To the patrons of Freewill Shakespeare Festival and to our fellow artists;
We can’t wait to welcome you back to the great outdoors to share and participate in live theatre again. I know that these are difficult times for many of us and I want you to know that we are taking the time to plan and organize for next summer. We miss you and we will be back.
I have recently been appointed the Artistic Director of the festival and while I wish I could easily launch into all of the great plans I have for the work going forward, recent events have stopped me cold. At the risk of taking up space and adding to unwanted noise, I feel that this a moment where we as an arts organization and myself as an artist need to say something.
Over the past few years Freewill has been working on diversifying our artistic practice in casting, hiring and having important conversations around racism and decolonizing. And we will continue this work moving forward. We as an organization and myself personally will make mistakes, but we must try and I am hopeful that you, our audience, will also come along for this journey.
The Freewill Shakespeare Festival recognizes the ongoing systemic violence against Black, Indigenous and racialized communities in Canada. We believe in inclusion, equity and community at our very core. We are committed to continuing to grow and learn as an organization and to understanding that we must do better for both our theatre community and our community at large. We recognize that we have so much more to learn and understand about equity, inclusion and anti-racism. We seek to create a place where all artists can work, tell stories and create without fear of racism or discrimination of any kind whatsoever. We are heartbroken for and empathize with the anger and grief of the parents, siblings, partners and children who have lost their loved ones to police violence across North America. We are all in this as a community and must not be silent until ALL of our friends and neighbours are safe.
Statements such as these can come across as declarations, they are not dialogue. I believe that we need to have more dialogue surrounding these painful issues and we, as an organization, need to take more concrete action. I believe that the art we create, even if the source is over 400 years old, is inherently about us now and that theatre is a dialogue between the artists and the audience. I urge our audience to engage, research, and learn about what we can do to make changes to our society so that all people can live, create, and work without fear.
If you have the means please consider donating to any organization that supports the work of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Work that is helping move us forward to become a more inclusive and equitable society.
And when we can gather again safely under the amphitheatre tent, I look forward to sharing space, community and continuing this dialogue in person.
Freewill Shakespeare Festival
June 5, 2020