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Second City names black interim executive producer as part of diversity pledge

Second City names black interim executive producer as part of diversity pledge
Anthony LeBlanc has been named interim executive producer of The Second City improv troupe. Photo courtesy of The Second City/Twitter

June 7 (UPI) -- The Second City improv theater troupe in Chicago has announced its commitment to diverse hiring practices in the wake of widespread protests condemning racism and demanding social justice.

On Friday, the organization announced its white chief executive officer and executive producer Andrew Alexander had stepped down.

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The next day, it said Anthony LeBlanc, its black artistic director, had been named interim executive producer.

Last week, as thousands of people protested the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody, the company tweeted its support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black actor and comedian Dewayne Perkins posted in reply: "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?"

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Black comedian and screenwriter Asia LaShay Bullock said she was physically abused during her time at The Second City, then fired when she lodged a complaint against a male colleague.

"The wildest part about my second city experience is that they forced me to quit because they didn't believe me. then weeks later for 'unknown reasons' they fire the white man who put hands on me, but allowed the narrative to be that they fired him because of me," Bullock tweeted.

The company responded in a statement on its website Friday.

"Everyone wants a response, but there are no set of words right now that will be enough. There is no excuse. The Second City has made so many mistakes, and we -- the leadership -- are sorry," the statement said.

"And now we are putting our energy behind taking action, even if the community doesn't feel that we have the right. In this moment, you deserve to hear clear, specific actions that will be taken," the group added. "It was announced that The Second City's chief executive officer and executive producer, Andrew Alexander, is stepping down, fully removing himself from overseeing The Second City's operations and policies and divesting from the company as it stands. The next person to fill the executive producer position will be a member of the BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color] community."

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The organization promised to improve its hiring, casting and student recruitment practices, as well as use its resources to produce art by and for BIPOC artists and diversify the audiences at its theaters.

"While The Second City has sometimes made strides in the diversity of talent performing on our stages, we have grossly fallen short when it comes to supporting that talent -- and diversity at Second City -- as whole," LeBlanc said in a statement as his new position was announced.

"We must face the reality of our failings as an organization and hear the voices of our BIPOC performers, alumni, staff, students, and audience. We need to do better...because our community deserves better. I, along with the rest of the leadership of The Second City, are committed to making fundamental and long lasting changes to our company and the many communities we touch. I look forward to being a part of those changes and helping Second City catch up to the present, and, in turn, move towards a better future."

The Second City helped launch the careers of comedy icons Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, John Candy, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert.

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