A white sign language interpreter who sued the Broadway production of The Lion King after being fired and replaced by a black staffer has settled his lawsuit.
Keith Wann, 53, said he and another performer were taken off the show by the company that staffs ASL interpreters for the non-profit Theater Development Fund because they were white and represented black characters.
Wann filed a lawsuit two weeks ago against the group and Lisa Carling, the nonprofit’s director of accessibility programs, who said she was instructed to do away with Wann on behalf of ASL director Shelly Guy.
The interpreter has since announced that the lawsuit has been settled after backlash over the matter from the deaf community. It’s unclear who chose to settle, and whether Lion King bosses blinked first, or if Wann decided to do so after facing a wake-up call from social media moguls who claimed he was wrong.
“The matter between me and TDF has been resolved and both parties are satisfied with the discussions that followed,” Wann wrote in a social media post announcing the settlement.
“I look forward to the review of the process that will emerge from this, hopefully to benefit the interpreting profession.”
Keith Wann, 53, has settled his lawsuit against the non-profit Theater Development Fund that fired him from the Broadway musical and replaced him with a black ASL interpreter
The decision was made at the behest of the show’s ASL director, Shelly Guy (above), who ordered that white staffers interpreting black characters be replaced
The interpreter was only put to work in March after working elsewhere on Broadway for more than a decade. The gig also paid $1,000 per show
While defending his position, Wann acknowledged the controversy sparked by the lawsuit.
“This past week has seen a lot of pain in our community and also seen some much needed conversations,” Wann wrote on Facebook. “It’s a pity that assumptions were made and conclusions were drawn without all the facts.
“For those of you who know me, you know I have deep roots in the deaf community and, as my true friends and wife can attest, I have been an ally of the BIPOC community for decades,” added Wann, on pointing out that his wife is Latin.
“I have never fought for myself to take up space in a majority black production, nor have I ignored the need to strengthen BIPOC interpreters,” Wann said. “Again, I support deaf, deaf-BIPOC, and BIPOC performers and interpreters.”
The interpreter was put to work on the musical in March after a decade-long career on Broadway. The gig also paid $1,000 per show.
However, the group said it was “no longer appropriate for white interpreters to represent black characters for American Sign Language Broadway shows.”
The show’s ASL director, Shelly Guy, said the interpreter “is not a black person and therefore shouldn’t be representing Lion King.”
The Theater Development Fund did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
The case sparked an online row, with many black ASL figures agreeing that Wann should have given interpreters of color a chance at representation.
“You disgusted me,” Randy Spann, a deaf talk show host, said in response to Wann’s lawsuit. “Let black people have their chance to be in the spotlight.”
Raven Sutton, a deaf artist, put out a viral TikTok video condemning the lawsuit as well.
“This is not discrimination,” Sutton said. “Reverse racism does not exist.
“Stop taking all the jobs when we have black interpreters that are a better fit. Wipe your own white tears, because we’re not going to do that for you.’
Randy Spann, a deaf talk show host, said he was “disgusted” by Wann’s lawsuit and told him to give up his position on the show for a black interpreter
Raven Sutton, a deaf artist, also released a viral TikTok video condemning the lawsuit
The Elton John and Tim Rice musical, which has been running on Broadway since 1997, has always had a predominantly black cast on stage.
In emails obtained by the New York PostCarling told Wann and another performer to withdraw from the show so they could be replaced by black ASL interpreters.
Wann, who says he has performed for black actors before, including as Donkey in Shrek: The Musical, called it “discrimination” and said it “shouldn’t matter if I’m white or black.”
He added: “This is obvious and I just hope that other people who have also been through this would step forward.”
The Elton John and Tim Rice musical, which has been running on Broadway since 1997, has always had a predominantly black cast on stage
Wann, who says he has performed for black actors before, including as Donkey in Shrek: The Musical, called it “discrimination” and said it “shouldn’t matter if I’m white or black”
Wann is filing a lawsuit against the Theater Development Fund and Lisa Carling, the nonprofit’s director of accessibility programs
Within days of being cast, Carling emailed him and wrote, citing the “current social climate,” “It is with great embarrassment and apologies, I ask you both to please stop interpreting the show on Sunday, April 24.”
‘I see no other way out. It seems like the best solution.’
Carling said the decision was made on behalf of the show’s ASL director, Shelly Guy, who told Carling to get rid of all non-black interpreters.
In an email included with the suit, Guy writes, “The majority of the characters in the Lion King are black actors and the content is set in Africa.
“Keith Wann, while a great ASL performer, is not a black person and therefore should not be representing Lion King.”
Wann claims he was ‘sleeping’ over the decision and said ‘wrong is wrong’.
Lion King celebrates its 25th anniversary on Broadway with an invitation-only performance on Sunday night ABC7.