A Montreal theater company is facing criticism for using an actor in blackface to portray black Canadiens player P.K. Subban.
A skit with the Subban character was part of a December show by the French-language Theatre du Rideau Vert.
Now a local band of artists and theater groups, Diversite Artistique Montreal, has penned an open letter condemning the performance and others like it.
“I think we’re just calling for the importance of a discussion, and why the practice is outdated and really needs to stop,” Quincy Armorer, artistic director at the Black Theatre Workshop and a signer of the letter, said to CBC Radio. “People have a choice to use this practice that is rooted in racism, or they have a choice to not use it."
Theatre du Rideau Vert's 83-year-old artistic director, Denise Filiatrault, told Montreal's La Presse that the portrayal of Subban “wasn’t blackface" and that she was humiliated by the backlash. "Either people do not have a sense of humor, or I am too old," she said, adding that she didn't hire a black actor to play Subban for such a small role because the company didn't have the budget.
According to a previous report by QMI Agency, the bit featured white actor Marc St-Martin as Subban, telling another player about his immense salary.
Subban, a defenseman, signed a $72 million contract last summer.
A Canadian of Jamaican descent, Subban has been portrayed in blackface at least a few times previously. At the Sochi Olympics, a white fan wearing a Subban jersey showed up in blackface at the arena. And in 2010, two fans in blackface wearing Subban shirts attended a Canadiens game.
The Huffington Post reached out to the Canadiens for comment from Subban and the team but didn't immediately hear back.