We have entered the era of swift action taken towards those who do not comport in the approved fashion.
(This is the latest in a series of reports detailing the way activists are wielding punishments for improper protest support.)
Today on its website the famed Second City improvisational theater in Chicago announced it was undertaking a number of structural changes in its management framework. In the sensitive atmosphere, we see this nation plunged into the entertainment fixture is undertaking significant internal renovations in regards to how it treats people of color in its organization. ‘’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.’’ If this sounds like it is being made under duress, that is because that is precisely the fact.
The famed comedy institution has launched numerous careers in the entertainment field as it has for decades been the primary feeder system for the cast of Saturday Night Live while also finding former cast members landing jobs in film and television. It is credited with innovating, if not outright inventing, the improvisation comedy performance technique. Throughout a given year there are workshops where cast members perform, write, and refine sketches that are developed into a primary showcase.
Second City is a revered comedy outlet, but its longtime CEO has been made to step down from his role as charges of racism within the organization have percolated. In a lengthy letter of departure posted on the Second City website, Andrew Alexander announced last Friday he was stepping down from his position as a result of the institutional racism he acknowledges within his company. This is a remarkable development for such a longstanding popular entity, as Alexander has had an ownership stake since 1985, but also because of what sparked this development.
This all erupted when Second City posted its support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Like many companies have done in the wake of the George Floyd murder by police, Second City posted on twitter a brief message on Sunday, May 31 to properly signal its support of the ensuing movement. It appeared to be just another in the endless stream of corporate virtue recognition, until the following Thursday when former cast member Dewayne Perkins posted a thread as a rebuttal. It was filled with numerous charges of the racial challenges he felt, including his stating how he suffered PTSD from his tenure with the company.
You remember when the black actors wanted to put on a Black Lives Matter Benefit show and you said only if we gave half of the proceeds to the Chicago PD, because I will never forget. Remember when you would make black people audition for job you simply just have to white people? https://t.co/LA92b13qs3
— Dewayne Perkins (@DewaynePerkins) June 4, 2020
Within a day of the posting, Alexander was stepping down as the leader of Second City. The next day African American actor and director Anthony LeBlanc was named interim executive producer in the company. A number of alumni, including Aasia LaShay Bullock who is a writer on the new Netflix show ‘’Space Force’’, current SNL cast member Chris Redd, and actor Sam Richardson from ‘’Veep’’ gave support the following Monday. In an open letter from 19 former and current POC Second City performers they expressed their outrage at the atmosphere in the company and demanded institutional changes to be brought forward.
All of this stemmed from Second City engaging in the practice of what scores of other companies are in the process of doing, and that involves hoping that proper signaling of the racial movement in the country grants them some form of social reprieve. Let the fate of Andrew Alexander serve as an object lesson for other companies; making all of the proper gestures and posting the proper messaging will not assure that your company will avoid a social consequence.
In fact, as Second City experienced, maybe posting such messaging could actually lead to trouble.
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