Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre has spent the past six months reassessing how things are run.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on challenges and initiated change for many businesses, the theatre has also faced additional backlash this year.
Last week, it was announced Cynthia Dyck and Yvette Nolan would lead an Artists’ Working Group.
The theatre posted a black square on its Facebook page in June, meant to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The post sparked backlash, with critics accusing the theatre of a lack of diversity. That post was deleted, which only caused a greater backlash.
“Artists of colour were really incensed by that because they just didn’t feel that that was their reality so that’s one of the things we’re working on is how do we rebuild trust with the community, and how we can make it a more inclusive place for everybody,” Nolan said.
This response left the theatre reaching out to the community about how they could move forward and be more inclusive.
“I think it was a little shocking to them to find out they weren’t the theatre they thought they were. Then they sat and regrouped and they decided one of the ways forward is that there should be an artistic advisory,” Nolan said.
Nolan has been involved in the theatre community for 30 years, as a playwright, director and dramaturge. She said the lack of diversity in the industry has driven some artists out of the province.
“Persephone is no different — it’s very white programming. The audience is largely white and we’ve seen that in the way artists of colour have left not just Saskatoon but Saskatchewan because they didn’t see a place for themselves here,” Nolan said.
The Artists’ Working Group hopes to find new artistic leadership for Persephone Theatre by the fall. The group may transition into an ongoing advisory board.