This Community Q&A was prepared by Daniel Carter, Managing Director, and Helen Yung of the Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence in conversation with staff, Board and community members. The purpose of this Q&A is to directly address questions we have heard circulating in the community in relation to specific events reported in social and news media.
Is everything okay at Buddies?
Yes. We are happy and excited to be moving forward. We have spent the past 2 years of the pandemic doing a lot of learning and internal work. If you haven’t read it yet, here is a summary of the institutional changework to date.
In brief, since the fall of 2020, staff have been meeting weekly around equity and inclusion, initially as a reading group studying texts by Amanda Parris, Audre Lorde, Cathy Park Hong and others. An open reading list is available here for community use and for you to make additional suggestions. After about six months, the weekly reading group then worked on translating our learning into concrete tasks or improvements that could be implemented into the ways we work at Buddies. A sample list of action items generated is available here.
What happened with the call out from June 2020?
Shaista Latif, Sedina Fiati and Claire Burns, key members of the group that had stepped forward with concerns in May 2020, have been engaged since July 2021 as core members of a Third-Party Review Committee to help shape healing and transformation. They have outlined recommendations which have been approved by the Board and are being carried forward. They are being paid for their leadership and participation in this work. As of January 2023, plans are underway toward a community gathering anticipated for Spring 2023 and more activities in the following season.
Why did Patricia get fired? Who fired Patricia? Why did Shawn get fired? Who fired Shawn?
“Fired” is a loaded term and does not accurately reflect what transpired. While Buddies is limited in what can be shared due to applicable privacy laws, we can share that Shawn and Patricia mutually agreed with the previous Board to part ways with Buddies. They were each given a severance package in accordance with common law.
What happened with the Board? I heard they all quit.
In late December 2021 to January 2022, the then Board members resigned in two waves, initially due to disagreement between Board members, then in response to disagreement between staff and the remaining Board members on how to move forward with leadership recruitment and be responsive to internal and external concerns.
A provisional Board of Directors was quickly recruited to remain in legal compliance as a charity. Additional Board recruitment efforts were conducted, resulting in the current Board now made up of Brendan McMurtry Howlett, Christina Cicko, Ashley Belmer, Anu Radha Verma, Alexander Hutchison, and Michael Man. Their bios are available here.
The last two years have been a period of intense organizational complexity and learning in the midst of immense social and cultural shifts. To be able to move forward now by reimagining our governance and leadership models feels absolutely right for the progressive role that Buddies in Bad Times Theatre holds as a queer arts institution in the theatre and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. We acknowledge the Metcalf Foundation and WorkInCulture for funding this changework.
What did the Board and staff disagree on?
There were mounting internal and external concerns regarding equity, leadership recruitment, and structural changes that the Company needed to make. The Board was not able to move forward in a unified way in response to these sensitive and complex concerns. We are grateful to the past Board members for their service, and for stepping down to make room for change.
Who’s running Buddies?
We are currently recruiting co-director(s) to join the leadership team! Please see the call here. We are currently led by Daniel Carter as Managing Director, in collaboration with staff and Board.
After the departure of Shawn Daudlin and Patricia Wilson from Buddies in January 2022, the company continued operating and seeing through its 2021-2022 artistic season in the collective hands of some 10 permanent staff and 20 contract staff. These 30+ amazing humans held down the fort to produce the 2021-2022 season and continue supporting queer artists creating and connecting at Buddies. During this time, interim leadership decisions were made by a constellation of more established staff members, led by Daniel Carter with Jac Costa, Aidan Morishita-Miki, and Clayton Lee. Daniel Carter was the Interim Director of Operations and Programming until the Board officially appointed him as Managing Director in Fall 2022.
Our call to action then and now is to work in the spirit of transformation to re-imagine the possibilities of a queer theatre. We have been studying, reflecting and working to address the organization’s own participation in and adherence to racist and oppressive structures and systems.
In addition to the engagement of Shaista Latif, Sedina Fiati, and Claire Burns as core members of the Third-Party Review Committee, Buddies has engaged the Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence to develop new leadership and governance structures for a more just and sustainable company.
Hasn’t it been business as usual?
No, we don’t think so. Yes, we have continued to produce work and support artists and communities. In the context of the permanent or indefinite closure of many established queer spaces due to COVID-19 and market conditions, and to increase support for queer communities more broadly, we’ve reserved time in the building for external community groups to come in and use the space on a recurring basis.
We are a publicly funded organization with a mandate to fulfill, and we employ some 30 employees and staff who would be without income if we suddenly ceased operations and programming. We have slowed down. We have shifted priorities, paid for staff to engage in learning, and implemented changes to advance equity and inclusion.
We have heard the occasional comment that we are moving slowly, while others have commented that we are moving too quickly. We feel we are working at the pace that the staff, Board and Third-Party Review Committee members need. We listen when someone we work with says ‘wait, what about…?’ We are aware of being in process (navigating complexity) while we challenge ourselves to keep up the work in the spirit of intentional change that impacts so many others as colleagues, aspiring arts professionals and audiences.
What is the Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence doing at Buddies?
The Laboratory for Artistic Intelligence specializes in re-imagining how things are done in the world. They are helping us reimagine governance, leadership structures and organizational processes to be more pro-active about change and adaptive to community needs.
Is there any reason I shouldn’t work with Buddies?
That’s up to you. We’ve been candid in our responses above. If you are on the fence about working with Buddies, come talk to us. Some things are clearer to talk about in person.