Dria artDoula (Contributed)

Dria, who describes herself as an “artDoula” who is also Broadway Advocacy Coalition Programming + Partnerships Producer and a Theater of Change Facilitator at Columbia Law School — has embarked on a mission that will create lasting, and positive changes on Broadway stages and beyond. This is not something that I think, dear family — this is something that I know.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this self-appointed artDoula is also a d dynamic storyteller and creates + produces live and digital content and has performed, on stage, in multiple National Tours, Regional productions, and Off-Broadway.

Shamefully, I will admit that I only discovered the Broadway Advocacy Coalition after they were recognized with a Special Tony Honor for their contributions to the Broadway industry. They are the first organization to be recognized with this award. This year they celebrated their 

5th anniversary.

These dedicated women and men at the Broadway Advocacy Coalition have been putting in the work in an effort to tackle and affect change surrounding systemic racism beyond the Broadway industry.  In the summer of 2020 BAC hosted a virtual forum #BwayForBLM Again that garnered over 10k views and culminated in an accountability pledge signed by over 8k members of the Broadway community, both in NY and across the country. 

Since that forum, BAC has turned toward the industry from which it was born and launched several initiatives focused on equity and inclusion within the theatre industry itself, including a new Reimagining Equitable Productions (REP) program that includes workshops for shows reopening this fall, in the hopes of a safer work environment for all.

Here is what Dria, who describes herself as an “artDoula” who is also Broadway Advocacy Coalition Programming + Partnerships Producer and a Theater of Change Facilitator at Columbia Law School had to share about how one person (yes, just one) can make a lasting and positive change against prejudice and racism.

Question:

Hello, today I’m speaking with Dria who is an artDoula. 

DARIA BROWN: Daria Brown. My pronouns are she and hers? I’m the programs and partnership producer at the Broadway Advocacy Coalition.

Q: 

I love it. Now, I understand that you are a doula, can you push in and explain what an artDoula is?

DB: Of course. So I think sometimes the producer is more about the transaction or the product of things. And what I love about the word doula is that it’s a companion who is by the birth person side, throughout their, from, from pregnancy to birth. And what that means is that they’re in the process, supporting them both holistically, spiritually, mentally, they’re supporting their well-being and their needs. Most of all, most people who are pregnant have a birth plan that they want to stick to and the OB and a doulas’ job is to advocate for that birth plan to happen without any unnecessary medical interventions. 

Q: Understood. 

DB: That’s why I call myself an artDoula, because I believe that I am much more interested in creating a holistic, safe space in which people feel affirmed, held, and seen, from the inception of the idea to execution of the vision. I’m constantly advocating for an artist, their voice, and for an artist, their voice to be heard and to be funded. I believe in always saying yes, and finding a way to say yes, whether that’s looking for the money or looking for the space, to produce the art, and creating a space that feels more like a sanctuary or a church, than a space that feels like a machine.

Q: I love the description. You remind of the late, great Ellen Stewart, the creator of the famed La MaMa ETC ( https://nyti.ms/3orIW7l ).

DB: Wow. Thank you. 

Q: You are most welcome. So, please tell me about your relationship with the Broadway Advocacy Coalition?

DB: 

I started as a volunteer with PAC in 2016. Their invitation to Columbia Law School was one of their first events and they were looking for ushers. So I remember seeing all of the founders on stage who were in “Shuffle Along.” And I felt so honored to just be in the space, handing out programs, honestly. 

A year after the murder of George Floyd there was a need to convene and a need to organize. And there was a call that was sent out. If you want to be a part of this three-day forum of building, please let us know. I came on as a thought partner, as a collaborator. And very quickly found love in producing digitally, which is not a skill that I had before the pandemic started.

Q: I am laughing. The crazy shutdown taught a lot of different people different things. 

DB: (Laughing)

I remember staying up until like 3 am just learning everything that I could about digital content and what it meant to produce digital content. You know, everything was in-person [before Covid] and there was live theater. And so we were going from gathering in person to witnessing virtually, and that comes with a lot of responsibility. 

Q: You are right. 

DB: And so I was tasked with putting it all together with the help of many incredible people. And we launched our three-day forum, Broadway for Black Lives Matter again. Day one, which was a day of healing, day to day of listening, and day three, which was a day of accountability. 

Q: That sounds like a plan for every day, to be frank. 

DB: (laughing) And it happened with 15,000 people watching as we gathered and shared stories and used bravery as a weapon. We used our stories to say, hey, in this pause.

Q: Goal?

DB: I want to uplift that. I don’t want to return to the [old] Broadway. That was the industry [then] and I wanted to return to something safer. 

Q: Expand on this idea of safer.

DB: Safer. I want to return to something more inclusive, and I want to return to a space that has earned the phrase as Britton Smith talks about 

(Broadway Advocacy Coalitions) during his Tony speech. Black lives matter. 

https://bit.ly/3HnEnno

Q: Amen. Share more about your journey with the organization.

DB: I started as the chief of staff during that time and very quickly became the programs and partnerships producer, which is a new title as of about a month ago, nice, cute promotion for me. And my job is essentially identifying the stakeholders and partnerships in our industry, and building change agents in our coalition find finding and leaning on other organizations doing the work on the ground to end systemic racism in our industry, organizing and putting us together in a room and virtual space. 

Q: Big questions. Big answers.

DB: To achieve that mission of what is the theatrical landscape look like? How do we achieve it? What are our dreams, who are our partners, and so that’s what I do on the programs and partnership side. 

I’m the person behind the curtain, pushing the buttons and making it work.  And it’s a course we teach yearly at Columbia Law School and that brings together artists, law and policy students, and those most closely connected to systemic racism and mass incarceration to link their experiences to policy and to collaborate towards making change. And I facilitate small group and big group discussions around what that means, in hopes to create pieces of impact and pieces that produce empathy-driven policies in front of the people who matter and with the people who matter most who are closest to the problem. Yes, that was a mouthful, but that is everything.

Q: Yes, it is a mouth full but I feel this is important work. What’s next?

DB: 

The next thing that’s happening is our activism 

the fellowship. Applications are open. The fellowship theme this year is reimagining justice through abolition. It’s for Black, Indigenous, Latinos, and other authors of color, who considered themselves artists activists and who are using their tools to have an impact on the world around them. The fellowship provides financial support and networking opportunities and workshops and advocating for change. The applications are open now until November 25.

broadway, industry, Columbia law school, partnership, learning, space, support, building, producer, artist, people, programs, agents, reimagining, foundation, pandemic, creating, love, change, theater. BLM

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