In partnership and collaboration with community, industry and artists, STAGE A CHANGE works to increase, amplify and sustain professional opportunities for artists of colour in Australia.
Founded in 2017 by Cessalee Stovall, Stage A Change was born from her vision of the future of performing arts in Australia. Her vision included equal, authentic and abundant opportunities for artists who identify as First Nations, Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC) in all arenas of the performing arts. From its origins, Stage A Change operates on a 3-Spoke Plan to initiate change; Artist Training, Community Engagement, and Industry Standards, each spoke is critical for forward motion. Training leads to being hired in the industry, being visible in the industry creates impact in community, community support encourages training. Stage A Change believes we are all responsible for the change we want to see.
Our organisation is a social enterprise. Our artist training programs and community engagement activities are funded by our supporters and our industry standards programming, our advocacy work is directed and led by community, and our staff and board maintain a minimum representation of 66% people who are First Nations or BIPOC, or otherwise racialised.
Stage A Change has and will produce training programs to help aspiring artists discover the arts as a career. A rotating roster of directors, acting coaches, music directors, choreographers, agents etc. will facilitate these workshop style classes and professional artists will supplement training by engaging with students. Through this elite training program, aspiring artists who have been underserved by traditional training programs can begin to learn the skills necessary to be competitive in the industry at a professional standard.
We will continue to facilitate discussion and action with industry stakeholders to create ground- and glass-breaking industry standards with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion best practice. These efforts will continue to support more and more actors of colour being cast and creatives and crew finding access to professional stages. Through consultancy, strategic support, and open, candid discussion, Stage A Change has successfully helped casting directors, artistic directors, producers, and creatives update policies and create a framework for inclusive procedures, leading to more diverse, inclusive and equitable theatre sector.
By organically engaging culturally diverse and traditionally underrepresented communities, we can develop new audiences who are excited to see stories told onstage - not only their stories, but stories that authentically reflect Australia’s mulit-cultural demographics. The first steps are to create ongoing discussions and experiences that welcome a new audience into live theatre and the accessibility of the arts as a career. Next, we provide content and programming that will engage, but not patronize, the audience. As we remove the barriers preventing access, Stage A Change will continue to produce programming for under-represented communities.
Stage A Change offers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy and Consulting services to deliver action-focussed support to
DEI challenges, specifically within the performing arts sector.
Using global case studies and best practices, Stage A Change applies learned and lived experience enabling independent artists, theatre professionals and small- to commercial-sized organisations to develop, build, and execute a bespoke DEI plan to fit their project, vision, budget and goals.
Learning Labs are interactive, arts-based workshops designed to support arts workers as they imagine, build, and take action toward an industry powered by equity, access and inclusion for all humans. Each workshop ends with a clear action-item for participants to use in their arts practice immediately.
In 2017 and 2018. Stage A Change Founder, Cessalee Stovall hosted two roundtables to discuss Diversity in Theatre. The first, a session for producers, directors and agents, was held in Deccember 2017. Representatives from GFO, Opera Australia, Disney, MEAA, VCA, Malthouse Theatre, MTC, Willin Centre, Ministry of Dance, Beat Entertainment and several independent directors and producers were in attendance. The second roundtable was hosted in March of 2018 and was for artists who identify as IBPoC. Both roundtables were raw and truthful and the outcomes formed the basis for the inaugural Artist Training Program in 2018.
Thanks to the generous funding from the Equity Innovation Grant, we launched our pilot training program in conjunction with The University of Melbourne’s VCA program. Our first cohort of students included 12 young performers from across greater Melbourne with a passion for the arts. Over 20 professional actors, tertiary educators and directors were involved with the 6-week program, offering classes including bodywork, storytelling, dialects, stage combat, vocal anatomy and more. Mentors worked with the students and continued to be a resource beyond the individual workshops and many have continued their connection today. Several Melbourne based dance, acting, and film training programs offered scholarships to the students upon completion of the program. Additionally, the students and their families were invited to attend theatre productions to increase their exposure to professional theatre.
Since 2018, Stage A Change Director, Cessalee Stovall, has been working with theatre companies, universities, producers and educators to help create and promote practices around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within the arts sector. Workshops have included the following topics:
THANKS to our clients, this year, we’ve been able to offer scholarships, free workshops, reduced cost or pro-bono support, and held empowered conversations and yarns with, to, for and about 47 artists of colour in 2022.
Antipodes Theatre Company
Born In A Taxi
Darlinghurst Theatre Company
Diversity Arts Australia
Diversity in Australian Media
Hairspray National Tour
La Boite Theatre
Matt Ward Entertainment
Safe Theatres Australia
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
The Wedding Singer
University of Melbourne, VCA
Stage A Change would like to thank the following individuals for their generous support.
W Jack Dunstan
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