August 14, 2020
First of all, thank you to everyone who has stayed engaged with us since the beginning of this pandemic — to the students eager for online classes, jams and shows, and our team members who were able to help facilitate. For those community members who’ve had to take a step back, we appreciate you and we hope you’ve been able to get a chance to recharge.
As the pandemic drags on for the foreseeable future, it’s clear we won’t be back in person anytime soon. Even with a cautious reopening, we will not be able to return to our studio, which doesn’t meet our current physical distancing and ventilation requirements. We realize that we can either choose to continue in our current direction of online programming, or we can take a much needed step back to reassess our needs as a school — but we’re not equipped to do both at the same time.
After much deliberation, we have decided that the Embassy will take an indefinite hiatus from all programming, effective at the end of August.
We feel it’s a priority to redirect our energies on our inclusion efforts, which is much overdue. At the beginning of June, we made a statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and in the short term pledged to donate jam proceeds and offer extra free spots in our summer classes. However, we realize that in the long term we need to do much more to make improv accessible to all groups, and we have limited personnel and resources to make the kind of meaningful change that bigger improv schools and institutions are now undertaking. While we’re pleased to have been able to offer scholarships over the past few years, we realize we could have been more active in ensuring better representation in the student body and in our faculty and staff, and to strengthen our inclusion positions to be better compensated and supported.
In normal times, we might be able to make these changes in tandem with our regular classes, but this pandemic has been tough on our small school. In moving online, it has been challenging to completely change our programming to suit the limits of remote learning, and a grind to compete with other, bigger schools outside Ottawa. We’ve luckily been able to fill our recent classes, and have met some wonderful folks who enrolled from other cities. However, the demographics and focus of our classes have changed to the extent that we’re no longer teaching game-based longform to our local community, which was the reason we started in the first place. Since we’re unable to fulfil our original mission, a complete focus on revisiting our inclusion practices would be the most constructive use of our time.
We are fortunate that we’re in the position where we can take a break to reset, listen, learn and reevaluate, to strategize ways to find funding for staff, training and outreach, and reorganize so the Embassy is sustainable and equitable for everyone. As we come up with new projects or developments in the interim, we look forward to sharing them with you all.
We will be in touch with everyone who opted to stay enrolled in our March/April courses who were waiting for our in-person return, and issue class refunds.
We want to thank our equity team, faculty, board and volunteers for their hard work over the years.
Yours in yes-and,
The Embassy Team