The Maydays has been around for a while. Not always with the same personel, but the company is coming up to its fourteenth year. In that time we’ve gone from a bunch of improv enthusiasts doing reps above a pub, to a company with significant turnover, gigging pretty much every week, running classes across Europe and running two intensive courses a year. Let’s not say we haven’t been ambitious, but I don’t think any of us expected such longevity.
An inevitable part of being an improviser and an improv company is the community. The people who come to classes and shows, volunteer on the door and the lights, create their own shows and nights and run jams. That openness and accessibility is one of the things which makes improv so delightful. We are grateful to and for our community and aim as a company to continue to serve, help and delight them for as long as the company continues.
With that community comes responsibility. The world, and the improv world within it is constantly changing and maturing, and issues that affect us all around power, sex and gender, are coming to light. It is most convenient to assume that this has all been happening elsewhere, but more true to assume it has happened here also. Therefore we should deal with those events in the past, and do our best to prevent more from happening in the future. While as a company we cannot be responsible for all interactions between people who have met through our classes, we can do our best to create an atmosphere both of respect and honesty, where inappropriate behaviour is least likely to happen and most likely to be called out and dealt with swiftly when it does.
Improv (and indeed any artform) combines the personal, the professional and the artistic and it cannot exist without the combination of all three. These things are part of the core aspects of an artistic community. Personal trust allows us to create something no individual could, professional standards ensure its quality and artistic experimentation allows us to push into new and unexplored areas. Take away any one of these three and the whole thing is in danger of collapsing or stagnating (which is just another word for collapsing slowly). Put them together and you have a complex set of interactions and relationships which must be dealt with in several ways at the same time. We must treat each other as esteemed colleagues even as we play fight and be comedically physical on stage. Classes and rehearsals must give us the opportunity to explore the dark and unpleasant parts of human behaviour, all the while taking great care to look after each other. Exercises must teach us to say yes and be open to each other, while also maintaining boundaries which are respectful and safe – both for ourselves and others. We must demand the highest things of each other, but catch each other when we fall.
In accepting that we have not always had the tools to deal with accusations and behaviour that don’t meet the criteria above, we don’t anticipate that just making a statement or a single measure will be a cure-all, so here below is a list of the measures we are taking.
- The establishment of a clear and watertight Code of Conduct and Crisis communications Policy, with a variety of different routes to report inappropriate behaviour and a sliding scale of measures to deal with it.
- In-house training of all company members to notice and swiftly deal with problematic behaviour in a way which protects and educates both parties.
- The recruiting of an ‘independent arbitrator’, who is not one of the comapny and to whom cases and problems can be referred should the issue be too complex to be dealt with by a company member.
- The running of two events per year for non-male identifying improvisers to talk about their experiences.
- Building in discussion of issues of power, identity and sexuality into all longform courses.
This list is not perfect, exhaustive or the end of the story. These are the measures which we will be rolling out in the next three months. As a company, we will be gathering advice from those inside and outside the community and revisiting this regularly in order to be current . So what have we missed? What measure should we be putting in place? Have you had an experience within the community or elsewhere that might help us to learn? You can email [email protected] or let us know on this anonymous form.