WIT is committed to fostering a diverse community of improvisers. We strive to create culture of inclusion at every level of our organization, from classes to mainstage performances.
Diversity at WIT
Improv has something to offer everyone, and everyone has something to offer through improv. We aim to provide an accepting and safe environment for people of all backgrounds and identities. We believe that in order to create our best work we need diverse participants and diverse voices. Below, find a snapshot of some of the actions WIT has taken to increase diversity across multiple programming areas.
Overall gender parity at WIT has always been strong compared to many other cities’ improv scenes. WIT’s founding artistic director was a woman (Carole Douglis). Two other women each served as WIT’s artistic director prior to current AD Mark Chalfant taking the position.
What we’re doing:
- WIT staged The October Issue, an all-female ensemble project which debuted in fall 2015 as part of the citywide Women’s Voices Theater Festival and has since continued as a WIT project.
- We pursue gender parity in Harold team casting and have achieved it. Since 2013, the percentage of women performing in our Harold teams and ensembles has gone up from 36% to 47%.
- Company ensembles are encouraged to be mindful of gender parity in casting.
- 5 of 14 current coaches/directors of Harold teams, ensembles, or Project shows are women.
- We have deliberately worked to recruit and train female teachers. 60% of new teachers in the last 2 years have been women and 60% of the teaching assistants are women.
- WIT’s Board of Directors is majority women (8 of 15).
Race and Culture
Increasing racial and cultural diversity is a top priority for WIT. The organization has undertaken several strategies to promote this diversity.
What we’re doing:
- We pursue racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in Harold team casting. Company ensembles are encouraged to be mindful of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in casting. Project shows are encouraged to be mindful of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in casting. Improv Actually’s refreshed cast now includes 7 players of color in a cast of 13.
- We have intentionally cast guest acts in WIT runs with an eye toward ethnic or cultural diversity, and have recently become more transparent about that by including cast racial make-up questions in the submissions query. We sometimes cluster culturally diverse shows to create a space for those voices. Shows cast have included Sabado Picante, Kaleidoscope, Minority Re’port, the Lodge, Bombay Vindaloo, and Invisible Knapsack.
- We have offered WIT classes at Anacostia Arts Center in an attempt to draw in more students of color.
- We are intentionally trying to increase the number of people of color who teach on our faculty. 20% of the teachers who have taught in the past year are people of color. 13% of the TAs recruited in the past year are people of color.
- We conduct free Improv for All workshops at venues throughout all eight Wards of DC with the intent of sharing improv with new and varied communities.
- WIT’s Board of Directors includes five members who are people of color and diversity is a goal in recruitment.
WIT features healthy LGBT representation on its stage.
What we’re doing:
- LGBT players are well represented on Harold teams and company ensembles.
- WIT’s core staff includes two LGBT members and one LGBT contractor. WIT’s Board includes two as well.
- Anecdotally it appears LGBT student enrollment is strong (we do not currently collect this demographic data).
- We have intentionally cast shows and guest acts in WIT runs with an eye toward LGBT inclusion. Shows have included SHAME, Ugh, Going to the Movies Alone, Jackson Millissippi, and Invisible Knapsack.
People with disabilities
From our classes to our shows, WIT makes improv accessible to those with disabilities.
What we’re doing:
- We do not maintain statistics on students or players with disabilities. However, over time our teachers have accommodated students with numerous physical disabilities including students in wheelchairs and visually impaired students.
- Ensemble and project show casts have included a player with severe visual impairment, a player with MS, a player with a speech disability, and a player with mobility issues requiring a walker/stabilizer.
- We almost always offer classes and workshops in ADA accessible space and will make special arrangements if necessary to accommodate a student.
- Whenever possible we program performances in an ADA accessible space. We accommodate audience members in wheelchairs with reserved front-row seating. Our home stage Source’s black box is ADA accessible.
DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT PREVENTION POLICY
In consultation with WIT's board and stakeholders within our community, WIT has developed a policy to handle issues of discrimination and harassment. This policy covers every aspect of our programming including our classes, rehearsals, and administrative offices.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Washington Improv Theater is committed to increasing diversity among the voices and talent in DC’s improv community. This work starts in the classes program. The goal of our financial aid program is to reduce barriers of access to improv classes. We want students from underrepresented communities to learn improv, which would mutually benefit the improv community and the individuals selected. Each cycle we receive more applications than we can accommodate, but we continue to evaluate funding strategies that allow us to include more people.
WIT's support for developing diversity runs through two tracks.
Financial Aid for Underrepresented Communities
Who is it for: Students from underrepresented communities seeking to begin WIT’s training program. Financial aid will be awarded based on need as well as race, ethnicity, social identity, and personal background. You can read more about our efforts to address income inequality here.
Students selected will receive financial aid to cover portions of the cost of Levels 1 thru 5, contingent upon meeting the learning objectives required to complete each class. You can apply for the scholarship at any time, but there are specific deadlines to be considered for each class session.
If you are a current student, or have experience at another theater, you are welcome to apply! The scholarship is not retroactive but will cover future class costs for the core curriculum.
Deadlines to apply:
Spring session (classes start last week of March 2021) – applications due Friday, February 19
Summer session (classes start third week of JUN 2021) – applications due Friday, April 30
Fall session (classes start third week of SEP 2021) – applications due Friday, July 30
Winter session (classes start first week of JAN 2022) – applications due Friday, October 29
Diversity Scholarship for Current WIT Students
Who is it for: Current WIT students who increase the diversity of race and ethnicity in our classes program and stage. Applicants should be motivated to become active performers.
The students selected for this scholarship program will cover the cost of Levels 3 thru 5, contingent upon meeting the learning objectives required to complete each class. Students currently enrolled in Level 2 are encouraged to apply.
We are excited to be able to offer this program to motivated, eligible students. The scholarship is equivalent to $897 (plus an additional $299 if a student is asked to repeat a course). You can apply for the scholarship at any time, but there are specific deadlines to be considered for each class session. If you previously took classes at WIT, or completed a long form curriculum at another theater, you are welcome to apply! The scholarship is not retroactive but will cover future class costs for the core curriculum.
Deadlines to apply:
Spring session (classes start last week of March 2021) – applications due February 26
Summer session (classes start third week of JUN 2021) – applications due Friday, May 14
Fall session (classes start third week of SEP 2021) – applications due Friday, August 13
Winter session (classes start first week of JAN 2022) – applications due Friday, November 12