Shakespeare in Action is a ‘culturally-diverse professional theatre company’ that moved to the Artscape Weston Hub at the beginning of this year. On November 9, founder and Artistic Director Michael Kelly was accused of, ‘making a racist remark’ during a rehearsal of a production (Sound and Fury) that was then cancelled.
Mr. Kelly, has been suspended since November 9th pending the results of an investigation by SIA’s board of directors. The directors said they would disclose the results quickly, promising to report by November 25th. That date passed and the board announced a delay in order to not act, ‘hastily and rashly while it considers the results of its investigations’.
The results were then promised by the 29th but as of December 1, three weeks after the alleged incident, there is still no word on the SIA site.
Look for an update here once the results have been announced.
Update: SIA issued this announcement on Sunday December 1.
“Statement from Board of Directors, Shakespeare in Action
December 1 2019
The Board of Directors (Board) of Shakespeare in Action (SIA) has conducted a thorough investigation of the incidents which occurred on November 9th and 11th, 2019 during rehearsals for the SIA production of “Sound and Fury”.
Firstly, on behalf of SIA, the Board would like to apologize to the artists, partners, and community members affected. The Board also regrets the impact the subsequent cancellation of two productions in our first season has had on students, schools, artists, partners and the community.
SIA is dedicated to growing the performing arts in Weston and surrounding communities, and understands that we cannot do this in a meaningful way without acknowledging the harm felt by those affected. The Board hopes that the recommendations outlined below can provide the beginning of a path forward to rebuild trust with our stakeholders so that we can continue to create fun, inclusive, and accessible performing arts experiences that reflect, engage, and celebrate this community.
Regarding Michael Kelly
While the Board believes there was no deliberate intention on Michael Kelly’s part to cause harm, his actions on November 9th and 11th did cause significant harm to the actors, the playwright, Marcel Stewart, and the broader community. Furthermore, his actions are not consistent with the philosophy and mandate of SIA, as well as SIA’s internal anti-harassment policy and the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association’s “Not In Our Space Policy”.
Given this, we find the only way to be consistent with SIA’s values and to honour the experience of those affected, is to have Michael Kelly immediately step aside from his role as Artistic Director.
However, Michael Kelly will remain with SIA over the next three months (until February 29, 2020) to assist with the transition of the organization to David di Giovanni, as interim Artistic Director, with the following stipulations:
- That Michael will undergo sensitivity training;
- That Michael will not engage directly with any artistic personnel;
- That a member of the Board will assume the position of Officer to conduct those administrative duties previously managed by Michael Kelly.
During these three months the Board would like to have continued and meaningful dialogue with those involved.
At the end of the three months, Michael Kelly’s position with SIA will be reevaluated.
Regarding The Position of Artistic Director
The Board is appointing David di Giovanni as interim Artistic Director
Regarding SIA and the Board The Board acknowledges that:
- SIA needs policies and practices to prevent and address personal and group oppression, discrimination and bullying;
- These policies and practices are necessary to ensure a safe space for all in both SIA’s operations and programming;
- SIA needs diversity on its management team and Board of Directors, as presently we do not adequately reflect the Weston community, our home.
The Board recommends:
- That the necessary policies and practices including, but not limited to, anti-oppression, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying, be developed and put into place and practice;
- Engaging a third party to audit the implementation of the necessary policies and practices;
- Engaging a third party to facilitate anti-oppression training;
- That all SIA staff and Board members – including future new members – receive this training;
- That new Board members from the Weston community be actively recruited with the goal of achieving a minimum of 50% representation on the Board from members from the Weston community.
The Board, made up of only volunteers, believes it has exercised its duty to act in the best interest of SIA, by considering the myriad parties affected. Moving forward, we have a shared responsibility in this incident, and to ensure that this never happens again. We commit to learn and grow and do so in a way that promotes a safe and respectful space for all.
The Board of Directors of Shakespeare in Action
The full-length report including “Facts and Findings” is available here. “