Saskatoon

Persephone Theatre artistic director Del Surjik resigns

The long-time artistic lead of Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre has announced he will resign his post later this month.

Move comes after controversy around diversity of theatre

Del Surjik is resigning his post as artistic director of the Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon. (CBC)

The long-time artistic lead of Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre has announced he will resign his post later this month.

Del Surjik has been artistic director of the theatre since 2007. Before that, he helped found Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, as well as a host of other theatre troupes across the country.

"Fast-moving events in our society are creating an opportunity — a necessity — for Persephone Theatre to be a part of writing a new chapter, and to change with a hopefully improving world," wrote Surjik in a release. 

"It is in that interest that I have decided to step aside as Artistic Director to make way for new leadership."

Surjik wrote that he made the decision to step down last week.

The move comes amid controversy at the theatre. Last week, Persephone replaced its regular avatar on its Facebook page with a black square, meant to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some actors began publicly criticizing the theatre for its lack of diversity.

The post was eventually deleted, which caused even more anger in the community.

 

"We know that our organization has much work to do in appropriately supporting, respecting, and amplifying the voices of our Indigenous artists, Black artists, and artists of colour," wrote Surjik. 

"As the artistic leader I am responsible for these shortcomings. Now, given the urgency of this moment in our society, it's clear that the best thing I can do to help Persephone move forward is to step aside and make room."

New direction

Nikki Hipkin, director of the Persephone Theatre board, said the change is a good opportunity to look at the theatre's direction.

"There are many great things that Del has done in the community," said Hipkin said. 

"But certainly lately it's become clearer and it's become clear that we're not doing enough."

Hipkin said the theatre plans on prioritizing artists from diverse backgrounds in the future.

"We know that we have a lot of work to do in supporting and respecting and amplifying the voices of Indigenous artists and black artists and artists of colour in our community and we're committed to doing that."

Surjik's last day on the job will be June 22.

The theatre will begin its search for a new artistic director this summer.

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