Keith Wann – an interpreter known for capitalizing on his social identity as a Coda – announced a lawsuit against the Theatre Development Fund, a nonprofit organization with a long history of providing accessibility services for Broadway theatre productions. In his lawsuit, Wann forgot about the value of social identity altogether, and claimed discrimination based on his skin color when he was replaced on an interpreting team for The Lion King with an African American interpreter.
Less than ten days after the announcement, Wann posted a a video referencing BIPOC people in his life – including his wife. In the video he fails to acknowledge his failures and the disastrous impact he has had on Deaf people, Black people, interpreters, and theatre inclusion efforts. He instead attempted to reframe the discussion with a focus on “all interpreters”.
This page brings together a collection of some of the online posts related to Wann’s lawsuit, along with responses from Deaf people and interpreters. This page is not meant to represent Keith Wann’s perspective. Background information is provided below for context – but, this is not a ‘both sides’ page.
See this related research by Danny McDougall, PhD of space production during an interpreted performance of The Lion King.
Isidore (NBDA): Recently, there have been situations where some interpreters have taken jobs that should have been offered to Black, Brown, Indigenous and Persons of Color (BIPOC) interpreters, Deaf interpreters, and Deaf persons. Such acts are cultural appropriation, and they disempower BIPOC and Deaf interpreters and consumers. This must stop. Even though there is a huge demand for interpreting services, the work is not shared equitably especially where the work requires cultural representation and expertise. NBDA joins with NAD and RID to empower BIPOC and Deaf Interpreters, and all consumers of the interpreting services.
Jenny (NAD): The skills and experience of BIPOC interpreters and Deaf interpreters must be respected and used everywhere, especially where they are the best cultural fit. For each job, interpreting agencies, hiring entities, and interpreters must consider how the interpreted experience will impact diverse, intersectional, Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and hard of hearing consumers. NAD joins with NBDA and RID to transform the system for more equitable interpreter selection.
Ritchie (RID): Pursuant to the Code of Professional Conduct, interpreters are expected to engage in self-introspection, self-critique, and ongoing dialogue and partnership with marginalized and oppressed communities. This helps to ensure authentic representation, which creates an unparalleled dynamic language and cultural equivalency interpretation experience. RID joins NBDA and NAD in declaring that Black, Brown, Indigenous, Persons of Color and Deaf interpreters must be prioritized when considering and accepting assignments.
This is not an exhaustive collection of coverage. Additions are likely. This post is not meant to be neutral.
To amplify his message, Wann relied on TV and print media that caters to racism and conspiracy theories. (The Daily Moth is a notable exception.) After broad criticism of his actions, he posted a non–apology video titled, I Support.
Danny McDougall, PhD, CSC — “Dr. Danny” — owns and manages TerpTheatre. Since 1986, he has interpreted in hundreds of plays, musicals and other performances on stage – most in the shadowed style. He teaches and lectures on the theory and practice of theatre interpreting. Danny is the chair of Sign Language Studies at Madonna University, and holds a PhD in Translation and Interpretation from Heriot-Watt University – where his dissertation explored the relationship between space and meaning during interpreted theatre performances.