In the two years since the secret Not in Our House Facebook group was formed, a number of things have changed. Chief among them is that Profiles Theatre
no longer exists. Profiles was the group's initial inspiration to organize and support people who have been harassed and abused at non-Equity theaters; it closed last June following an investigation
by the Reader
into more than 20 years of verbal abuse and physical attacks on actors and crew members. The investigation helped spark a conversation about how to prevent such abuse, and seemingly lowered the theater community's collective tolerance for it—most recently, Dead Writers Collective
shut its doors after one of its members posted abusive comments from the company's artistic director on Facebook.
More significantly though, Not in Our House has finalized its code of conduct
for non-Equity theaters, now known as the Chicago Theatre Standards. An early draft of the standards was unveiled at a community meeting last April, and 20 theaters in the city volunteered to be part of a pilot program to test them out. Many smaller theaters aren't part of Actors' Equity, the actors' union, which has its own extensive codes of conduct and, crucially, a governing body to which actors who claim to have been mistreated can bring their complaints. The standards are an attempt to provide the same sort of clear, written documentation of the rights and responsibilities of non-Equity theaters and actors—that is, theaters and actors that aren't part of the union.
These 20 companies have put on 30 shows in the past year, and have used the standards at least five times to resolve various conflicts and misunderstandings, says actress and activist Laura T. Fisher, who cofounded Not in Our House and has been supervising the pilot program.
"What used to be most comfortable was sweeping stuff under the rug," Fisher says. But now, "if we see it, we have to deal with it. . . . Little problems that could have festered and corroded the happiness and success of a production were addressed without drama."