King Street Theatre manager calls ACAR Revue's Acknowledgement of Country a PC "scripted message"
A text message has surfaced showing the cast and crew of The Autonomous Collective Against Racism Revue being accused of “conform[ing to]... political correct[ness]” by King Street Theatre’s manager after the directors attempted to read an Acknowledgment of Country before each show.
The message sent to producer Adam Ursino accused the team of breaking a number of the theatre’s regulations during the production, calling them “disgusting” and “not fit to be part of a humanitarian, civilized and conscious society” before criticising them for reading the traditional statement.
ACAR Revue performed their second annual show, titled The Presidential Race, at the small Newtown theatre last weekend to highly favourable reviews, selling out on 2nd and 3rd nights. The comedy show, centred around satirising White culture and performing skits about the experiences of People of Colour, was produced and performed autonomously by PoC-identifying students at The University of Sydney.
The text message, sent by theatre manager Markus Weber to ACAR Revue’s producer Adam Ursino on the revue’s closing night during the intermission, labels the cast and crew “hooligans, neglecting all common sense”. In the message Weber, who had repeatedly interrupted the show’s directors from giving an Acknowledgement of Country on its opening night, calls the statement a “scripted message” that the directors read out of a need to be “political [sic] correct.” The Austrian-born manager suggests that they instead “speak from the heart”.
Weber advised the cast and crew to give “respect for all people not just [themselves]” as “no matter what race or up ringing [sic]… [they] just ha [sic] to grow up to be part of a united, peaceful world.”
The text begins with Weber accusing the production of “breaching all rules and regulations possible”, listing violations including overselling tickets, “tak[ing] hostage” of the box office, “vandalising” and “demolishing” property.
The production team have disputed these complaints, suggesting that they are extremely exaggerated. In a statement to Pulp, producer Adam Ursino wrote:
“We reject the accusations that we vandalised and demolished property, and members of the production team have photographic evidence to this effect. Admittedly there were miscommunications with respect to ticketing, but we apologised and tried to resolve the issues.”
In a Facebook status revealing Weber’s text, the show’s director Radha Wahyuwidayat claims the theatre’s manager ignored all requests which she made politely and professionally of him during the production.
“He seemed unable to take me (a young woman of colour) seriously as an authority figure who could be equal to him in a working capacity,” Wahyuwidayat writes. “I remember wondering whether he would behave so dismissively towards a young white man directing his own production. Nevertheless, I ignored the way he treated me; chalking it up to personality differences.”
Ursino commented on Wahyuwidayat’s post, revealing he too, faced discrimination from Weber. “The first thing he said to me when I introduced myself was ‘oh, you're Adam? Where did you go? You're looking very tanned, have you been on holidays recently?’”
Since Weber’s text have surfaced, there has been an outpouring of support for ACAR Revue’s cast and crew and anger directed at King Street Theatre, with 23 1-star reviews given to the theatre relating to the incident.
To one negative review written by the SRC’s Wom*n of Colour Office Bearer Vanessa Song, the theatre comments that she should “know the facts” before “vilify[ing the theatre] publicly”, to which Song replies with a reference to the theatre’s damning response to the Acknowledgement of Country. “The behavior of theatre management in regards to the Acknowledgement of Country was reprehensible,” Song wrote in the comment that received 18 ‘likes’.
When Pulp asked Weber to respond to allegations that he was racist for not respecting the Acknowledgment of Country, he defended himself saying that in fact he was doing more for the Indigenous community as he was currently “writing a musical for children about Aboriginal people”, not just “reading a scripted statement”. “I am standing up for every single Indigenous person worldwide,” Weber claimed.
Weber explained that had he known what statement the Directors intended to read out, he “would have sat down with them and said ‘this is a theatre’ - can you make it a bit more theatrical, more unitary and not just read it off a script? Just give the audience feelings that you are really passionate about.”
“When a statement becomes rhetoric, then it’s not a statement anymore - it’s just political correctness, nothing else”
When asked if he would apologise, he refused, saying “how can I apologise to someone who doesn’t know respect?”
On King Street Theatre’s Facebook page, a post calling for actors from “ethnical backgrounds” for a show titled “Talking to Terrorists” shows Markus Weber to be its director.
ACAR is currently seeking advice from the USU Board of Directors regarding formal actions to be taken against King Street Theatre.