Implementing WIT’s Values: Jan 2023-April 2024 Progress Report

Since WIT codified our organizational values in 2021, they have helped inform decisions at every level of our organization. Established through an engagement with Young Playwrights’ Theater’s AROW program (Abolishing Racism and Oppression in the Workplace). Our six core values are:

  • Facilitating Creative Joy and Self-Discovery 
  • Centering Humanity
  • Building Community
  • Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive Environment 
  • Building and Fostering Diversity at All Levels
  • Valuing Openness and Transparency

Immediately after these values were articulated, WIT’s staff implemented an initial set of fundamental changes to WIT’s work, including improving audition processes, revising our organizational style guide, enhancing communication to students, and more. 

We know the work of putting our values into practice is a long-term commitment and one that evolves with the organization.  It is in this spirit that we are pleased to share with you the summary below of how WIT’s values have been further operationalized and integrated across WIT over the last year and a half.

This update includes progress in the areas of: performances, auditions, classes, curriculum, financial aid, community partnerships and outreach, WIT@Work, and WIT’s Board.  It concludes with a preview of the work that lies ahead for us.



When curating our performances, special attention is paid to promoting and building racial, gender, and age diversity on stage.  We have operationalized this effort through tracking demographic information for each show that is submitted, creating flexible policies for ensembles and improvisers, providing first-time directors with systematic creative support, and centering, showcasing, and prioritizing identity-based performance teams.

Our demographic data indicate that we are making progress. For example, for the past five years, the percentage of people of color cast in WIT ensembles, Directors Series shows, and Harold teams has consistently exceeded the percentage of people of color who auditioned. Since January 2023, people of color represent 21% of individuals who auditioned for WIT projects/teams. For that same period, people of color represent 43% of individuals cast on those projects/teams. 

In an effort to strengthen diversity, WIT has also sustained its policy change related to flexibility for WIT ensemble rehearsal requirements, moving away from the pre-pandemic rule expecting ensembles  to rehearse weekly with few exceptions. Similarly, in an effort to integrate more flexibility into our rigorous Harold team program, WIT created a hiatus policy that offers improvisers the possibility to take an extended leave of absence to care for a family member or manage a personal situation rather than vacate their spot in the program.

Additional notable recent milestones include:

  • WIT’s Directors Series and Launchpad programs, which provide individuals of varying levels of experience with the support they need to realize their creative visions, have enabled several first-time directors the opportunity to grow artistically and present their projects on the WIT stage (Not Another Pyramid Scheme – Spring ‘23, Tumbleweed – Summer ‘23, LOLgorithm & Beat the Bot – Spring ‘24). 
  • WIT has deliberately prioritized identity-based teams among guest troupes when scheduling runs. For example, WIT regularly schedules shows comprising casts of all-Queer, all-Woman, all-Black, and all-Latinx performers. In addition, we program all-are-welcome “jams” for members of the LGBTQ+ and Black communities 
  • In May 2023, WIT presented “The Cookout: A Celebration of Black Improv in the DMV” at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage as part of our fellowship with the Kennedy Center Social Impact Program.
  • For two years in a row, WIT has applied for and received funding from the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which enables us to center and design artistic programming with members of that community in mind.
  • In 2024, Kinfolk became the first all-Black team to win the Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament title. As the winners of the highly competitive competition, Kinfolk will regularly have the opportunity to perform and headline at WIT shows over the next year.
  • Upcoming: The Cookout returns on July 20, 2024. This celebration of the Black improv community was the brainchild of Jamal Newman and Krystal Ali, members of WIT’s all-Black ensemble Lena Dunham. 



With the goal of supporting casts to do better, richer, and more culturally competent creative work, WIT is working to ensure casts include more diverse perspectives. Specifically, WIT has worked to demystify our audition process and mitigate the risk of bias by: clearly describing to auditioners how auditions will be conducted,  proactively communicating, in advance, which skills panelists are looking for auditioners to demonstrate, and sharing with auditioners our active efforts to maintain and enforce an audition space free from oppressive behaviors.

Ensembles and Directors Series projects that involve auditions also include diversity regarding race, gender, and age as criteria when casting. We have worked to standardize this data collection and, in the future, we will publicly share our reporting on any observable trends in auditions and casting.

Finally, auditions for the coached Harold team program are monitored and evaluated by panels of coaches and players, using a process designed to limit the influence of any one individual. We attempt to compose audition panels with players from a diverse range of backgrounds. 



