Jacob Geanous, New York Post, November 12, 2022
A white sign-language interpreter says he was booted from “The Lion King” on Broadway because of his skin color.
Keith Wann, 53, was one of at least two people forced off the production by the non-profit Theatre Development Fund – which staffs Broadway shows with American Sign Language interpreters – after the group decided it was “no longer appropriate to have white interpreters represent black characters for ASL Broadway shows.”
Wann filed a federal discrimination lawsuit on Tuesday against the organization and the director of its accessibility programs, Lisa Carling.
Wann, a sign language interpreter and performer who has been working in New York for more than a decade, was offered the chance in March to work on one of Broadway’s most-acclaimed and longest-running shows.
But days later, he was shocked when he received an email from Carling sheepishly asking him and another interpreter to leave the show, citing “the current social climate.”
Carling’s decision came at the behest of Shelly Guy, the director of ASL for “The Lion King,” and called for Carling to get rid of all non-black interpreters, according to another email obtained by The Post and cited in the suit.
“The majority of the characters in the Lion King are black actors and the content takes place in Africa,” Guy wrote Carling on April 1.
“Keith Wann, though an amazing ASL performer, is not a black person and therefore should not be representing Lion King,” she declared.