A taxpayer-funded Canadian theater organization has sparked outrage after announcing an event that will only allow “Black-identifying audiences” to attend.
The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is putting on a “Black Out” night at its Babs Asper Theatre on Feb. 17 — the middle of Black History Month — for the performance of “Is God Is,” a play written by and starring Black women.
“A Black Out is an open invitation to Black-identifying audiences to come and experience performances with their community,” the theater announced earlier this month.
“The evenings will provide a dedicated space for Black theatregoers to witness a show that reflects the vivid kaleidoscope that is the Black experience.”
The event promptly sparked backlash on social media, with critics accusing
“Cultural Apartheid. The identitarian left proudly appropriates an oldie but goody. Canada is starting to make the USA seem like Hungary,” one person fumed on Twitter.
“Racism is alive and well in Canada. I hope this event is boycotted,” another added.
“So given that the National Arts Centre now does single-race-only shows, are they planning on doing a whites only show?” a third questioned.
But the “Is God Is” performance will not be the only black-invitation-only event sponsored by the National Arts Center.
A second “Black Out” show is scheduled for the May 5 performance of “Heaven” at the Azrieli Studio.
The NAC — a federal cultural organization — said it was inspired to host two “Black Out” shows after Broadway held a similar event in 2019 for Jeremy O’Harris’ “Slave Play.”
“Honored that @CanadasNAC is standing by their commitment to a BLACK OUT performance of one of my favorite plays, ‘IS GOD IS,’” O’Harris tweeted.
However, in spite of its own announcement, a spokesperson for the NAC told Quillette podcaster Jonathan Kay that ushers will not be race-checking attendees at the door.
“No one will be turned away at the door,” the spokesperson assured Kay.
Meanwhile, Toronto theater companies the Canadian Stage and Theatre Pass have also taken part in their own versions of “Black Out.”
“If someone self-identifies as a non-Black person and demands to enter the room, a member of our staff will be present to chat with this person,” the Theatre Pass says on its website.
“We try our best to have this labour land on a non-Black staff member and we will have non-Black front-of-house, leadership, or technical and production team members present in the lobby to help de-escalate such situations.”