Statement by the Equity Diversity Committee on the Rob Guest Endowment

Theatre Seats Felix Mooneeram UnsplashThe following statement has been issued by the Equity Diversity Committee in response to the cancellation of the 2020 Rob Guest Endowment:

The Equity Diversity Committee (EDC) has been in conversation with the Rob Guest Endowment (The Endowment), our membership and the semi-finalists of this year’s competition since August 20. We facilitated discussion with over 100 vested stakeholders to collate a log of claims detailing the changes our industry hoped to see with The Endowment.

These claims were presented to The Endowment on September 2 by the EDC and representatives from the Musical Theatre Industry. Following this meeting The Rob Guest Endowment published actions on September 16 they believed would address these concerns. The EDC nor our members were engaged in the creation or publishing of these.

Friday afternoon (18/09/2020), we sent an email to The Endowment detailing the updated log of claims which identified issues with the published actions, and reiterated demands that weren’t addressed. We also requested The Endowment re-enter negotiations with the committee to ensure an appropriately robust strategic plan could be developed for future competitions alongside a conscientious approach to providing necessary support for this year’s semi-finalists.

By close of business, we learned, alongside the semi-finalists themselves, via a public statement that the 2020 competition would be cancelled. It is disappointing that the time, lived experiences, and wealth of knowledge and skills that were volunteered by the EDC, our members and our wider industry has been mislabeled as “bullying” and “intimidation”.

It’s concerning to see the Endowment rob the semi-finalists of the commendable agency we’ve witnessed over the past month, to silence their voices and co-opt them in a narrative they were not part, let alone aware of. This work should not be discounted or invalidated, but engaged with.

The passion of our workers and performers from various diverse communities to fight for equity and justice, should not be ignored or misrepresented. Rather, the Endowment must answer the call to action, and play their part in supporting the development of a vibrant future for our industry. If we are to truly seek merit and excellence, we must provide equal opportunity and access. This is a journey The Endowment is starting on and must continue on.

With that, we commend the choice to cancel this year’s competition.

Having been unable to find solutions for this year’s competition, this decision stands as acknowledgement of the immense work required to ensure the actions the Endowment has readily committed to, can be refined with appropriate consultation, while receiving the time, resources and consideration needed to ensure the long term success of their plan and the Endowment.

In support of the earlier statement from the semi-finalists and the sentiments of our members, we encourage the Endowment to take the opportunity presented by the cancellation of this year’s competition to return to the table and work with the Equity Diversity committee in building sustainable strategies for future competitions.

In Unity

Equity Diversity Committee