A local performing arts institution has found itself a hot topic among right-wing media outlets and personalities nationwide, following a recent decision to scrap one of its productions.
On Monday, March 22, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters (CDT) announced its decision to cancel an upcoming production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with a press release saying the move was part of "our ongoing commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" (DEI).
In a widely quoted interview, CDT Artistic Director Michael Brindisi told the Pioneer Press that "the cast did not align with (the theater's) work toward equity and inclusivity," adding, “it was 98% white. That doesn’t work with what we’re saying we’re going to do.”
This latter comment in particular has become a focal point for conservative media outlets, a number of which have misquoted it in their headlines. These include FOX News and New York Post, both of whom use the headline "Minnesota theater cancels its own Cinderella production because cast was ‘too white’" — misrepresenting Brindisi's actual quote.
Daily Wire, Daily Caller, Washington Examiner and the UK's Daily Mail have also picked up the story, while prominent right-wing figures, such as Ben Shapiro and Liz Wheeler, weighing in on the situation.
The theater's decision comes about two months after it issued a "DEI/Anti-Racism Statement," in which it committed to "having not only our stages but our entire organization be a reflection of the beautiful and rich diversity in our society."
The plan outlined at the time was to create a staff DEI committee, "town-hall style listening sessions" and full staff training, among other initiatives.
In its Monday announcement, CDT said it would be "establishing new pre-production protocols," which would include "inviting (and paying) BIPOC artists to analyze the production with our creative teams through a new DEI lens – looking to expand the voices that are at the table and impacting the storytelling."
In response to public reactions, the theater issued the following update the next day:
Just to be clear, we believe unapologetically in the changes we are making, and we believe that all of our kind-hearted guests will follow us on this journey.
We did not cancel Cinderella because of content. We are looking forward to bringing it to our stage in the future. But we as a company decided our original casting didn’t go far enough in our commitment, and instead of waiting another full year to implement these important changes, we chose now.
CDT says it's going to be producing an adaptation of "Footloose" next, as the show "was hugely successful for us when it ran 11 years ago, and we are excited to explore it again in a new context."