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Montreal theater group under fire for Subban blackface portrayal

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P.K. Subban

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Théâtre du Rideau Vert, one of the oldest French-language theaters in Canada, has come under scrutiny after hiring a white actor to portray Habs defenseman P.K. Subban in blackface for its annual year-end production.

A group of local artists have signed a letter condemning the decision. Prepared by the arts group Diversité Artistique Montréal, the letter has been signed by a variety of organizations including the Quebec Drama Federation, Centaur Theatre, Segal Center and the Black Theatre Workshop.

“I think it’s not so much about pointing fingers at any particular organization or person who is doing it. I think we’re just calling for the importance of a discussion and why the practice is outdated and really needs to stop,” said Quincy Armorer, the Black Theatre Workshop’s artistic director. “People have a choice to use this practice that is rooted in racism, or they have a choice to not use it.”

More, from CBC:

Théâtre du Rideau Vert could not be reached by CBC for comment, but the artistic director Denise Filiatrault told Montreal’s La Presse newspaper the portrayal of Subban “wasn’t blackface.”

Filiatrault said she was “shocked, outraged, and humiliated” by the reaction. The 83-year-old said she has been in the business for 60 years and was the first person to hire a black Quebecer on television.

She said didn’t want to hire a black actor to play Subban for 12 seconds in her year-end show because her theatre couldn’t afford it.

This isn’t the first time Subban’s been portrayed in blackface. In 2010, two Montreal fans were shown on camera during an RDS broadcast; last February, someone showed up at the Canada-Latvia game at the Sochi Olympics while wearing Subban’s Team Canada jersey.