We at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute bear witness to and are deeply saddened by the immeasurable injustices and pain endured by the Black members of our community and our country. We offer our love and heartfelt compassion to those who are suffering and to those who are engaged in the fight for justice.
As a community of artists, we celebrate and value the richly diverse and powerful voices, talent, culture, stories and history of all people. It is our responsibility to ensure that each voice is equally significant and vital in the arts and to all of us as fellow human beings.
It will take more than a declaration of support for justice and equality to stand against the history of racism and institutionalized oppression in this country. We have a responsibility, as artists and as human beings, to take an active role in shaping the future we wish to see. We are dedicated to actively supporting our students of color and better promoting diversity within the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. We are committed to upholding a more supportive, inclusive, and anti-racist environment and offer the following actions as stepping stones toward creating such a space.
Promote Diversity in our Teaching Staff
We commit firmly to hiring black artists and artists of color and to asking how our teaching staff, guest instructors, and visiting artists may better reflect our diverse student body. Just as representation matters in entertainment, so too does it matter in the classroom. Moreover, we vow to better address and combat racial insensitivity and racism in our school. It is our utmost priority to maintain a safe, inclusive, and rich learning environment for all of our students.
Examine our Teaching Materials
Each year, our students are given resource packets which include recommended reading and suggested plays for scene work. At our students’ urging, we reviewed our resources and have been updating this packet to provide works that better serve and represent our diverse student body, and will continue to do so. The packet has been moved from print to Google Docs so that suggestions from faculty, and from students, may be reflected immediately. We will ask our teachers to introduce these materials more actively in the classroom, and to engage their students in conversations of race, diversity and representation in the industry.
Looking to expand our curriculum and support diversity in the classroom, our Los Angeles campus has already introduced two new classes to its schedule:
Playwrights of Color: Discovering Underrepresented Voices
Many artists’ voices in the country are underrepresented. There is only one group that is readily visible and that is Caucasian males. In this class, we will explore the extraordinary Other voices in playwriting that have been recognized with Pulitzer Prize awards and nominations, circulating through works from women, Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American, and LGBTQ+ playwrights.
The purpose of this course is to discover how to read and analyze plays both as literature and from an actor’s perspective. We will be exploring each playwright’s intention and each play’s structure, tone, style, language, and relevance. We will be discussing how to craft your own personal connection to the material and characters.
Lessons from the Harlem Renaissance: Personal Storytelling in Times of Change
The Harlem Renaissance was a time of awakening for the Black artist in America. This class ventures into and asks what the renaissance of today is for artists, inexperienced and experienced alike. Exploring the work of Black playwrights and how they told the stories of their time, students will discover their own way of relating the world around them to their art. This class will pose the question: what is the story of this time, as seen by the young artist? And will challenge: how will they tell it?
Promote Representation in our Programming
It is our mission to provide ample opportunities for our students to participate in shows that represent and make space for our diverse student body, specifically our actors of color. We commit to staging works by playwrights of color, hiring directors of color, and promoting equity in the casting of our productions. We were proud of the voices represented in our Fornés Fest, a celebration of Latinx theatre, which took place in September. We will continue to work to better promote representation on our stages.
Expand our Community Outreach
For more than 30 years, the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute partnered with The New York City Housing Authority. We are proud of this relationship and continue to offer scholarships through the Lee Strasberg Creative Center. We will work to better broadcast opportunities and to expand our community outreach.
Continuing to Examine our Actions
We will strive to make LSTFI a safer space for our students to hold discussions of and raise concerns regarding race, diversity, and inclusivity. We will continue to question how we may better support the initiatives that come from our affinity group and from other student coalitions and how we may better serve the needs of our students.
We Are With You
Let us dedicate our voices and take action toward building a new reality — in the arts and in every field of human endeavor — based on respect, equity, justice, inclusivity and a profound belief in the significance of each person. To our dear students and community members, we are deeply grateful for your passion and hope your collaboration with and investment in our actions does not end here. Make your voices heard. We are with you.
Black Lives Matter.