Strategic Plan Update: Anti-Racism and Inclusion – January 2023

In 2020, Central Square Theater committed to becoming an anti-racist organization. A new Strategic Plan was born after months of collaborative goal setting, and a staff and board review process. This Plan is a multi-year (FY23-25) road map that lays out goals and objectives for the organization and, in particular, addresses the areas in which we strive to understand our role in institutional racism and concrete ways to do better. The update below shows where we are with that commitment, both on an institutional level and a departmental level.

On the institutional level, we have accomplished and are working on the following:

    • We are restructuring and rebalancing roles within the organization. As part of that process, we have expanded the Leadership team to include the Director of Education and Community Initiatives, both to diversify the Leadership team and to elevate our work with youth and community partners. Additionally, the two founding companies, the Nora and Underground Railway, have merged to create one Central Square Theater. Along with this merger, founding artistic director Debra Wise stepped down to create space for a new co-artistic director to further diversify the voices in leadership. CST has hired a Global Majority-led search firm, ALJP, to help us in our search.
    • In an effort to present culturally relevant stories from Global Majority communities, as well as uplift emerging Global Majority artists, CST partnered with CHUANG Stage, an AAPI-led theater company based in Boston, to produce The Chinese Lady. Our partnership with CHUANG Stage included mentorship opportunities in marketing and community engagement and dramaturgy. Cultural competency support from CHUANG Stage was extremely useful and we also were able to share donations from our DipJar appeal. At the suggestion of CHUANG Stage, as well as help from their translators, we were able to pilot captioning in Simplified Chinese to expand access for bilingual audiences in addition to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.
        • The joint DipJar appeal was implemented on-site for the first three weeks of the production, encouraging donations that would support the mentor partnership and elevate the mission of CHUANG Stage. Donor lists are shared with CHUANG Stage as well as on-going fundraising consultation.
        • We collaborated on marketing materials in order to reflect shared values of racial justice.
        • The outreach work done by CHUANG Stage and our Community Connectivity Dramaturg, Alison Yueming Qu, resulted in our largest presence of Global Majority audience members to date, with a percentage of 31% Global Majority audience members attending the run of The Chinese Lady.  A staged reading performed prior to the run of show with Chuang Stage at the Pao Arts Center in Chinatown, Boston, was well attended and likely helped to cross fertilize audiences for the performances at CST.
    • We have changed our creative team, cast, and staff hiring model to prioritize hiring Global Majority artists and make space for early career artists. Our goal is to have 51% Global Majority creative team members on every production each season. This has proven challenging given the number of experienced Global Majority designers in Boston, lack of support for early career designers, and the budget challenges associated with hiring out of town designers. That said, the creative team for The Chinese Lady was 70% AAPI, and the team for Alma is 60% Latine. The team for Ada and the Engine does not reflect our current strategic plan as they were hired prior to 2020, and was 8% Global Majority. The team for Angels in America is not currently complete, but will be no more than 40% Global Majority. CST’s current staff is 50% Global Majority.


    • We have created a Literary Team (Lit Team) of interested staff members who meet twice a month to read, discuss, and assess plays for inclusion in the season planning matrix. Our current Lit Team is 50% Global Majority. This allows for a broader selection of plays to be read and more diverse perspectives to be considered during the planning process due to the age, race, and gender diversity of the team itself. This also achieves our goal of having a transparent internal season planning process. Any and all CST employees are welcome to join, regardless of position or full-time status.
    • CST artistic leadership actively attends productions around the region, including universities, to identify emerging talent.
    • CST reaches outside of the greater Boston area to identify artists of color to diversify our artistic portfolio and uplift works outside of Greater Boston.
    • CST is now utilizing a captioning system, piloted during The Chinese Lady, that will expand access to the bilingual, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities for future productions.
      CST has programmed two productions this season, The Chinese Lady and Alma, that uplift a culturally specific story from Global Majority communities and aim to create a respectful and authentic theatrical experience. This works towards the objective of having at least 51% of programmed plays center Global Majority stories in every season.

Catalyst Collaborative @MIT

CC@MIT is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Central Square Theater and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to bring together science and theater, recognizing both institutions’ dedication to making STEAM more accessible to the community by programming at least one science play a year on the CST mainstage.

    • CC@MIT added two Global Majority members to the CC@MIT Advisory Committee, working towards the objective of the Committee having at least 51% Global Majority membership by FY26.
    • 50% of plays programmed in the new Science on Stage Reading Series at the MIT Museum are written by Global Majority playwrights and center Global Majority narratives.
    • Framingham State University hosted screenings of Young Nerds of Color and held two panels intended to promote the values of diversity in STEM, working towards the objective of connecting with communities of color in our CC@MIT programming.

Finance and Growth Management

    • CST has been accepted into the THRIVE program with the DeVos Institute. This year-long initiative will support the Finance goal of deep interrogation of our business model in order to create a more sustainable organization that budgets with our values to produce a broad array of diverse theater and prioritize a comprehensive pay equity program for all staff.
    • CST has increased pay to actors, designers and staff over the past two years as part of our ongoing efforts towards pay equity.


