As of MT20, all bids for the O’Reilly must contain an ‘Inclusion Statement’. The committee of the Martin Esslin Society have taken the decision to introduce this new policy because we believe that (left as written) the nature of many plays in the ‘Western canon’ creates a superabundance of parts for actors of certain demographics, whilst limiting the number of parts available for others. We do not seek to restrict a company’s choice of plays, merely to encourage them to think about how those plays can be staged in a way that ensures that they can always cast actors on talent, rather than demographic. This isn’t a question of ‘tokenism’ - quite the opposite: it is a question of making sure that a talented actor is never passed over because they don’t have the right ‘look’ for a part.
We would encourage anyone who might wish to, to get in touch with the OUDS Diversity, Welfare or Outreach reps to discuss any questions, concerns, or general thoughts (although please note that, while we work in communication with them as much as possible, MES is a separate organisation from OUDS). You can reach them here:
Emma (Welfare): firstname.lastname@example.org
Darcy (Diversity, Access & Equity): email@example.com
Georgie (Access & Outreach): firstname.lastname@example.org
What Is An Inclusion Statement?
An Inclusion Statement should be written by the director, in consultation with the producer and welfare rep. In it, you should outline:
Anything your production is doing to promote diversity and inclusion - for instance, that it has a majority female cast or is a piece of work by a black playwright.
How you intend to mitigate any access issues in your chosen play text -- for instance, if you are bidding for a show set in an all-boys boarding school, what you are going to do about the fact this presupposes a cast of upper class male actors, or if you are bidding for a piece of physical theatre what you are going to do to ensure that actors with a disability can perform in it.
If there are any access issues in the production that you can’t do anything to alter - for instance, if the rights agreement prevents you from changing the gender of characters. If you feel that the message, or some other key element, of the play would be undermined by altering a particular aspect of it, you should also explain why.
Who your production welfare rep is and what your agreed framework will be should an actor/crew member need to approach them with a concern - for instance, how will they be introduced to cast/crew members: will they sit in on a few rehearsals so that actors can talk to them in person if necessary?
Things To Think About
The aim of the Inclusion Statement is to encourage companies to think about the shows they are putting on, with a view to helping ensure that no one is left unable to participate in an O’Reilly production. We’re interested in hearing any ideas you might have to encourage inclusivity in your productions (and you will almost certainly have ideas that we haven’t thought of), but here are a few prompts to get you started:
Does your play text contain offensive language and/or slurs? Is there anything to stop you removing them?
Does your play text require an actor to do something not everyone would be comfortable with? If an actor said they were uncomfortable, would you be able to stage the scene in a different way - maybe you could consider ‘modest’ alternatives to certain costumes, or think about ways of staging sex scenes offstage.
What is the gender breakdown of your play text? We’re really keen to see productions where 50% (or more!) of the cast are female-identifying. If your play text has a majority male character list, which characters would you be prepared to change to/cast as female?
How would you adapt your set, choreography, or any other element of your production for an actor with access needs?
What ethnicity are the characters in your play text? If they are all (or mostly) written as white, which roles are you willing to cast BAME actors in? Do you have any plans for how to actively encourage BAME actors to audition (especially if your play includes parts that it would not be appropriate for a white actor to play) - we are really keen to see companies with a strong commitment to attracting BAME actors to their production.
Are you in a position to take on crew members who might not have had access to much experience in lighting, sound etc. at school? We’re really interested in seeing any schemes for effectively training department assistants your company might have.
Have those involved in the casting process considered how their preconceptions of the play, or previous productions they’ve seen, could influence their casting decisions? Are there any steps they could take to mitigate this? When you think about the characters, do you automatically picture them as white, or non-disabled, even if this isn’t specified in the text? If you’re planning on casting genderblind (rather than genderbent) does the female version of the character you can see feel as real as the male one? What about accents: when you think about the characters, what do they sound like and why?
This list is by no means exhaustive - there are lots of ways of moving towards a fully inclusive production which we haven’t covered here. We also appreciate that the requirements of individual shows may mean that it is not possible to give equal weighting to all of these issues - if this is the case please do tell us in your statement. However, we think it should be possible for a lot of shows to take a lot of these things into consideration. We also encourage companies to read the latest version of the OUDS Welfare Manifesto, before submitting a bid to ensure they are well informed about recommended best practice for auditions, rehearsals and performances.
If you have any questions about inclusion statements, please contact email@example.com.