2021 IDEA Organizational Annual Action Plan

Created with the prompt of the We See You, White American Theatre Statement and Demands issued in June and July 2020 respectively, Steppenwolf Theatre Company leadership wishes to extend our gratitude and love to all who labored to provide their recommendations for possible paths forward that will result in positive and systemic change. Our goal is to evolve into a brave space, where our artists can create, our staff can work and our board can govern without harm.

This is a living document that was developed from the work of Steppenwolf staff who offered recommendations of possible paths toward positive and systemic change. Over the past several months each department engaged in multiple work sessions to write their recommendations. From these recommendations, leadership synthesized the findings into action items that the theater will commit to and monitor. Our ensemble of artists have also been actively engaged in their own process and will be sharing their commitments in the time ahead.

These commitments and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals in the five defined policy areas will be expanded over time and reviewed annually.

Work/Hiring Practices

  • Train all Department Heads and Hiring Managers on Institutional Hiring Policies so that the systems put in place ensure that equitable, consistent hiring procedures are followed. This includes the format, language and posting protocols for positions on offer; applicant screening, interviews, and offers; and onboarding protocols.
    • SMART Goals:
      • HR to review, revise (if needed), and redistribute protocols to Leadership by June 2021
      • Onboarding protocols codified and shared with staff by July 2021
      • 100% of Department Heads and Supervisors trained by August 2021
      • 100% compliance with policies by institution in Q3-4 of 2021
  • Identify community and trade organizations with whom to build relationships that will lead to the expansion of BIPOC applicant pools.
    • SMART Goals:
      • 12 or more new partnership networks or organizations identified that have the potential to increase BIPOC applicants (coordinated with HR: at least 2 per department) by June 2022
      • An engagement, awareness and distribution plan for FY23 developed by August 2022
  • Examine play submission process to make it more equitable and continue to actively solicit submissions from a broad network of universities, festivals, writing centers, etc.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Submission Process reviewed and revised by June 2021
      • Submission Process shared publicly by August 2021
  • Complete a Steppenwolf Salary Survey and update Salary ranges for all current positions. Communicate to all staff the full value of their compensation annually. Educate staff on process of evaluation, departmental/trade compensation variances and opportunities for growth of compensation over tenure at Steppenwolf.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Salary Study and roll out plan completed by January 2022
      • Complete compensation overview issued with Tax Forms to Employees in January – March 2022
      • Compensation increase/review protocols set by April 2022
  • Review Performance Evaluation Process, adding an assessment tool to annually review the institution’s collective commitment to IDEA work. Determine how this process can be amended to provide a feedback loop for productions: actors/directors/designers.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Performance Evaluation Process Reviewed by October 2021
      • Performance Evaluation Training of Managers/Supervisors by December 2021
      • Performance Evaluations Executed in Jan – Mar 2022
  • Create a standardized Request for Proposal process for all major contracts, actively seeking to increase BIPOC vendors and contractors across all departments. Track the percentage of contracts awarded to BIPOC owned companies and measure the percentage of BIPOC contractors engaged. 
    • SMART Goals:
      • Audit of current contracts/vendors by August 2021
      • Vendor BIPOC tracking system and RFP Process Developed and Issued to Departments by October 2021
      • Monthly review of BIPOC vendor data by department launched in January 2022

  • Create a hair and make-up needs survey for artists for each show to ensure they are supported with appropriate staffing and products.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Survey developed and launched for 21/22 Season

EDI Training/Education

  • Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Training ​that combats any harm caused to an individual based on identity: including race, particularly in the form of anti-Blackness or anti-Asian; religion, whether anti-Semitic or Islamophobic; nationality in the form of xenophobia; gender, specifically transphobia and misogyny; age; class; sexual orientation in the form of homophobia; immigration status; or ability is provided for all staff, artists, YAC, teaching artists, overhires, and members of creative teams.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Identify a training module and system by July of 2021
      • Process launched for 21/22 Season
  • Bystander and de-escalation training offered for all staff and for each company.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Identify a trainer and schedule by July of 2021
      • Process launched for 21/22 Season
  • Continue the IDEA Action Council, who will contract a professional to create an annual anti-racism curriculum for staff and support monthly white learning/accountability and BIPOC healing/affinity spaces.
    • SMART Goals:
      • 2021 IDEA Application Process Released week of February 1
      • 2021 IDEA Curriculum Developed and Implemented on at least a quarterly frequency across 2021
      • Monthly BIPOC healing/Affinity and White Anti-Racist Learning Spaces in 2021
  • Theater Leadership to commit to participation in external learning and accountability groups, including WSYWAT, Enrich Chicago and Black Theatre United.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Artistic and Executive Directors to communicate and actively listen to WSYWAT WATCH LIST – Quarterly Updates across 2021
      • Artistic and Executive Directors and General Manager to participate in Enrich anti-racist training and accountability spaces – Quarterly Engagement across 2021
      • Artistic and Executive Directors to participate in Racism Summits for American Theater Leaders convened by BTU – Quarterly Engagement across 2021
      • Leadership Team to participate in Anti-Racist learning and training across 2021


