Partner Spotlight | African-American Shakespeare Company
AASC was making a bold move by moving our performances to other venues. These venues, while gorgeous and centrally located, also came with a larger seating capacity to fill. In order to be successful, we knew that visibility would be the key. I went on the BART website to inquire about a marketing sponsorship. This is where I met Jill Buschini and Dave Martindale."*
"AASC was founded in San Francisco. When the choice came for me to make a career decision as an artist, I wanted AASC to have a home base that was diverse in the people and setting. The Bay Area offers everything anyone could want; great weather, panoramic views, lively arts and cultural events, and diversity everywhere you turn. Everyone wants to be in the Bay Area. We have beautiful redwood trees up north, iconic landmarks throughout the region, and quaint & lively cities, towns, and neighborhoods. BART can take you to different micro-climates of 'sweater weather' and 'summer shorts' on the same day with a 10-minute ride."
"We were making plans to take one of our performances to a special presentation in Africa. We were also just on the cusp of rehearsing a new production of Noel Coward’s "Private Lives". Amid finalizing our 25th Anniversary celebration, all of it was scrapped. Our artists were displaced and had to find other sources of income; we had several youth employees that were not able to complete their roles with us. The pandemic has turned everything upside down. But artists are resilient. They are used to adapting and being flexible amidst uncontrollable changes. For artists, nothing is ever guaranteed, it can be a short duration, so we’re trained to always be looking for the next project. AASC is no different, we decided the best thing was not to gather until it can be done safely. Like everyone else we’ve had to find a new way of doing business. We decided to take this time to work on and execute some of our long-term projects and strengthen the organization’s process. And we’re using this time to reach out to our communities and build relationships, locally and nationally, by creating an online programming and arts education platform. This should be rolled out mid-September."
"Before the BLM movement, I had been numb to the atrocities towards the Black community. There have been too many days and nights when the same images would repeatedly show on TV or social media. And with each image or videotape, I became despondent. The reality was no one was listening. In an odd way, I thank Donald Trump for bringing this issue to the forefront. Think about it. If there was different leadership at the top, the pandemic would not have devastated our country to this degree. But because we were all sheltering in place, and watching TV, and seeing Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, then George Floyd, and on – that pressure cooker exposed what was happening for years. And like everyone else who has continuously witnessed and viewed these atrocities – the back-to-back killings was a wake-up call heard around the world. The spotlight is now on the challenges we face as individuals, as a community, and even as a business. Inequities that are small, such as the inability to have access to resources and being penalized for it – are now being acknowledged. We received a number of donations from our community and our allies, with people wanting to know more and do better. But for this to be a movement and not just a moment, I would encourage everyone to find ways to support Black organizations and businesses with actions that will have real change. Sit on a board, recommend our organization to your friends and associates, meet people from different socio-economic lifestyles in a meaningful way. And by doing so, learn and ask questions rather than make assumptions. America can be a dysfunctional family, but like family we must work through our problems because what we ignore today will magnify and come out in other ways ten times stronger. Let’s handle it now."
Best lessons learned
"Nothing is promised. Appreciate what you have and enjoy life. A colleague and I had a conversation about Anne Frank. She lived with seven people and stayed in the attic for two years with the inability to go outside or be seen by others. If this young teenager managed that level of trauma on a daily basis to stay alive, I can surely wear a mask and practice social distancing."
Best practices adopted that will remain once things return to a post-pandemic “new normal”
"Because I have to intentionally plan any outings, I’ve become an outside exerciser. I found a scenic trail that has become my routine. The people on the trail in the morning have become a new community where we acknowledge each other as we pass. There are no conversations because of COVD-19 and wearing masks, but it’s so nice to just see people out enjoying nature."
"I’ve always had such a busy schedule and preferred to be at home snuggled in warmth and comfort. Now, I look forward to going out and experiencing nightlife, meeting and greeting other people someday."
"Theater might be changed forever. It will be exciting to see what the industry has coming up and what new groups will emerge from this event in time."
"BART has always been a wonderful partnership to AASC. At a time when we had a challenge to increase our visibility, BART’s marketing team gave us the leverage we needed to communicate with our audience. One of our current Board members discovered our organization because of the banners at BART. We would love to find more ways for this long-term relationship to be mutually beneficial. Perhaps someone with BART marketing can serve on our board or marketing committee."
"In 2021, I want all of us to “be better”; better... people, neighbors, communities, businesses, etc. We are all in this pandemic together. No one is immune and to get through this crisis, we really need to put people first. Our country, society, business, and economy can never survive without the well-being of all."