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Langham Court Theatre shuts temporarily, cites poor COVID plan, reports of racism and bullying

New board reports harassment: "This behaviour is egregious, is not okay, and is unacceptable."
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Langham Court Theatre in Victoria is shutting down temporarily. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Langham Court Theatre has cancelled its three remaining productions in the 2021-22 season and closed the theatre temporarily, citing an insufficient COVID plan, lack of a code of conduct amid reports of racism and harassment and lack of a general manager.

In a statement released Wednesday, the theatre’s board of directors pointed to “three major challenges”: an­ insufficient COVID-19 WorkSafe plan, an insufficient code of conduct for members and volunteers amidst reports of ongoing ­racism and harassment from community members, and an inability to produce theatre without an acting general manager or administrator.

The board has closed the building to the public and mandated that all staff work from home. The new rules will be in place until Feb. 1. The board said ticket holders will be contacted regarding refunds in 2022.

The productions affected by the decision are Hilda’s Yard, Silent Sky and Mambo Italiano.

“We regret that we cannot share these theatrical productions with you at this time,” the board’s statement said.

“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in bringing these shows to the stage, especially the cast and crew of Hilda’s Yard, who have invested their time and gifts wholeheartedly as they receive this cancellation in the late stage of their rehearsal process.”

The board took issue with what it called harassment from the community since a new board was elected.

The statement said “there will be zero tolerance for harassment, bullying, or violence of any kind in regards to this notice, or otherwise.”

It said since the appointment of five new board members in November, there have been several reports of vandalism, racism, “anti-Blackness,” violence, harassment and intimidation of marginalized community members.

“This behaviour is egregious, is not okay, and is unacceptable,” the board said. “We, as the newly elected board, want anyone who has experienced harm due to their involvement with this society to understand that we see you, we believe you, and we stand with you.”

The theatre reached a settlement this year in a Human Rights Tribunal case in which a Black actor alleged the company and a director discriminated against her on the basis of race after she was told there were no roles for Black women in a play.

In its statement, the board said it wanted to “create a safer, more inclusive, respectful artistic space where anyone who wishes to be part of this community can thrive, free from all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, bullying and violence.

“We believe that every artist, cultural worker, volunteer and employee should expect a work environment that encourages the creative process, provides transparent communication, and promotes mutual respect for everyone involved. The community is not currently up to these standards. This work needs our time, attention, and priority, and cannot happen without further anti-harassment and anti-racism training for the greater Langham community, and the assistance of an active general manager.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com