White Interpreter Says He Was Fired From ‘The Lion King’ Show Because of His Race
A white sign-language interpreter filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) after he was asked to leave the April production of The Lion King, The New York Post reported.
Keith Wann, 53, is suing the TDF, a nonprofit that staffs Broadway shows with its American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, and its director of accessibility programs, Lisa Carling. He alleges that the organization fired him because of his race.
According to the news outlet, the firing was based on the group’s decision that it was “no longer appropriate to have white interpreters represent Black actors in Broadway shows.” Wann is one of at least two interpreters who were asked to leave.
Wann, whose career in Broadway has spanned more than a decade, was offered the opportunity in March to work in the landmark broadway show, as per MSN. The gig would have paid $1,000.
In the federal-discrimination lawsuit, Carling asked Wann and another white interpreter, Christina Mosleh, to “back out” of the show so they could be replaced with Black sign-language interpreters.
“With great embarrassment and apologies, I’m asking you both to please back out of interpreting the show for us on Sunday, April 24,” Carling wrote in an email, as cited in the suit.
“I don’t see any other way out of this. It seems like the best solution.”
The email was motivated by Shelly Guy, the show’s director of ASL. She decided to terminate non-Black interpreters on The Lion King.
“To me, just seeing that discrimination, it doesn’t matter if I’m white or Black,” Wann said, according to The New York Post.
“This is blatant and I would just hope that other people who have also experienced this would step forward.”
Wann said that he has done interpreting work for a diverse group of performers, including Black actors, without any issue. “I lost sleep over it,” Wann added. “Wrong is wrong.”