Zach Theatre Uses $2.6 Million Federal Grant to Rebuild Staff, Reverse Wage Cuts, and Reinforce Programs for Equity, Divesity, Inclusion

(Press release of August 23, 2021)


( Theatre, Central Texas’ premier professional theatre, announces growth in staffing with funds from the [U.S. Federal initiative]* Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) funds [administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration]* and a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as they return to live theatre. 

ZACH played an integral role, in partnership with Texas legislators and other prominent industry peers, to ensure Regional Theatres were included in SVOG grant allocations. The SVOG was designed to assist live entertainment venues financially recover from the effects of the pandemic. Awards were granted by looking at 45% of the venues Earned Revenue from FY2019; showing at least a 25% Total Revenue Loss between 2019 and 2020. ZACH was awarded $2.6M based on their 2019 Earned Revenue.

In determining how to allocate these funds, ZACH makes an investment in its employees and Austin artists and creatives a priority, with 56% of current staff comprised of new hires, rehires, or transitioned back to full-time. In addition, after organization-wide salary cuts of 10-25% depending on the individual’s typical annual salary (the higher the salary, the higher the percentage), 100% of employees who experienced salary cuts during the pandemic will have lost wages reimbursed. 

With diversity, equity, and inclusion a part of its mission, ZACH enlisted DEI consultant and KARDIA Advisory Group Founder, Denisha Jenkins to help guide the process. ZACH is committed to work with KARDIA for the next year to create a long-term DEI plan, currently in development. Possibilities being discussed include the addition of an in-house DEI Director, and a formal committee of staff, Trustees, and community members to keep DEI efforts at the crux of ZACH’s path forward.

“Inclusion and diversity are ZACH core values and hallmarks of our work on stage. As we rebuild post-pandemic, we have the extraordinary opportunity to create more equity and inclusion in the designer and production teams hired for the plays and musicals we create,” said Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley. “As we hire new staff and attract new Trustees, there is a renewed commitment to root out our blind spots and put our resources - money, talent, and time - into doing what it takes to build an anti-racist, inclusive culture that makes ZACH better. We believe hiring a professional to lead us in these efforts means the work will be focused, objective, and more fruitful than trying to take it on ourselves.”

Under Jenkin’s direction, ZACH initiated a confidential survey to staff, trustees, artists, external stakeholders, and other members of the community asking for their experiences with DEI at ZACH. Once surveys were complete, one-on-one interviews and group discussions were held to dive deeper into survey responses that encouraged participants to disclose additional information in a confidential setting. Results were analyzed by KARDIA and presented to staff, trustees, and external stakeholders to gain a better understanding of needed corrections, how to go about implementing change, and guide specifics for a ZACH training strategy. 

Next steps include all staff and trustees engaging in workshops, to expand DEI knowledge and receive tools to improve. With clear goals set, ZACH will actively discuss and implement changes in hiring practices and other areas as it rebuilds. 

ZACH has updated job-posting language and started recruiting from new sources, in addition to the traditional channels. ZACH’s 2021-22 Season opener, Into the Woods, will bring these initiatives to reality with more than 50% BIPOC and historically underrepresented cast, designers, and creatives being hired.

ZACH recently announced the 2021-22 Season. The five-show 2021–22 Mainstage Series includes Into the Woods, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, Reunion ’85, The Sound of Music and The Inheritance: Part 1. Single tickets are on sale now to the general public. Visit to learn more.

 [ * CTXLT editor's note ]

Find information on safety, procedures, and updated cancellation notices at

About ZACH Theatre

A non-profit organization, ZACH creates intimate theatre experiences that ignite the imagination, inspire the spirit, and engage the community. As Austin’s leading professional producing theatre, ZACH employs more than 300 actors, musicians, and designers annually to create its own diverse array of nationally recognized plays and musicals under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley and Managing Director Elisbeth Challener. Each year, ZACH serves nearly 140,000 Central Texans – 57,000 of which are children and youth who participate in our education and outreach programs, as well as inspiring camps and classes.  ZACH Theatre is honored to host private and community events across the beautiful spaces on our three-stage campus located in the heart of Austin. Founded in 1932, ZACH is the longest continuously running theatre company in the state of Texas, and one of the ten oldest in the country. Visit for more information.

ZACH Theatre’s 2021–22 Season is sponsored in part by Baylor Scott & White Health, Holiday Inn-Town Lake, Betty Nowlin, and Carolyn and Marc Seriff; and by grants from The Shubert Foundation, Junior League of Austin, The National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the Cultural Arts Division of The City of Austin Economic Development Department.


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