  • Create an institutional matrix for non-contract adjacent engagements by artists to ensure that all work is compensated, and the rate of pay is equitable across function areas.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Company Manager to convene working group with representatives from each department to create a matrix of engagement requests for artists and current rate of compensation – May 2021
      • Matrix reviewed by Leadership Team and Unified Matrix Draft Created – June 2021
      • Input from Ensemble Committee to Artistic and Executive Director on role/responsibilities of Ensemble and Compensation agreement – Summer 2021
      • Launch new Matrix of Artist Compensation for 21/22 Season
  • Work with the ensemble, staff, board to review the theater’s practice around Land Acknowledgments and the acknowledgment of Black Labor.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Create a focused cross-institution task force of staff, board and ensemble to review existing statements and practice by Summer 2021
      • Invite external partners, as determined, to counsel on any amendments to the statements and/or practice by Fall 2021
      • Share any amendments with the company at the launch of live performances in the 21/22 season


  • Create an annual dashboard of IDEA accountability, to be published on the Steppenwolf Website. This should include the breakdown of racial identity (among other gender identity characteristics) for: staff, artists, designers, playwrights, directors, vendors, audiences, and education/community partners.
    • SMART Goals:
      • IDEA Action Council to research accountability dashboards and create a suite of recommendations – September 2021
      • Leadership Team to review models of potential accountability dashboard created by IDEA Action Council – October 2021
      • Final dashboard created and HR to amalgamate data/publish – Nov 2021 - January 2022 (for FY21)
  • Increase transparency and agency for and between staff, ensemble and board while maintaining executive responsibility for the course of the Theater’s strategic direction forward, including final determination on decisions about policy, culture and artistic direction.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Ensemble Committee, Board IDEA Task Force, and Staff IDEA Action Committee to recommend 1–3 new initiative(s) each to advance this goal – October 2021
      • Review recommendations with Executive Leadership and codify in 2022 Commitments
  • Engage an anonymous feedback/complaint vehicle (like EthicsPoint)
    • SMART Goals:
      • HR to explore and engage an anonymous feedback/complaint service to ensure that a feedback loop, free of fear from retaliation, can exist for all staff and artists – Spring/Summer 2021
      • Implementation – September 2021
  • Publish (website) the Theater’s anti-racism commitments and policies.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Initial positions published – May 2021
      • Commitment to update commitments and policies as they evolve - Ongoing


  • Explore how the Theater can better support the mental health of its staff and artists. Particularly for artists (who are not covered for counseling services under the Theater’s insurance plan)—determine how we support the emotional component of our company members like we do their physical bodies.
    • SMART Goals:
      • HR and Company Management to partner on the creation of best practice recommendations for Leadership Team Review – Summer 2021
      • Review by Leadership Team – Fall 2021
      • Implementation – December 2021
  • Explore a code of conduct agreement for meetings that would work in support of the theater’s shared values.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Leadership to develop a draft framework for meeting code of conduct – June 2021
      • Review with IDEA Action Council – July 2021
      • Implement across Departments if accepted – August 2021
  • Engage Steppenwolf’s HR team (and outside facilitators if needed) to facilitate high-level difficult conversations if the code of conduct is insufficient.
    • SMART Goals:
      • HR Team to establish a protocol for the request for facilitation – Summer 2021
  • Create a Patron Code of Conduct, in alignment with industry best practices, and a system of support for front line staff who reinforce audience conduct that prevents harm to BIPOC employees.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Compilation of industry models for Patron Code of Conduct by IDEA Action Council – Summer 2021
      • IDEA Action Counsel to meet with MASC-X Team that created Draft Patron Code of Conduct – July 2021
      • IDEA Action Counsel to present framework to Executive Leadership/HR on shared desired outcomes – August 2021
      • Determination of division of Policy Creation vs. Messaging – September 2021
      • Compilation of industry models for Patron Code of Conduct by IDEA Action Council - May 2021
      • IDEA Action Council presentation to Leadership – September 2021
      • Recommended path forward to MASC-X Team and Application of Practice – October 2021

Vocational Training

  • Fold in the compensation structure for interns and apprenticeships into the larger salary study to ensure that BIPOC candidates view participation as a viable option for advancing their career.
    • SMART Goals:
      • Explore the scope of internships and apprenticeships at Steppenwolf, what elements can be offered as part of the compensation package and how this shift to the financial model can be supported by the company – through February 2022
  • As part of the Performance Review Process, create and review a Professional Development Plan for all employees to support their growth and development (at Steppenwolf, and as they take their next steps internally and beyond). Remind folx that opportunities for growth include adjustments for “out of Steppenwolf” career opportunities as well as professional development opportunities supported by the organization.
    • SMART Goals:
      • HR to integrate PDP into the framework for employee performance reviews – Jan – Mar 2022


Steppenwolf is working to foster a culture of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) within our theater. Learn more about our living statements, commitments and actionable goals.



Steppenwolf is working to foster a culture of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) within our theater. Learn more about our living statements, commitments and actionable goals.