Diversity & Inclusion

From The Owners Of RISE Comedy

There is a lot going on in the world these days. Our world and country are fighting against systemic racism, a pandemic and economic hardships. These fights are highlighting important changes that will need to be made.

In many ways, our community and theater are facing these same challenges. We wanted to take this time to lay out our frame of mind in this struggle and our measures to help make a real positive, measurable impact.

First it starts with our name. We are excited to announce we will become RISE Comedy. This will be a gradual change over the next year; the transition will be ongoing. Why RISE Comedy? We want to elevate the voices of our community. We have a duty to bring levity to our patrons and help them rise from their struggles. We want to lift up our student’s opportunities and abilities. And on a personal note, we as owners want to rise to the occasion to help make our space an even more inclusive and safe space.

As stated before we’re facing an existential crisis as a theater, COVID and the resulting economic hardships will mean these will not all be enacted at the speed we would prefer. However, these will happen because we believe in the mission these measures are working towards. We want to help create the best space we can for BIPOC, LGBTQA+, neuro-diverse, older performers and disabled members our community. We believe in the power of the work we do, and we want as many people as possible to benefit from it, so in turn our community and our art can benefit from their inclusion. We want you to know as humans and as a company we believe our differences are strengths. We believe that we are better united and that the only way forward is to rise together.

These are just some of the things we are doing to rise to the occasion:

  • We will be decentralizing our casting of house teams (and other casting decisions the theater makes) to a committee of diverse voices.
  • We will be decentralizing control over regular and repeatable nights on our calendar to be produced by diverse voices.
  • We will be giving generous deals for those produced nights so they can invest in their own growth, shows and communities.
  • We will continue to provide rehearsal space for teams from those communities for free.
  • We will continue to provide free coaching and class sessions to teams from those communities.
  • We will continue and expand our inclusivity scholarships to members from BIPOC, LGBTQA+, neuro-diverse, older performers and disabled communities.
  • We are currently enrolled in anti-racism classes, and we will continue and expand our efforts to working with experts on bias to improve our classrooms, curriculum and our faculty.
  • We have offered to fund and facilitate the legal creation of an outside community board with oversight authority over our decisions and our space, including reviewing our disciplinary process, awarding scholarships and reviewing the content on our stage.
  • We will be paying experts on bias and inclusivity so we can be the leaders we are striving to be. We will also create opportunities for others in our community to be included in these lessons.
  • We will hire, in a position of leadership and authority, someone with training in inclusivity to help us be the theater we want to be.

Also, we promise this list is not the end. As we learn, we will add to or adjust our measures to help us reach our goal of creating the best space we can for all the members of our community.

We pledge to you that we will educate ourselves to avoid mistakes, learn from the ones we do make and work in earnest to make those mistakes right.

Some of these changes will be enacted before we reopen; for others, we will kindly ask for your patience. We believe in these changes and the mission, but like many of those reading this, we are currently suffering economic and emotional hardship as well.

As you may have noticed, a lot of theaters are closing due to the current economic situation. We have all taken on debt to ensure that we stay open, and we will all do our absolute best to keep RISE Comedy going.

We are grateful for such a caring and compassionate community. Thank you and we welcome anyone who wants to find their voice, advance themselves artistically, and positively impact our community and city to rise with us at RISE Comedy!

– Nick Armstrong, Josh Nicols, and Steve Wilder
RISE Comedy Co-Owners & Partners

Student Bill Of Rights

You have the right:

  • To be and feel safe during classes, rehearsals, and performances.
  • To set boundaries regarding physical contact and subject matter that might trigger a negative emotional response. You have the right to dictate what kind of physical touch you receive.
  • To immediately step out of any scene, performance, rehearsal or class in which you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. And you have the right to excuse yourself from any scene, performance, or exercise without explanation.
  • To inform your teacher or coach of anything you want them to know ahead of time, such as physical or emotional conditions that might make playing certain games difficult or uncomfortably challenging.
  • To speak to any teacher, staff member, adviser, owner, or any other representative of RISE Comedy Playhouse regarding behavior by any person that you feel infringes on your rights.
  • To turn down a suggestion from an audience/teacher/fellow student you feel is demeaning.
  • To define what feels fun and what feels comfortable (and uncomfortable) for you without judgment from others.
  • To fail, to succeed, to explore.
  • To love your work!

