Allegations of Racial Discrimination Upstage Play

By: Sabrina Wu
By: Sabrina Wu

Before the curtains even open on a play being put on by the Wausau Community Theatre, another drama is underway.

The director of "The Boys Next Door" was let go. She said it's because she encouraged African Americans to audition. But members of the theater's Board of Directors disagree.

Front and center in the issue is a flyer that Kermitz put out to advertise auditions for the play. The flyer reads, "Roles for 7 to 9 Men (One for African American Actor)" Kermitz said the board told her that the wording may leave them open to legal complications, specifically reverse discrimination lawsuits.

"In this day and age if we can't be more welcoming to people, nothing's ever going to change," said Kermitz "Walking the political correctness line is somewhat of an excuse."

But the community theater board said the flyer wasn't the real reason.

"Understand that there were other contributing factors," said Cynthia Coulthurst, former Executive Director for the Wausau Community Theater. "We gave her every opportunity to direct this production. She was unable to assemble a staff for the show. People didn't want to work with her."

The play is about four mentally challenged men who live together in a home, one of which was written as an African-American. At this point, that role is not being played by an African American. Theater board members said it's because no black actors auditioned.

Diversity advocates said that's a shame.

"The more color we put in to a play or into a program, I think that the end result will be better," said Thomas Lee, Wausau's Minority Affairs Director. "I think it's very important if the play's designed that way [with an African-American role], ... that we find that person [a black actor] to be a part of the play."

The play is scheduled to open on Oct. 31 at the Grand Theater in Wausau.

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