Published Jun 08, 2020Vancouver TheatreSports has pledged to improve its diversity following accusations of racism and misogyny from two performers.
Comedians Ashlee Ferral and Tunji Taylor-Lewis, who are both Black, have spoken up about their experiences with the improv comedy company. Both of them performed with Vancouver TheatreSports, but claim that they and other performers were denied opportunities to perform on the company's main stage due to their race and gender.
"There's a group of performers there who are also in charge," Ferral told Global News. "So for them, they want to keep the stage all white, all male and, frankly, Boomer age, because they've been with the company for 30 years and they don't want to lose their spot."
She said, "When you go to any show, if you see a cast and it's 100 percent white, that was a choice. It's not an accident. It's never an accident."
Taylor-Lewis had a similar experience. He said he initially felt welcome at Vancouver TheatreSports, but his attempts to reach the main stage were eventually stifled.
"I could basically see the writing on the wall," he said. "There was nothing that I was being told, as far as the artistic team, that encouraged me to let me know that I was making my way up. I was always being told that there was no room."
In a statement on Instagram, Vancouver TheatreSports said that inclusivity was a priority, but acknowledged that its diversity plans hadn't been effective. The organizations is currently four years into a five-year diversity plan, but the cast remains overwhelmingly white.
The company said in the statement, "We have spent time in the past on action plans to address this, and it is eminently clear that now is the time to move forward with urgency, putting in place meaningful and tangible actions that will have an immediate and long-term impact."
See the statement below.