Accessibility, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“Why sir, I pray, are not the streets as free
For me as for you?” - William Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) is committed not only to ensuring that our theatre is welcoming and accessible, physically and financially, to everyone and anyone who wants to spend time with us, but also that the artists, staff, students, volunteers, and trustees of our institution reflect the immense diversity of our world. Conveying the message that the classics, by virtue of their universality and eternal truths, are meant and meaningful for everyone is a major thrust of our artistic and education mission.
In a variety of ways, we seek to make our spaces, both onstage and off, inclusive places where physical challenges, race, ethnicity, gender, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientation, background, and economic status are both meaningless and meaningful. That is to say that we celebrate the wonderful melting pot company of individuals that make up The Shakespeare Theatre at the same time that we engender a culture where no matter who one is, or what one brings to the table, all are expected to perform at the same level of commitment in regard to our work ethic and artistry.
For centuries, the world of theatre has been a haven for those who do not “fit the mold” and it continues to be so now. At STNJ, we leave a ghost light on, not only on stage, but in our lobby where it can be seen through our glass walls each night. We do this to symbolize that our institution is one that leaves a light on for everyone, and that the arts can provide a beacon of light in dark times.
For those who seek to enjoy our work but who have limited financial resources, we offer several options for attending performances at almost no cost. A number of Pay What You Can seats are available for every performance on our Main Stage, essentially guaranteeing accessibility. 30 Under 30 tickets are available for those age 30 and under. Drew theatre students can attend for free. All other students are eligible for significant student discounts. Young people 17 and under can attend our Outdoor Stage for free. Other discount offers are advertised widely, including discounts for members of THIRTEEN, military veterans, and ArtPride’s Families First Discovery Pass Program. Additional special discounts are provided throughout the season for a variety of shows for a variety of prices. Our Shakespeare LIVE! tours are offered free of charge or at highly discounted rates for economically-challenged schools with the help of funding from the NEA/Arts Midwest Shakespeare in American Communities program.
We endeavor to ensure physical accessibility to our work, both in terms of artists and audience members. Click here to access information regarding all of our accessibility services, programs, and features.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
There is no question that for its first few decades, STNJ was a company deeply lacking in diversity. That changed overnight, 33 years ago, with the start of Bonnie J. Monte’s leadership. With her very first production, she made it clear that the “color of the company” was going to be a far more multi-hued one than it had been in the past. Since then, the company has engaged in an unflagging commitment to diverse casting, for each and every production, with the exception of those where race, ethnicity, or other attributes affect the meaning and viable presentation of the play. We aim to dispel the notion that the classics are the “property” of certain elite classes of people. This work has resulted not only in providing myriad opportunities for hundreds of actors, designers, directors, artisans, and administrators of color and those with physical challenges over the years, but numerous scholarships and other programs aimed at nurturing minority artists have been instituted.
The growth in diversity has become more pronounced over the years, as efforts to create an inclusive and diverse company have intensified, at every level, including our Board of Trustees. However, we find ourselves most frustrated in regard to our audience, which is still regrettably lacking in diversity, though it is certainly more so than it was three decades ago. The pandemic gave us time to reflect much about the many issues surrounding DEI issues, and with our new Strategic Plan, which is in the process of being revised for this post-pandemic era, a variety of new action steps and strategies will be articulated and implemented, hopefully, resulting in as diverse an audience as the characters represented onstage.
In addition to our paramount goal of making the classics accessible to and meaningful for everyone, we view our efforts as part of our endeavor as artists to address the real issues of systemic racism and cultural bias in our country. We will continue to enhance our current practices aimed at diversity and parity in our rehearsal halls, our classrooms, our offices, and our Boardroom. While this decades-long endeavor has not always been easy, and we have not always been as successful as we’ve tried to be, the desire and efforts to achieve an organization-wide culture of diversity and inclusion has never waned. We will try even harder going forward. For many this struggle has been going on for far too long, and as a nation, we are clearly still in need of massive progress in this realm. In some ways, we are just at the beginning of the work that must be done.