Freedom of Speech Does Not Give License to Racism: 
The Call to Eliminate Hate Speech from Theater Critics

Chicago, IL, June 14, 2017 – The necessary creation of The Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition (ChiTAC) is in direct response to recent reviews from several critics of the newest production to grace the Steppenwolf stage, “Pass Over”. These reviews have brought harm to the theater community and have caused an overwhelming response from artists who are ready to act toward creating a safe, healthy, inclusive, and intersectional environment to practice art free from prejudice and damaging language.

A diverse group of artists came together on Monday night, June 13, 2017, to brainstorm a solution to combat the accustomed, irresponsible and unresponsive nature of a specific Chicago critic. After much deliberation, co-creators Ike Holter, Kevin Matthew Reyes, Tony Santiago, Sydney Charles and Sasha Smith resolved to ask the theater community to reach out to every theater in Chicago and request that they cease offering complimentary tickets to critics who routinely review theater through a sexist and racist lens.

In the past few years, the theater community has suffered reviews filled with racism and racial profiling, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, torture advocacy and justification, victim blaming and body shaming. Actors’ bodies have been critiqued, including their genitals, and racial slurs were used just this week, by a reviewer regarding a play starring African-American actors.

With the assistance of other Chicago artists committed to this cause, a petition was created via to encourage theater practitioners and theater lovers alike to uphold a standard of conduct from all Chicago critics. The original goal for ChiTAC was to acquire 500 signatures. Yet, in less than 24 hours, over 2000 signatures have been collected and more supporters are emerging to stand behind this movement and organization.

“We need to protect the people we put in harm’s way. Sign the petition. Reach out to the theaters you frequent or are members of,” remarked Ike Holter, co-creator of the Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition. “The goal is not to ban anyone, but to simply have theaters not hand out free tickets to someone with a history of prejudice in their reviews. If we can't resist this, in our city, then we should stop pretending our safety pins work. This? This is theater. And it's small, and it's important, and we can fix it.”

The Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition is committed to defending the Chicago artistic community against discrimination, prejudice, sexism and racism.

Direct link to petition can be found here.


Sasha Smith
Chicago Theater Accountability Coalition