A sign-language interpreter for Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway has alleged he was recently fired for being white, saying he and another white interpreter were told to leave so they could be replaced with black signers.
Keith Wann has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Theatre Development Fund, the New York non-profit organization that supplies sign-language interpreters to Broadway shows, according to a New York Post report.
“To me, just seeing that discrimination, it doesn’t matter if I’m white or black,” Wann told the newspaper. “This is blatant and I would just hope that other people who have also experienced this would step forward.”
— New York Post (@nypost) November 13, 2022
Wann alleges TDF’s director of its accessibility programs, Lisa Carling, told him and interpreter Christina Mosleh to “back out” of the show so they could be replaced by black sign-language experts, according to the suit and e-mails obtained by The Post.
Wann reportedly started at The Lion King in March, but received an e-mail just days later from Carling asking him and Mosleh to back out of the show due to “the current social climate.”
“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. “I don’t see any other way out of this. It seems like the best solution.”
Carling’s decision was allegedly ordered by Shelly Guy, the director of ASL for The Lion King, who called for Carling to get rid of all non-black interpreters, according to another email obtained by The Post and cited in the suit.
Guy reportedly said that the interpreter “is not a black person and therefore should not be representing Lion King.”
Wann said he has interpreted for a diverse group of characters including those played by black actors throughout his decades-long career.
“I lost sleep over it,” Wann told The Post. “Wrong is wrong.”