Since 2022, we have systematically worked to ensure that WIT’s classrooms are welcoming and inclusive spaces for everyone, where students feel at ease exploring their creativity in an environment free from any kind of harassment, oppression, or exclusion. In the process of codifying and implementing our core values, prior to FY23, WIT placed heavy emphasis on communicating to students what they could do if they felt they had been excluded or the target of aggression, for example. This included establishing a non-retaliation policy that offers students a way to report issues or incidents they have experienced via multiple channels. This policy was first shared with all incoming students in FY23, and reinforced by teachers in the first class of each session. This continues to be the case today.

By establishing shared classroom norms of behavior, we aim to reduce the likelihood of harm in our classes—everything from microaggressions to unwelcome physical contact. We are also working to share resources and training with teachers to equip them to interrupt and address moments of harm that do occur in the classroom – how to identify the issue directly, to center the needs of the person experiencing the harm, and to find the right way forward. Taking steps to empower students to speak up is another part of this work. 

We have also begun surveying students to gauge awareness of these policies and will further revise our monitoring to better measure the direct impact of our policies and to see whether students do, in fact, feel that WIT offers a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. 



A curriculum review committee composed of faculty members, WIT staff and a board member spent many months in 2023 examining WIT’s core curriculum, initiating a major revision effort in order to realign our curriculum with our core values, and identifying areas where WIT could do more to create a welcoming environment.

We engaged a member of the committee, Justine Hipsky, who has worked as both a WIT faculty member and a public school teacher, to serve as point person for processing feedback and revising and restructuring the curriculum. As of March 2024, we have completed revisions to our Level 1 and 2 classes, and are now progressing through Level 3 and exploring Level 4. 

We have also taken steps to center the importance of establishing a welcoming and inclusive classroom in our teaching practice and to equip teachers with strategies for interrupting and addressing harm should it occur. WIT’s Education Manager Kacie Peterson has shared related best practices with our teaching artists in quarterly faculty meetings and candid emails have normalized discussions around how to handle situations in the classroom that go against or undermine WIT’s values.  

Finally, we have recently adapted our post-class surveys to help us gauge our success in achieving our goal of creating a welcoming atmosphere for all. 


Financial Aid

WIT has taken measures to increase access to our educational programming by removing cost barriers. To date, $64,465 worth of classes have been provided over the past six years via scholarships. The availability of scholarship funds has helped to increase the representation of people of color on the WIT stage and as members of our company ensembles. The latest data shows that 70% of graduates from WIT’s scholarship program are cast on WIT teams or projects. 

WIT recently implemented a policy change that would allow members of our Harold Team and Musical Improv Conservatory program to apply for financial aid. In addition, members of these programs are now able to apply volunteer hours to their dues to these programs.


Community Partnerships and Outreach

WIT has continued to invest in partnerships with values-aligned organizations. For more on our community partnerships, please see this document.

Notably, in 2024 WIT received our fourth consecutive grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support adult classes at Project Create, which are free for residents of Wards 7 and 8. This programming has been successful on a variety of fronts: two cohorts of students have gone through the entire WIT curriculum at Project Create; three Project Create graduates have been cast on WIT Harold teams; and WIT recently enrolled two Level 1 classes at Project Create totaling 24 new students.

“At Calvary Women’s Services, we’ve seen firsthand the magic of improv and play in the lives of our residents. It’s not just about laughter and fun. It’s about creating moments of joy, building connections, and rediscovering the strength within. It helps pave the way for our residents to navigate challenges with creativity and resilience.” 

– Katie Gregson, Manager of Education and Programs

Calvary Women’s Services



WIT frequently receives requests to conduct free or low-cost organizational training for nonprofits in the DMV. In 2022, we began proactively and annually selecting nonprofit sectors where we thought improv workshops could have a positive impact on staff, boards, and/or stakeholders. In FY23, food and housing security were the sectors chosen for pilot outreach. As a result, WIT led a series of pro-bono workshops for House of Ruth (a non-profit organization that serves more than 600 women and children who are survivors of domestic violence and may also be experiencing houselessness in DC) and the District Alliance for Safe Housing or DASH (a nonprofit organization, providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families). 

In FY24, we are focusing on organizations devoted to addressing the corrosive and harmful impact of systematic racism in our society. So far, WIT@Work has a pro bono training planned for a nonprofit supporting the mental health of Black women.


WIT’s Board

The board’s Governance Committee focused on creating a welcoming environment for prospective members and on recruiting a pool of candidates who bring diversity to the table in terms of experience, race, gender, and age. In interviews with prospective board members, the committee stresses the importance of WIT’s ongoing work and goals around antiracism to ensure alignment. Orientation for new members was streamlined to be more engaging and to set new board members up for full participation as of their first meeting. 

