The Second City, iO Theatre Commit To Change Following Accusations Of Racism

Rob Hart
June 12, 2020 - 10:33 am

The Second City/Faceook

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Two legendary comedy theaters in Chicago said they will do better after they were asked to confront allegations of racism. 
 
The Second City and iO Theater, the former ImprovOlympic, are promising to make changes after performers and alumni posted separate statements outlining the history of systemic racism, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct. 
 
In an open letter on its website and Facebook page, The Second City agreed Thursday to recent demands made by a group of former employees and alumni over the need for the Chicago institution to completely overhaul itself following public outcry over allegations of company-wide racism, abuse, discrimination, sexual misconduct, harassment, verbal abuse, pay inequity and other unacceptable treatment of artists of color.
 
 
The letter, signed by Second City’s vice chairman/board member D’Arcy Stuart and vice president/managing partner Steve Johnston, read, in part: “We hear you, and we apologize for the extraordinary pain, trauma, and erasure that you have experienced. The Second City has long defended itself behind the excuse of upholding 'tradition.' That ends now. The steps taken to make Second City a purposefully anti-racist institution will reach into every corner of the company and touch every aspect of its operations."
 
The letter ends with, "To be clear: We are prepared to tear it all down and begin again. As we devote resources towards these efforts, we hope that you will continue to call us out, hold us accountable, and be apart of the dialogue necessary in order to fundamentally overhaul our infrastructure. Thank you for the countless contributions you have already made to The Second City."
 
The demands came just days after Andrew Alexander, the co-owner and executive producer of Second City, exited the company, citing an institutional failure “to recognize racism within our own walls.” 
 
The theater said among the list of changes it would form a steering committee that will examine every aspect of the company's operations and culture.
 
 
Meanwhile, an online petition titled "I will not perform at iO until the following demands are met" has charged iO Theater with racism. The petition was created by five performers with connections to the theater and comedy training center.
 
The petition makes specific demands of the company’s founder, Charna Halpern, and of the theater as a whole. It demands that Halpern "must publicly acknowledge and apologize for the institutional racism perpetuated at iO as well as her individual history of racism. She must acknowledge the harm this has caused to individuals, communities, and the comedy world as a whole.”
 
The petition also demands that Halpern “no longer be the sole determiner of opportunity within iO.”
 
iO Theater Founder Charna Halpern said she will work to address allegations of racism, adding that anyone who wants to work at iO should do so without the guilt of supporting an institution whose morals and ethics don't align with their own.