Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Geva's Anti-Racism Action Plan and Land Acknowledgement
Geva's Statement on Anti-Racism
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism
Geva's Anti-Racism Action Plan
We have investigated the history of the land on which Geva sits, and acknowledge that it is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Onöndowa’ga, known in English as the Seneca. We offer gratitude and respect to their elders past and present, and we pledge to disrupt our comfort in the colonizer’s story of how that land was taken from them. We have shared this story on our blog, on our website and in our playbills. We commit to offering land acknowledgements in our public and internal gatherings, and we are beginning a dialogue to identify the ways in which we can be of service to the Indigenous communities in and around Rochester, which is only a first step towards a right relationship with the people who have stewarded this land from time immemorial.
We also acknowledge that the founding of the regional theatre movement mirrored social constructs of a time that afforded privilege to some and excluded others on the basis of factors including (but not limited to) race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, class and ability. We commit to actively disrupt the vestiges of those structures through our anti-racist policies and practices at our theatre.
We have begun the process of articulating new institutional statements of our mission, vision and values to make sure they
honor our anti-racist ethos. We commit to evaluating these statements on an ongoing basis.
We have made a commitment to comprehensive anti-racism training for our staff, volunteers and board, with a budgetary
and time commitment.
We are creating new policies to enshrine anti-racist hiring practices. These include: reevaluating job descriptions/postings to
eliminate any unnecessary requirements that could limit who may apply; including pay ranges in job postings; expanding
our networks to promote opportunities; and, evaluating candidates’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and
We are developing a 360-degree feedback process for executive leadership that will include surveying staff, trustees and
We are evaluating partnerships, sponsorship arrangements, and advertising relationships with media outlets and will engage
with organizations that are committed to becoming anti-racist. We are seeking out BIPOC vendors and those who share our
We are examining our policies around the scheduling and platforms for media appearances of guest artists to protect their
time and avoid problematic media interactions.
We are revising our formal paid holiday recognitions, which will now include Native American Heritage Day, Martin Luther
King Jr. day, and Juneteenth. Also, in recognition that our staff comes from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, we
will add two additional floating holidays to our official holiday policy to allow for individuals to observe holidays that are not
recognized within our current calendar.
We will continue to compile our racial equity data annually and be transparent with the results.
We created an Artistic Council to incorporate the invaluable perspectives of a broader range of underrepresented communities into the season planning process.
We have committed to producing on our stages at least one play written by each of the four playwrights from the Recognition Radio festival celebrating Black stories over the coming years.
We commit to assembling dynamic, inclusive and equitable creative teams addressing the cultural competency needed for each project. Our teams will include a range of artistic, cultural and identity perspectives with BIPOC artists and female artists in each team. To be transparent in our efforts we commit to annual reporting on our creative team demographics.
Over the past 25 years, Geva has fully produced 29 world premieres on our stages, 17% of them authored by BIPOC writers. In order to build new relationships that might lead to future premiere productions, we commit to focusing on commissioning and developing the new plays of BIPOC writers. For the next five years Geva will dedicate funding of no less than three quarters of our commissioning and workshop budgets to developing the plays and musicals of BIPOC writers.
We have created an anti-racist code of conduct for the rehearsal room and the theatre at large, which articulates a process for responding to acts of bias, thereby prioritizing the needs of people over product.
We commit to examining and eliminating production practices that disproportionately impact BIPOC artists. These practices include the industry-wide standard of requiring overly long days during technical rehearsals.
We are re-imagining our front of house and ushering policies and procedures, as well as our approach to audience engagement, to ensure that our space is a welcoming space for all.
We have articulated Geva’s Invitations to Play, which recognizes the many and diverse ways that audiences experience theatre together, and makes clear the expectation that all will be welcomed and respected in our spaces. This will be shared with all audiences.
As a non-profit organization incorporated for the public good, and with our center city location that has served as a gathering place for the region since 1868, we continue our longstanding commitment to supporting peaceful social justice demonstrations. For example, in 2020 we opened our lobby for respite and medical supplies, and we will remain responsive to local social justice organizers in the future whenever possible.
We will establish a Board Working Group dedicated to our engagement activities, as part of prioritizing that work throughout our season, not on a show-by-show basis.
We are proud of a 51-year history of theatre making here in Rochester and have innovated in many ways. At the same time, Geva’s staffing, leadership, and storytelling have always been predominantly white. To explore this, we recently completed a racial equity audit of
We want to acknowledge that significant effort and courage have been required of anyone, especially BIPOC staff, artists, and community members, who wanted to provide feedback to Geva. We acknowledge the consequences of our actions and inactions. We are
grateful to everyone who has generously demanded that we do better, particularly our own Black and Iranian-American staff members
and the We See You White American Theatre authors and signatories. We acknowledge our role in perpetuating these systems, and take
responsibility for repairing the harm caused. This is the critical work that we must do, that we are ready and eager to do, and we
acknowledge that we are late in beginning the work.
* This information is dated from 2021 and is in the process of being updated *
Acknowledging the Land
Graphic by Eric E. Doxtator
Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award
Geva Theatre Center annually presents the Essie Calhoun Diversity in the Arts Award to an individual who or organization that promotes and encourages diversity in the arts. The award recognizes that art allows for the expression of truths and beliefs, and helps us gain an understanding of one another and our world. It further acknowledges that a mixture of cultures stimulates creativity, the sharing of ideas, and the building of a common collective future, which has always been close to Ms. Calhoun-McDavid’s heart.
The award was established in 2011 and named in honor of Essie Calhoun-McDavid, retired Chief Diversity Officer, Director of Community Affairs, and Vice President of Eastman Kodak Company. Ms. Calhoun-McDavid, a longtime advocate for diversity in the arts, was the first recipient of the award.
The award is designed by renowned Rochester glass artist Nancy Gong.
- Dr. David Anderson (Sankofa)
- The Center for Youth Strings for Success
- Rachel Y. DeGuzman
- Shawn Dunwoody
- Garth Fagan
- Reenah Golden
- Delores Jackson Radney
- Tonia Loran-Galban (Akwesasne Mohawk, Bear Clan)
- Debora McDell-Hernandez
- Nydia Padilla-Rodriguez
- School of the Arts
- Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan
- David Shakes
- Dangerous Signs
- Thomas Warfield