The board’s Finance Committee reviewed WIT’s vendor relationships with an eye toward giving greater weight to factors such as local community involvement and diversity among vendors’ leadership. As a result, WIT engaged Select ARC, a Black and female-owned firm, to prepare the organization’s annual financial review and file our 990 with the IRS. When WIT sought an HR consultant to help align our personnel practices with our values, we engaged HRPro4You, an organization owned and led by a Black woman in the DMV. 

The board’s Anti-racism Task Force focused on holding each board committee responsible for embedding WIT’s values and antiracism priorities in their work, and on serving as a resource and partner to WIT staff as they advance these goals. 


Upcoming Work

Some of the projects planned for the months ahead include:

  • Completing revision of Levels 3 and 4 of the classes curriculum.
  • Creating and implementing more teacher training focused on harm reduction and harm interruption in the classroom.
  • Further standardizing audition practices to reduce the impact of biases and to increase transparency around the process.
  • Conducting outreach to the community to solicit interest in convening and leading affinity groups- groups intended to help connect individuals with a shared personal or cultural identity.
  • Reviewing teacher recruitment and development practices to see if we can remove obstacles and/or biases to attract more diverse applicants.
  • Creating semi-annual progress reports on this work, in fall and spring.
  • In June, WIT intends to launch an awareness-raising campaign focused on creating a culture of connection and the power of improv to build community and counteract the isolating factors of modern life, which can be compounded by discriminatory and exclusionary behaviors such as racism, ageism, genderism, sexism, etc. The launch is expected to coincide with the 2024 Global Loneliness Awareness Summit in Washington DC on June 11. 


Do you have questions about anything you’ve read in this report? We’re eager to hear your feedback and learn how we can better align our programming with our organizational values. Enter your question in this form and we will post a response on this news item. All questions will be posted anonymously.




WIT’s Values

Facilitating Creative Joy and Self-Discovery WIT is dedicated to using longform improv to bring joy into people’s lives and using it to help people learn about and express themselves. 

Centering Humanity WIT prioritizes people, including their health, safety, and mental well-being. Levity, shared laughter, and joy are vital to human well-being, and WIT creates spaces where these are possible for all. 

Building Community WIT recognizes improv’s ability to counteract the isolating factors of modern life and to form bonds between people and facilitates the creation of multiple intersecting communities within its reach. 

Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive Environment WIT creates a friendly atmosphere where everyone feels like they belong and can be their preferred self. WIT embraces its continued evolution in cultivating an organization that is anti-oppressive in every form.

Building and Fostering Diversity at All Levels WIT believes that improv can offer something to everyone and everyone can bring their own voice to improv. As an extension of our inclusive environment, WIT values serving a diverse spectrum of patrons, students, and artists. 

Valuing Openness and Transparency WIT proactively shares information about our actions and our decision-making. We are responsive to community input.


Community Questions and Answers

Is WIT doing anything to ensure that it has more trans (and particularly trans women) representation on its stage? I was recently told that in a decade of watching improv in this city, I was the first trans woman this person had seen on stage, which feels kinda crazy to me. 

WIT’s approach to fostering diversity (in every respect) starts with making our existing programming more inclusive and equitable. To that end, much of the work we’ve done has been to listen to our student and performer communities and respond to feedback in order to ensure that everyone is welcome in our classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and performance spaces. 

WIT has implemented strategies to cultivate more LGBTQ representation and establish ourselves as a place where LGBTQ people are welcome. We have not yet pursued any strategies specifically focused towards trans people, but would welcome the opportunity to find partnerships and other ways to raise our visibility with—and encourage participation by—trans individuals from the greater DC area.

Over the past year, much of our outreach to the LGBTQ community (inclusive of trans people) has been tied into our work with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Specifically:

  • Programming Queer Variety Cavalcade (QVC) performances, featuring LGBTQ improvisers and guest artists, who are making a difference in the Queer community.
  • Improv for All Workshops for the LGBTQ community. We’re monitoring survey responses from these workshops to ensure that individuals from marginalized communities report feeling welcome.

The Mayor’s Office has helped promote all of these activities to a citywide audience. We also promote shows like QVC to mainstream and LGBTQ-focused media outlets and influencers, via social media, and in our weekly newsletter, WIT Minute.

We have also given weighted priority to indie teams and guest shows with strong LGBTQ representation that are submitted for WIT performance runs.

In June, WIT is participating in Capital Pride for the second year in-a-row, marching in the parade and operating a table at the festival to reach out to potential students, audience members, and future performers. Looking ahead to 2025, when DC will be the capital of World Pride, we welcome suggestions and ideas as to how we might strengthen our engagement with trans people as students, performers, and audience members.

May 15, 2024