Starting off with an apology
A few years ago, the first morning of TCIF, I called Jill to apologize to her for all the problems that I set up (and many things I didn’t set up but should have) that were about to piss her off or make her weekend more difficult – and say that I always love working with her on the Festival.
The same idea is true today in an even broader context and even though we’re going into an amazing Festival that I hope we all love and enjoy, I don’t think it’s out of place or takes away from the fun to begin with an apology for the things that I have set up this year that upset people.
I would like to take this time to apologize to people that don’t see themselves represented in the faces of our headliners and instructors this year. Full stop. I was aware of the homogeneity of the lineup as it came together and I take full responsibility for it – as the lead producer of the Festival and majority vote in Five Man Job – it stops with me.
If you saw the lineup and were angry or hurt by it, I apologize.
If you were angry with me or upset with me because of it, you are angry and upset with the correct person. I apologize.
If you read no further than this, I understand completely.
[ EDIT TO ADD : I was asked to clarify – the lineup in question is just the groups we invited this year to teach and headline, which was put together as a retrospective of the most-often requested headliners and teachers from TCIF’s past. The local lineup is actually the most diverse lineup we’ve ever had and TCIF has included women as instructors and headliners many times. Sadly, we have never had a headliner of color. ]
I would like a few more words on the subject – which is something I’ve been struggling to write in a way that is informative instead of sounding defensive or combative about the issue – because I hope that we are still going into a great weekend that can still be amazing for everyone involved because I am also certain that we have an absolutely incredible lineup. The mix of emotions around the out-of-town lineup brings up a lot of questions that are important and should continue:
Could we have put together an incredible visiting lineup that also included some of the women from previous years? We tried.
Did we look out over an improv landscape rich in diversity and equality and choose only white men? Absolutely not.
Are there larger problems and/or disparities when it comes to longevity and opportunities? YES.
What were they doing right twenty years ago when the Bad MammaJamma’s formed that we stopped doing at some point? RIGHT?!?
What role does the Festival play in addressing those problems? That is what we are working on.
The festival is a strange and powerful tool – we understand the importance of being in the festival for performers and instructors – but in many ways we don’t have the ability to change things as much as we do showcase how things are changing (it’s also important to note is that the headliners are the part of the Festival lineup that is not indicative of the Twin Cities).
We are the flower show at the end of spring, we can only showcase what has already been planted and nurtured – but that doesn’t mean we want to sit back and do nothing.
We also have a role in helping plant some seeds in a larger way since the Festival is a moment of connecting with so many communities across the country that are likely facing the same issues – and I am always proud as hell of the Twin Cities and can’t wait for people to come here and see this community and go home talking about how we do it…hopefully with information in hand about the important work that is being done to make it so – Tiny Funny Women Fest, Black And Funny Improv Fest and FairPlay as well as many individuals – are making change in this community and the improv that comes out of artists in the Twin Cities is getting better, smarter, more respectful and more inclusive because of it.
It is yet another thing that I love about this place.
There are a number of conversations that are already in motion – including with instructors that we contacted about this year that were unable to be part of TCIFX for a variety of reasons – and also about what we can do in between festivals to have a positive impact on the diversity of the submissions we get moving forward and how we can also influence and support the greater community.
Including more people in a more diverse TCIF isn’t a question, it is what we are working toward. I’m very excited for the future because we’re so focused on this and really looking forward to seeing the lineups of TCIF’s to come.
But that doesn’t change this year.
We hope to make TCIF the big celebration for everyone each summer – and I hope that can still be the case and everyone can still enjoy the shows, take some workshops or just come be together for five days. This Festival has always been built out of love for the entire Twin Cities improv community and if the lineup this year gave you even a moment of pause or in any way made you feel like that was not the case, I am deeply sorry.
Your biggest fan,
Five Man Job