Industry standard

Industry Standard Produces New Generation of Theater – The Brooklyn Rail

It is perhaps not surprising to learn that the vast majority of Broadway producers and investors are white. In response, The Industry Standards Group (TISG) launched the first multicultural business investment and production organization in October 2020.

The organization’s eight co-founders — Rashad V. Chambers, Miranda Gohh, Adam Hyndman, Toni R. Isreal, Rob Laqui, Sammy Lopez, Ronee Penoi, and Cynthia J. Tong — are working on a new fundraising model. in order to obtain exclusively the stakeholders of BIPOC. Their goal is to bring them to a lower threshold than traditional Broadway financial offers. With this model, TISG aims to create access, disrupt traditional thinking, and support and cultivate producers, investors and BIPOC-led projects.

The co-founders organized a roundtable on Zoom to reflect on the building process and where they are at so far.

Cynthia J. Tong: Let’s discuss the commercial and organizational structures that we are working to develop at TISG.

Rashad V. Chambers: We are working to dismantle the barriers to entry, especially for BIPOC which may not have the connections to produce or invest in the commercial landscape. This includes dismantling systemic prejudices and racism that may be beneath the surface. We find a way to disrupt the current model that perpetuates these problems.

Adam hyndman: Another structure that we are trying to dismantle is the barrier of transparency, or inside knowledge required to participate. Pipelines that defend elitism and privilege.

Sammy Lopez: We go directly to the commercial theater. Produce and invest. The invitation was not necessarily there for BIPOC folx to be at these tables.

Rob laqui: The hierarchy of decision making in most traditional structures of businesses and organizations comes from the people at the top, then from the pyramids down. We are exploring something more like a circle with equidistant points.

Toni R. Israel: I have the impression that we are dismantling the systemic table and that we are building our own table. In short, we are starting something new.

Pliers: What is it to build this way and what were the challenges?

Ronée Penoi: There is a myth that your options are either hierarchy or death by committee. We have to live in our current society as we move to build the one we want to live in, but there is a whole world of leadership and structuring in between. TISG is built by playing on each other’s strengths and interests. To do this requires much more constant conversations and checks. Anyone in this group can be an authority on something. There are micro areas of expertise, but basically we all share ownership of this thing that we are building with a series of strategic intentions.

LaquiTo complement this, we collectively participate in a decision-making process, where we all glean knowledge from each other rather than just a few wielding information and power. The point is for us all to elevate each other and then hopefully bring the whole organization up with us.

Lopez: The hardest part for me is breaking my mindset. For example, we were anchored in this system of functioning meetings. I had this uncomfortable but encouraging realization that there is no one way to communicate. Honestly, I have found that the way we operate is often more productive.

Hyndman: It allows for built-in accountability, it encourages clear and transparent communication, and it forces us to make space and time for collaboration.

Pliers: We deliberately structure ourselves differently.

Hyndman: We believe that leadership and decision-making for the future of the arts should not be limited to the privileged few. It is not representative of the world in general, nor even of the field and the industry themselves. If we don’t intend to find new ways to organize and structure, then we risk falling into the same power systems that can easily oppress marginalized folx.

Laqui: Exactly! This is something that we are very aware of, especially since we chose to engage the commercial theater and Broadway.

Bedrooms: We are tackling the commercial theater landscape and Broadway in particular because it gives us the opportunity to have the greatest impact. Even though there is some amazing theater all around, for most people Broadway is still the pinnacle. We want to give more and more different people the power to decide what kind of material should be developed and produced for Broadway.

Pliers: I agree, Rashad. I didn’t grow up participating in theatrical productions. My access point as a young audience was Broadway.

Laqui: There is also a very interesting duality in commercial theater production. We know there are people who have “held the reins” in terms of decision making, but also, commercial theater production in many ways is one of the most flexible industries I have ever encountered. So we think we can start to change the way things work in the process. Even though we use the same measure of success, we can achieve it in a different way while serving a community responsibly.

