Striving to create and maintain a work environment characterized by mutual trust, creative exploration and artistic freedom, Monumental Theater Company has developed a landmark 18-page Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy in the theater of the DC area. The robust new policy provides a comprehensive, trauma-informed and victim-centered approach to reporting, investigating and resolving complaints and can be easily adopted by other theaters.
The underlying policy, according to a statement, is Monumental’s recognition that “all members of the company, board and public must work together to create a safe space for each other, including assuming responsibility for the power we each have over others and treating all individuals we come into contact with during monumental activities with dignity, decency and respect.
Co-Artistic Director Jimmy Mavrikes said: “We are committed to implementing progressive methods to keep our community safe, from hiring consultants such as privacy directors to evaluating our policies. on an annual basis.”
Co-Artistic Director Michael Windsor added: “We are adapting our best practices to ensure the safety, well-being and inclusion of all members of the Monumental community.
“At Monumental, we believe adopting this policy is an imperative step and hope others will seek to develop similar policies,” said Beth Amann, Chief Executive Officer. “And we are grateful that Kaiya Lyons, board member and civil rights attorney, is guiding us in the development of this policy.”
Of the new policy, Lyons said, “One of the most common obstacles to eradicating inappropriate or illegal behavior in theater is the lack of a clear and communicated process for reporting misconduct when it occurs. occur. As a lawyer and comedian, I am proud that Monumental has taken a definitive and proactive step to empower members of its community and create a culture of safety, fairness and inclusion.
Monumental’s policy was developed independently but was informed, Lyons said, “by a detailed review of numerous publicly available safe space documents and relates to the resolution processes of various theaters and industry organizations. in the United States and abroad, including standards developed by Not in our Chicago home and not in our DC home.
“In creating this policy,” Lyons continued, “we were able to carefully distill these best practices while going the extra mile to promote and protect members of our community using my unique perspective as a lawyer with experience in employment discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation litigation cases.
The company began working on the document in September 2020. Outlining the company’s internal process, Amann explained, “We previously had a harassment policy in place and a distribution representative model that reflected the system of Equity Deputy to report bad behavior, but we wanted to go further.
“The policy was created and reviewed by our staff, board and artistic advisors,” Amann continued. “Everyone contributed in one way or another, and it was great to have Kaiya on board to make sure we could base this policy on the law and the realities of what we can actually control. We met several times in groups of different sizes, went through several versions and agreed on the final version as a group.
Can other theaters adapt this policy document for their own use? Short answer: Absolutely. “I would love for other theaters to take our work and make it their own policy,” Amann said. “We have been guided by several other companies over the years, and I would be happy to pass that kindness on to another company, especially when it comes to work that will support our artists and strengthen our community. We hope this policy can serve as a model for other theaters in the DMV area and beyond.
Explaining the important legal context of this policy for a small theater company such as Monumental, Lyons said, “Federal employment discrimination laws only apply to companies with 15 or more employees. Monumental does not meet this basic requirement, so there is no legal obligation for the company to take steps to protect members of its community from the insidious forms of abuse that too often occur, unchecked, in our industry.
“This policy is intended to close that gap and empower our artists, staff, volunteers and even members of the public to speak out about misconduct when they see it and for us to take definitive action to protect our staff from discrimination, harassment and otherwise inappropriate conduct,” Lyons said.
“It is imperative that other small theatres, regardless of their profit structure, take similar steps to ensure they proactively help individuals come forward in a safe, confidential and unbiased space and take definitive measures to eradicate misconduct from their communities. And we hope MTC’s policy will allow them to take some of the guesswork out of that process.
To read the full Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Click here.
About Kaiya Lyons (in her own words)
Prior to joining the MTC board in spring 2020, I had advocated for theaters to institute protections against discrimination, harassment, and misconduct online and in my work on the board of another non-profit theater company. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, I interviewed many Minneapolis theater and improv artists, including board members of Fair Play MN, for an investigative legal article about how the theater and the law are colliding to protect serial predators and silence their victims in response to a big controversy in this community sparked by a Facebook group post warning others not to work with a serial sexual predator in the area. This experience has shown me how theaters, especially smaller regional and community theatres, need not only a model safe space policy, but also an effective and fair model reporting procedure and resolution tools they could use to ensure that no one has to choose between remaining silent, or risking the re-traumatization and reputational damage that so often accompanies the naming of bad actors on social media. Using my combined experience in civil rights, domestic violence, and labor law, as well as my perspective as a member of the theater community, I began to work on developing a policy of simple but effective safe space as a board member of a local non-profit theater company. in 2019 and early 2020. However, when I presented this policy to the board, I encountered resistance. After learning that the board would only approve a vague statement against misconduct without requiring cast members and volunteers to agree to abide by the policy or provide information on how such misconduct could be reported , investigated or resolved, I resigned from the board. in protest. It was shortly after this experience that I joined the MTC Board of Directors and was given permission to develop what has essentially become my dream Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. I am incredibly honored and grateful for this opportunity and hope that our policy can serve as a model for other leaders in the theater community.
A little history about me: I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2016 and have since worked in civil rights and public interest law in DC and Minnesota. I am currently an attorney with the American Association for Justice, an international coalition of lawyers and legal professionals working to protect victims’ rights and strengthen the civil justice system. However, the theater has always occupied a large part of my heart and my spare time. In the early 2010s, I co-artistically co-directed a student theater company, Forbidden Planet Productions, at GWU with current Associate Artistic Director/Casting Director at Olney Theater Center, Jenna Duncan. While at GWU, I also wrote and directed a play based on music by Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. In law school, I wrote and performed in annual full legal musical parodies produced by the Theater of the Relatively Talentless (TORT) at the Pantages Theater in downtown Minneapolis. More recently, I have worked as a part-time house manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library since 2016.
About the Monumental Theater Company
The Monumental Theater Company, winner of the 2018 Helen Hayes John Aniello Award for Best Emerging Theater Company, is a non-profit professional theater dedicated to promoting, producing and providing platforms for millennial artists. They work to develop new works, new views on established works, and the next generation of theatergoers in the Washington, DC community.