Chicago – The Board of Directors of Pride Films and Plays has voted to bring new leadership to the company, effective immediately. Artistic Associate Donterrio Johnson will be elevated to the position of Artistic Director, with JD Caudill and Robert Ollis continuing on as Artistic Associates. David G. Zak will step down from the position he held as Executive Director since the company’s founding in 2010. Johnson was a Jeff Nominee for Pride’s A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and also directed AMERICA’S BEST OUTCAST TOY and BUYER AND CELLAR at Pride.
Johnson said, “I am delighted to step into the role of Artistic Director of Pride Films and Plays. Of course I wish it were under better circumstances, but my team and I are ready to turn things around immediately. I believe in the endless future of PFP and I am excited to lead the charge, but we must REBRAND, RESTRUCTURE, and REIGNITE the creative spark of this company. After talking with the board, I’m confident we all at PFP are dedicated to creating a safe haven for all artists. To those who spoke up, know that I see you, that I hear you and that I stand on your shoulders. I read each of your stories. Know that your voices caused positive and necessary change, and I am so inspired by your bravery. I hope this moment resonates through the Chicago Theatre Community and we continue to evoke positive change. Chicago – “Let’s Make Art!”
The company’s Board of Directors announced the moves today and issued the following statement:
“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. This includes an emphasis on the voices and talents of people of color and a priority for our organization as we create safe, welcoming creative spaces for all engaged with PFP. We are creating a diversity plan to ensure that BIPOC voices are represented among our artistic associates, on our board, and in all parts of our organization. We task the new artistic team to add more BIPOC artists to join them in leading the company, and we begin that search now. And we on the board will mirror that search to find more BIPOC representation at that level.”
The company is also actively renovating the two theater spaces in the Pride Arts Center in response to COVID-19, improving comfort and safety for audiences and actors alike. Improvements include taking out carpeting, replacing ceiling tiles, cleaning and painting dressing rooms, equipping the bathrooms with touchless faucets and towel dispensers, adding hand sanitizers throughout the facility in the bathrooms and at the entrance of the theater.
The company programming is being completely reworked in response to the epidemic, and more details will be forthcoming.
A message from David Zak
In conjunction with today’s announcement that David Zak has stepped down as Executive Director of Pride Films and Plays, Zak has issued the following statement.
“It pains me that my actions and words have hurt many others in our Chicago theatre community and for that I apologize greatly. I would not intentionally offend, hurt, or exclude anyone in our arts community, which plays such an important role to build understanding and bridges in our community. But it has happened, and I am sorry.
“I know the importance of creating a safe work environment in theater and film for all people who are so often marginalized. 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. I know the new artistic leadership of the company – Donterrio Johnson, JD Caudill, and Robert Ollis – will be successful in creating the work environment our artists deserve.”