Hyndman: And the commercial theater model has a traditional heart and a specific way in which it operates. These deeply grooved patterns offer great potential for breaking through a type of stagnation that doesn’t serve the industry as a whole and is actually holding us back from the future of what’s possible for Broadway.

Miranda Gohh: There is a lot of talk about representation, but behind the scenes there was such a lack of producers and BIPOC community that even last summer, most of us didn’t know that the others in this group existed in the ‘industry. Producing can be insulating. So that aspect of TISG itself is exciting for me in terms of disruption. Now we kick down the doors, introduce the BIPOC community and let us learn from each other

Pliers: I’m curious, how do you think we’ve grown from June 2020 until now?

Is right: TISG started off as a conversation with a few of us who were just talking about the lack of BIPOC producers. Now it is the eight of us who are trying to make room for more BIPOC. That’s exciting!

Bedrooms: I’m coming off my fourth Broadway show, and we all know there was only a pinch of black producers. When we first started to meet I was excited, but I didn’t really know what to expect. During our weekly calls, it became very evident that we were creating something unique and special that would help us achieve the things we discussed in terms of access, disruption, transparency, better communication and a pipeline of opportunities. Where we’re at now, why, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And so, we’re getting really close to actually being able to get started.

Laqui: Even though the evolution of our goals has shifted from conversation to practical construction, the importance of the mission has never really changed. Come to think of it, it’s still really applicable and resonates with the actions we continue to take. He’s also such a different model than I thought he was going to be! We do not anticipate traditional Broadway offerings, which are high risk but offer potentially high rewards. We are trying to serve the communities, to give real access to this industry and to change it from within. I think it’s revolutionary in its own way.

Pliers: Even during our first discussions, when we first discussed having only BIPOC stakeholders, it seemed radical to us at the time. Then we realized we had to do it, and now it’s part of our mission. So it’s incredibly motivating.

Hyndman: We started from a few preconceived ideas on what the production or the start of a fund should be. I think we found ourselves in a place where we had to be responsible and in relation to the values ​​that we intended to serve. We had to disrupt where we put the value of profit in our mission; there is transparency around this change of mindset and mission. At first, we were still hooked on the idea that there was a way to participate, but we felt very called to push in that way in terms of the financial model.

Lopez: Exactly, Adam. I think one of the challenges for us is to operate within this very capitalist industry, while leading with an anti-capitalist mindset. The system has worked for many of these producers for many years, so they are not looking to change it.

Pliers: The mission informed our innovation. When Rashad and I met an attorney specializing in impact funds, we learned exactly why we build the way we build, which is based on what securities and investment laws allow and don’t allow us to do. not to do. It also drove our creative solutions.

Lopez: Let’s talk about the partnerships we build. We are looking to align with other organizations, especially other groups led by BIPOC, who are also advancing the industry.

Pliers: Absoutely. Construction of bridges. It’s funny because it’s not in our mission but now it’s inherent in the way we operate.

Penoi: We basically realized that we can’t be the only ones doing this job or it won’t work. So aligning ourselves with the other folx who do this work will allow us to build this vision with intention, and in a way that seems naturally abundant by sharing resources with other groups.

Is right: I think people are definitely intrigued by TISG, and our allies are going to join because they want to help, they want to help us disrupt, and they want to disrupt themselves.

Bedrooms: There is such an opportunity for collaboration at all levels with a number of institutions and organizations that are all keen to see a change. Not just in production, but also in areas that are generally dominated by our white allies, be it press, general management or casting. Seeing the diversity of all levels through theater is one of my hopes.

Hyndman: In conclusion, what are our hopes for the future of commercial theater production?

Bedrooms: I hope for an industry where you can be whatever you want to be. I know we’re not the only ones who think it’s not enough to have people of color on stage and not backstage. We want to be a catalyst for this because our organization is made up of a wide variety of ethnicities, skill sets and interests. Ultimately, we hope to be an organization that the theater industry can turn to and help shape mindsets for meaningful change.