Long Beach Opera Investigation Findings
April 1st, 2022
As previously reported, three Black Long Beach Opera staff members resigned in December 2021, alleging a culture of misogyny and racism at LBO. A BIPOC designer and a female LBO employee also alleged unfair treatment. Immediately after it received these complaints, Long Beach Opera’s (LBO’s) Board of Directors retained an independent investigator, Aisha Shelton Adam, to investigate the allegations. The Board promised to be transparent about the investigation results. We have received that report and summarize below its findings.
Ms. Adam found that LBO did not have a misogynistic or racist culture and found no evidence of any racial or gender discrimination. Additionally, she found no evidence of tokenization, no evidence of mistreatment of BIPOC staff/contractors, and no evidence that female staff were treated differently or unfairly because of gender.
However, the investigation found that some LBO employees — irrespective of race or gender — felt they were not treated with appropriate respect by executive management, and sometimes felt they lacked agency to perform their jobs. This led female and BIPOC staff/contractors to feel that they were marginalized because of their gender, race, or the intersectionality of their gender and race. These findings are inconsistent with the values of the company and the values held by LBO’s executive and artistic management.
Upon reviewing the full results of the investigation, LBO’s General Director Jennifer Rivera acknowledges that the experiences of some staff members of feeling unseen and unheard were real, and she takes full responsibility. Ms. Rivera is committed to learning from this experience and taking the steps necessary to ensure that going forward she creates an environment where staff feels respected and empowered.
The Board takes all complaints seriously and has taken the following steps to address these issues. Previously, the Board authorized the retention of an HR firm to (1) assess the company’s HR processes and the company’s organizational structure, (2) work with LBO executive management to develop clear roles and responsibilities within the company, and (3) provide a confidential process for LBO staff to voice concerns. LBO had begun working with the Aspire Group, a DEI consulting firm, in 2019 and will continue to do so. At management’s request, the Board has retained an additional management consultant to support and develop executive leadership.
LBO wants to thank everyone who participated in this investigation. We will emerge from this challenge a stronger organization, and our commitment to equity has been deepened. LBO has long been a leader in driving equity in opera and using opera to create deeper conversations on questions of equity. It will continue to do so.
To protect the privacy of those involved in the investigation, no further information will be shared publicly. More information about LBO’s 2022 season will be released soon.
March 14th, 2022
Statement on Cancellation of STIMMUNG
Long Beach Opera (LBO) is deeply saddened to announce the cancellation of all performances of our production of STIMMUNG, which was slated to perform March 19, 20, 26, 27, 2022.
At LBO’s December 2021 Board meeting, three LBO staff members resigned, expressing concern about the organization’s internal communications, work environment and issues related to equity and diversity. LBO’s Board and leadership team members were shocked and dismayed by these allegations as they are in direct opposition to our individual and collective values. LBO immediately took action to investigate and address the allegations, which are detailed below.
When the staff members brought their concerns to LBO, they made their resignations effective at future dates when their respective obligations for artistic work this season would be substantially completed. LBO made every effort to support them in continuing with the projects as planned, and rehearsals for STIMMUNG began in January. However, on March 10th, 2022, one of the staff members who had resigned, who was also serving as the director of STIMMUNG, then resigned from STIMMUNG. In consultation with the performing artists, LBO determined that it would not be appropriate or possible to continue the project without the director’s participation as the entire production concept was his creation. The project had already been completely funded, built, rehearsed, and was just over one week from opening when he tendered his resignation. LBO will honor our commitment to compensate all the artists for their work preparing the project nonetheless.
Refunds or Credit
LBO will provide refunds or credits to all patrons, as they prefer. We will also plan a replacement project for anyone who would like to hold onto their tickets and will announce that project as soon as it is developed.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Long Beach Opera has been actively establishing channels for creating more equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), especially since the 2018-2019 season when the company presented the world premiere of The Central Park Five along with a series of five Community Conversations centered on topics of race, equity and justice. That year the company also established a Community Advisory Committee made up of leaders from the African American and Latinx communities in Long Beach, which established ongoing relationships between the organization and many committee members.
Since that time, the entire company, both Board and Staff, has undergone EDI training with the Aspire Group. The Board then established an EDI task force to diversify its membership and has begun to see the results of those efforts.
In 2020, LBO commissioned a new opera for young people featuring the works of Black composers, and presented the 2020 Songbook, a program that commissioned 20 new works, with 75% of the composers represented identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) or female.
For LBO’s 2022 main stage programming, the organization curated a season in which three out of four productions were to be led by fully BIPOC creative teams with a diverse array of artists and collaborators. The organization has also continued its work with the EDI firm The Aspire Group in both 2020 and 2021, focusing on members of LBO’s senior leadership team in an effort to establish an equitable framework for company leadership. That work was already underway at the time of the resignations, and LBO is fully committed to continuing this work in 2022 and beyond.
Response to Allegations
The Board takes the allegations by the resigning staff members very seriously, and we applaud the efforts of any staff member to bring their concerns to light. Immediately, upon learning of the allegations, the Board retained an independent investigator to conduct a thorough investigation of the issues raised. The investigator has spent the past two months interviewing LBO’s current and former staff members, along with Board members and independent contractor artists. The investigation is slated to conclude in a matter of weeks, and the results will be made public at that time. The Board also immediately formed a committee to meet with the staff members who resigned to listen to and better understand their concerns.
To ensure appropriate support going forward, LBO hired an independent HR firm to address staff issues and to make certain a neutral channel is available for any complaints. The HR firm is also performing an audit of LBO’s HR policies and procedures and will help provide improved structure and policies for the company.
Because the artists who resigned stated that they wished to continue to produce their projects at LBO this season before making their resignations effective, the Board retained a mediator to facilitate multiple sessions among key artistic staff, and those sessions began in January. This mediated dialogue was intended to determine some specific action items company leadership could complete in order to support the artists who had filed complaints in continuing their work even before the investigation was completed. The action items requested by the artists during those sessions were all completed, including specific meetings about rehearsal processes, marketing, and future contractual offers being issued.
Our History and Values
LBO has long been involved in the struggle for equity and reconciliation in our diverse community, and we are committed to creating an environment that supports all our staff and artists. Our stated mission is “Engaging people through provocative, meaningful experiences that challenge, connect and inspire.” Our values extend not only to our performances and productions but to our own internal connectivity as a staff, Board and team of artists. We believe that what we learn from each other and our shared experiences will ensure that LBO lives up to our mission and core values. We acknowledge that creating equity, diversity and inclusion within an organization requires constant listening, learning and reassessment. We are confident that LBO can continue to evolve and are committed to the work needed to make continued progress on this journey.
We apologize to all of our patrons, whom we know are the backbone of LBO, for any inconvenience this cancellation may have caused you. We will reach out to each ticket holder individually with instructions on how to proceed. We are available to answer any questions and process your refunds or credits. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.
The Long Beach Opera Board
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at cac.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission