach into the coming years.

The first Woke Coach cohort evolved into a staff-led committee we currently title the IDEA Working Group. Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility are the guiding principles underpinning an ever-evolving task list, including projects such as: gathering educational resources on antiracism and other diversity and inclusion principles, creating mandatory training on antiracism and other IDEA topics, pronoun usage guidance, welcoming gender-variant and non-binary staff, and expanding and deepening our job posting locations and resources so that we can reach a broader audience of applicants. This working group meets monthly and works to emulate the perspective gained from the work with The Woke Coach, and as additional staff graduate from the training, they will be welcomed to join this committee.

At the Board level, a committee titled the Racial Equity Task Force (RETF) formed in 2020 to start these same conversations in a joint Board-staff group. The primary purpose was to look at what contributions the Trustees can make toward the inclusion goals of the organization. Similar to the staff, the Trustees are grappling with the role of Boards in the inequitable structure underpinning the American regional theatre industry. The RETF continues to discuss IDEA training opportunities for the full Board, as well as the need to center IDEA into our Board nomination process and Trustee diversification—including ensuring these goals meet future diverse Trustees where they are, and not place unintentional barriers in front of their true engagement.  

Festival of New Musicals Symposium with Seena Hodges, David Byrd, Donna Lynn Hilton and Ansa Akyea

Beginning with the 2022 Festival of New Musicals, Goodspeed welcomed its audience and patrons to join us in these efforts. The Festival Symposium featured our partners at The Woke Coach—Seena Hodges (she/her) and Ansa Akyea (he/him)—who challenged us all to look at our own participation and perpetuation of the systems affecting the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations. As we move into our regular productions, expect to see these issues raised at member events and talk-backs with the creative teams. We invite our audience and our community to be engaged in how we are considering these questions and navigating those challenges.

Our Executive Leadership is also committed to promoting a diversification of the creative teams (directors, choreographers, and designers), musicians and music teams, and actors, both racially and with regards to gender. Our public casting notices make our commitment to inclusive casting very clear, and we are adjusting our language and approach to casting roles based on gender or gender identification—in fact removing it when it is not absolutely required for a role. While it may have happened occasionally in our past productions, it is now a primary goal to have roles filled by BIPOC actors. And our orchestra will also see this shift—our goal is to have all folks, on-stage and back, better reflect the diverse communities in which Goodspeed operates.

As Goodspeed launches its first formal strategic planning process this spring, these commitments will play a central role in Goodspeed’s future. Goodspeed cannot move forward responsibly—or truly in good conscience—without dedicating resources, both fiscal and energetic, to our IDEA work. This will include supporting further community engagement, additional antiracist and inclusion training, and selecting programming which reflects these commitments. Stay tuned for updates about our impending strategic planning process.

Please feel free to reach out to Artistic Director Donna Lynn Hilton (dhilton@goodspeed.org) and/or Managing Director David B. Byrd (dbyrd@goodspeed.org) if you have questions or want to help with this important work. You will continue to hear from us as the conversation progresses—and it will—because at a minimum, we have come to understand what a life-long engagement this work entails, when you approach it not just in name, but in deed, with true resource-delegation, fundraising support, and earnest, honest conversation.

A version of this article, penned by General Manager Rachel J. Tischler, appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of CURTAIN! Magazine.

March 8, 2021

All of us at Goodspeed Musicals recognize that our programming, our staff, our artists, our Board of Trustees, and our audience should reflect the rich diversity of the communities we serve. Throughout our history too little effort has been made to change the gender, racial, and ethnic representation of our theatre. We acknowledge the moral imperative to address barriers for women and people of color, with particular emphasis on the highest levels of Goodspeed, where greater equity and inclusion will be most impactful. Goodspeed is committed to this work, and we wish to address it directly, publicly, and transparently.


To guide our progress, in the summer of 2020 Goodspeed established a Racial Equity Task Force comprised of Board and staff and charged it with recommending actions to lead to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion among our staff, creative teams, performing artists, Trustees, and audience. In acknowledging our shortcomings, Goodspeed has engaged the services of The Woke Coach, a minority-owned and operated company whose mission is to help clients be better individuals and leaders with a deeper understanding of how the legacy of racism and injustice affect us all. We will be updating on the progress of our work in this space.

Goodspeed Musicals has evolved a long and respected reputation as a leader in our industry while we’ve entertained audiences and created work that has moved our community towards greater inclusion. But we have much work to do if we are to create the safe and inclusive environment we envision. As we build on our great history, it is critical that equity, diversity, inclusion and justice for all be among our guiding principles. We commit to undertaking this journey with fervor, empathy for all and with joy.

Donna Lynn Hilton, Artistic Director

David B. Byrd, Managing Director