Founder of Chicago’s Pride Films and Plays resigns over allegations
David Zak has resigned from his role as executive director of Chicago’s Pride Films and Plays amid allegations of insensitive comments and approach to diversity and gender issues.
The theater’s board of directors announced the news Friday following a social media outcry calling for Zak’s removal from the company he founded 10 years ago. Zak has been a leader in the gay theater scene for more than three decades. His work at Pride Films and Plays included the 2019 Jeff Award-nominated “A Man of No Importance.” His pioneering work in the realm of gay theater was also a hallmark of Chicago’s Bailiwick Theatre starting in the early 1980s, where he eventually served as artistic director for 27 years. He was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2013.
In a statement, the board wrote, in part: “We have heard and taken seriously concerns of individuals who were offended and hurt by comments made by PFP’s leadership. We have had in-depth discussions with the executive director, and he is stepping down. The new leadership will be responsible for all programming and continuing Pride’s work to diversify the company in every way. It is a strategic priority of the board and leadership to ensure inclusion and diversity in all we do.”
The leadership changes include the appointment of artistic director Donterrio Johnson, with JD Caudill and Robert Ollis continuing on as artistic associates.
Zak issued an apology on Friday. “I know the importance of creating a safe work environment in theater and film for all people who are so often marginalized,” Zak said. “And while I am immensely proud of the creative projects done by our many teams, there is much more work that could and should have been done for us to be truly inclusive and sensitive. As the leader of this team, I let too many people down and cannot find words to express how sorry I am.”
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