Exercising any of these rights will not adversely affect your ability to progress in classes, to be cast in house teams, or to be booked for shows.

Click HERE to download a PDF version of this Bill Of Rights!

Safe Environment & Harassment Policy

Under no circumstances should a teacher, show director, coach – or any other individual – demand or expect any physical interest from you in exchange for opportunities or anything else. (Certainly there are plenty of examples of improvisers in relationships successfully working together – that’s not a concern. The issue here is use/abuse of power in unfair treatment of others.)

Under no circumstances should you be expected to tolerate unwelcome sexual attention or advances from other students or performers, whether that happens inside or outside class, online, via text, or any other method. While there are limits to what we can help with outside the walls of our classrooms and theater, we ask you to advise us as situations arise so that we can address them to the best of our ability and identify patterns.

Under no circumstances should you continue with a scene that makes you feel physically or emotionally unsafe. We encourage you to leave or end a scene by whatever means works in the moment and to address the issue backstage following the performance (preferably as soon as practicable). We further recommend that individuals bring up issues in the presence of the entire cast and director/coach, if possible. These issues are not between individuals, they affect the entire group, and the entire group should support the conversation. Failure to support a member of the group in expressing concerns about their emotional and physical safety may indicate a much larger problem with the cast/group.

We care very much about fostering a safe and healthy environment at RISE Comedy. We do not believe in “good” versus “bad” people – it is behavior that needs to be identified and addressed. Depending on the severity of the issue, our primary goal will be to point out the problem and provide a clear path/guidelines for making needed changes. In cases of physical endangerment, unlawful behavior or repeat offenses, we will take stronger measures as we are legally able, up to and including termination of teachers or staff, discontinuing a student’s classes, and/or removing a performer’s privilege to appear on our stage. Also possible are a time-limited probation and/or complete banning from the theater.

Click HERE to download a PDF of our full Safe Environment & Harassment Policy!

Anonymous Incident Reporting

We have an anonymous reporting system in place to help make RISE Comedy a safe place for all of you. We have a two-part system: 1. Lighthouse Communications and 2. An HR Consultant of 30 years, Ann Hogan. If you choose to report an incident, please follow these steps.

Contact our anonymous reporting service, Lighthouse Communications. When you file a report, it is completely anonymous and the report is sent to our HR Consultant Ann Hogan, Artistic Director/Co-Owner Josh Nicols, and General Manager/Co-Owner Nick Armstrong. There are multiple ways to report an incident:

  1. Phone: 844.420.0044
  2. Web: www.lighthouse-services.com/voodoocomedy
  3. E-mail: [email protected]

REPORTING POLICIES AND PROCESS

Once the report is made to Lighthouse Communications it is emailed to RISE Comedy’s General Manager Nick Armstrong, Artistic Director Josh Nicols, and our HR Consultant Ann Hogan. If Nick or Josh are mentioned in any report, the report will only go to our outside HR consultant Ann Hogan. All reports are confidential and the identity of the caller will remain anonymous unless you provide your name in the report, which is up to you. However, it is our policy that the aforementioned management and HR keep your information secure. It is our policy that we will not retaliate in any way and/or divulge your name in public for reporting. Each report has a PIN number which allows us to contact you anonymously without knowing your email address. If we have further questions, Ann Hogan may reach out to you via the PIN number, which sends the email through Lighthouse Communications and protects your anonymity.

Examples of incidents you may report:

  • Ethical Violations
  • Wrongful Discharge
  • Unsafe Work Conditions
  • Internal Controls
  • Quality of Service
  • Vandalism and Sabotage
  • Improper Conduct
  • Discrimination
  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse
  • Threats
  • Fraud
  • Conflict of Interests
  • Misuse of Company Property
  • Theft and Embezzlement
  • Violation of Company Policies
  • Violation of the Law

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