Founder of Chicago’s Pride Films and Plays re­signs over al­le­ga­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY MIRIAM DI NUNZIO,

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.”

Reg­is­ter now. SUN­TIMES.CAREERFAIR.LIVE

David Zak

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