Canadian theater sparks outrage with events exclusively for ‘Black-identifying’ audiences

A play at the National Arts Center in Ottawa is reserved exclusively for a “Black-only” audience

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
The National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada. Credit: Shutterstock

A Canadian theater is promoting productions which are exclusively reserved for “Black-identifying audiences,” prompting accusations of segregation and discrimination.

The National Arts Center in Ottawa is selling tickets on its website for a production named “Is God Is,” which claims to be a dark, award-winning tragicomedy about two twin sisters who are ordered by their mother to seek out their father and kill him.

The production is running at the playhouse between Feb. 9-18. However, on Feb. 17, the production is understood to running a “Black Out,” meaning tickets will be reserved exclusively for Black people to attend.

“A Black Out is an open invitation to Black-identifying audiences to come and experience performances with their community,” the National Arts Center’s website states.

“The evenings will provide a dedicated space for Black theatergoers to witness a show that reflects the vivid kaleidoscope that is the Black experience.

It goes on to state that during these “Black Outs,” Black theatergoers will allow for conversation and participation to be felt throughout the theater and open the doors for Black-identifying audiences to “experience the energy of the NAC with a shared sense of belonging and passion.”

Another production to run at the venue on May 5 will also operate a Black-only admission policy, and the theater plans to schedule further Black-only events in the 2023-24 season.

Quillette editor Jonathan Kay shared the act of segregation by the Canadian national theater on social media, screenshotting the ‘important information’ displayed when purchasing a ticket which reemphasizes the performance is “dedicated exclusively to Black audience members.”

“Can’t wait for my Jew night,” he quipped, while another Twitter user asked: “Are they planning on doing a whites only show?”

The arts center sought to distance itself from the plainly-obvious admission policy, with Annabelle Cloutier, executive director, strategy and communications for the NAC, saying, “There are no racially segregated shows at the NAC.”

While admitting that one of the performances of Is God Is will be dedicated solely “to those who self-identify as Black and their guest,” she insisted that no one would be turned away from watching the production.

“”here will be no checkpoints for Black Out night ticket holders and no questions will be asked about anyone’s identity, race or gender,” she added.

Toronto Sun columnist reporting on the news said, “It’s good that Cloutier can confirm that but disturbing that it had to be asked, adding:

“What is bothersome is the apparent segregationist appeal. Rather than encouraging black theatergoers, in what is a mostly white but slowly diversifying national capital to attend, the NAC makes it sound like this event is only for black patrons.”

The phenomenon of Black-only events appears to be seeping into Canadian society, with a yoga workshop at the University of Guelph making headlines in November last year prohibiting the admission of all races other than Black.

“This session is exclusive to Black-identifying students, staff, and faculty at U of G,” the event description read in bold text.

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