    • At the beginning of the 2022-2023 season, we eliminated 10-out-of-12 tech rehearsals for all productions, shifting to 8-out-of-10 rehearsals. This decreases artist burnout and is one of the demands of the We See You White American Theatre (WSYWAT) document released in 2020.
    • We have offered tech skills workshops to folks interested in learning more about scenic carpentry in partnership with the Education department. We plan to have more workshops in the future and include electrician work in these training sessions.
    • We have hired a part-time Technical Director to increase capacity, working towards eliminating burnout and unnecessary urgency, two tenets of white supremacy in the workplace.
    • We are still in the process of creating an overhire system that both fills production needs and creates space to train less experienced folks in the necessary skills, as well as increasing the number of Global Majority overhire technicians.


    • CST is in an evolving process of defining and articulating the function and efficacy of the Development department, with a specific focus on how we can better engage current donors while cultivating new, more diverse stakeholders. Fundraising plans are being developed and assessed in conversation with Leadership, Guest Experience, Marketing, and Connectivity staff members.
    • Cultivation activities for current and prospective donors are taking place organization-wide with the reactivation of a gratitude program which includes personal notes from the entire CST staff accompanied with chocolates to guests (season ticket holders, current donors, prospective donors and community partners) during productions.
    • The added position of Operations and Development Coordinator has increased capacity allowing us to work on cultivating meaningful relationships with new donors and communities.



    • In an effort to have the key imagery for each production created by artists from the communities we are representing on stage, we hired an independent graphic designer, Quisol, who has roots in the Philippines and Puerto Rico, for Young Nerds of Color, The Chinese Lady, and Alma. Additionally, for Ain’t Misbehavin- The Fats Waller Musical, the director was inspired by the painting Saturday Night by Archibald Motley, Jr., one of the first Black artists to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which we licensed for our marketing materials.
    • We evaluated the effectiveness of the Pay it Forward ticketing model for bringing audiences who are younger and require a lower ticket price to attend. We allocated about 30% of the seats to any performance at $25.
        • In examining the demographics of people who paid $25 versus the full price, we did not see a significant difference in either age or household income. However, we plan to continue this program in our upcoming season to obtain more data.
    • As a participant in the ArtsBoston Audience Initiative, we get aggregate demographic reports on our audiences. By comparing these numbers with current and future seasons, we are better able to work towards diversifying our audience and bringing in younger audiences.
        • Please note that for the racial diversity report, we are using the following Global Majority categories as available through the Audience Initiative: African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American/Pacific Islander(AAPI). For the age reports, we are looking at all generations born after 1964 (Generation X and younger).
            • During the 2021-22 Season, our Season Ticket holder base did not become more diverse overall, with a decrease from 9.1% to 9.0% Global Majority audience members.
            • Our season ticket holders and our single ticket buyers did not become younger overall, with only 22.8% of our season ticket holders, 38.1% of our single ticket buyers, and 15.1% of multi ticket buyers being age 57 or younger (Gen X or younger).
            • During the 2021-22 Season, our single and multi ticket buyers became more racially diverse since our last complete season in 2018-19. We increased from 13% to 15.1% Global Majority.

Guest Experience

    • We continue to move towards our goal of a 51% Global Majority Front of House (FOH) Team. Within 2022, we have fluctuated between 42% and 46% Global Majority, while upholding representation of varying gender identities and economic status, keeping our pay above minimum wage, currently at $16.
    • In an effort to represent more inclusiveness, and open our doors to a variety of theater goers, we have renegotiated terminology from ‘patron services’ to ‘guest experience.’
    • To meet our goal of having our guest experience team (which includes FOH) more involved in conversations of CST planning, the team was invited to meet with ALJP and were offered a stipend above the usual pay rate to attend.
    • We are continuing to navigate how best to cultivate an educational space for our guests and team. While all of the guest experience team have continued their RightToBe Harassment and Bystander Intervention training, management has additionally begun working with the education and dramaturgy departments to see what additional educational pieces we can offer guests.
    • Guest Experience management has been in conversation with other theaters in the area that may need front of house support, and planning how to best cultivate a consistent space for networking and affinity groups.


    • We have added an Education Programs Manager to the Education team to expand the reach and impact of our Education programs, as well as add capacity for implementing our Strategic Planning goals.
    • We have begun the process of formalizing and expanding our evaluation and assessment protocols for all Education programs, so that we can better ensure that all programs are accessible, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of our community members.
    • We paused our long-running Summer Stage program, and are in the process of reimagining and redesigning the program to better align with CST’s Values and Mission. In dialogue with our community members and community partners, we are shifting the program’s focus and ages served, and also exploring an alternate funding model which would make the program tuition-free for all participants.


We will continue to work on these goals and do our full annual review of them in the summer of 2023. Thank you for reading this report and we welcome your comments and feedback.