Last summer’s social unrest awakened the need for arts organizations nationwide to examine their processes for inclusion and diversity to determine if what they offer to artists, patrons and students of color is enough. While confident that voices from diverse communities are heard in many of the plays we do, we realized that we needed to develop opportunities to expand diversity within our technical and administrative staff.
Next Act met with local artists of color and through continued discussions, a new opportunity for diversity was created. Students of color now have the option to work with Next Act through the new Inclusion, Equity and Opportunity (IEO) paid internship program. Students receive first-hand experience in production (directing, stage management, design) or administrative areas of theatre. To assist with the program’s inaugural year, the United Performing Arts Fund’s Kasey’s Fund provided funding for the IEO program. During the 2020-21 season, two people took on directing internships and this season the first administrative intern, Jasmine Brown, joined the team.
In high school, Jasmine was a regular participant of the Next Actors: Summer Theatre for Teens program. After recently earning a degree in Arts Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Jasmine returned to Next Actors as an Assistant Teacher. In August of the 2021-22 season, Jasmine joined the administrative staff as its first administrative IEO intern.
“Working at Next Act has always been a dream of mine and I’m excited to apply my schooling to the theater. The biggest thing that I love about the program is learning how to network. I am not just an intern here in the moment; I am also seizing opportunities for the future.”
The objective of the IEO internship is to create a place that artists of color can call their artistic home. Through this initiative, Next Act Theatre provides practical and professional experience to Jasmine and others like her. The IEO program also creates networking opportunities for these young artists and future administrators. It is Next Act’s hope that this will lead to more artists of color remaining in or coming to the area, making Milwaukee their home base.