I Will Not Perform at iO until Until the Following Demands Are Met

Reasons for signing

See why other supporters are signing, why this petition is important to them, and share your reason for signing (this will mean a lot to the starter of the petition).

Thanks for adding your voice.

Cam Johnson
1 year ago
The theater should be a place where bias and ignorance is not welcome. I stand with you all, thank you for your voices! #BLM

Thanks for adding your voice.

JAMAL B
1 year ago
Improv should have always been accessible for all. It’s shameful that it hasn’t.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Ken Hare
1 year ago
I took classes at iO over 25 years ago in 1994.

I had just moved from Manhattan and was testing the waters for a possible career switch.

I was one of the only Black stylist that worked at NYC's Bumble & Bumble and world-renown colorist Louis Licari in the late 80s - early 90s.

When I moved back to Chicago in Jan. 1994, I was excited at first because acting was in my dna and improv was right up my alley. At the time, there were two Blacks in a class of about roughly 20 plus white students.

There were no Asians, Hispanics, Mexicans, Indians nor Pakastani performers that I could remember. Just white performers and two Black guys.

Nevertheless, Charna and I hit it off very well and began to get close as we talked often about the beauty and glamour side of the business.

One day she invited me to her house and I cut her hair and gave her a makeover. Now anyone that knows Charna or took one of the classes knows she prefers to dress casually and wears very little makeup.

When she looked in the mirror, it took her breath away. It was as if she was seeing how glamorous she could be for the very first time: just like any Hollywood or NY-based actress. We were both truly excited about her new look.

But, her boyfriend at the time became very insecure and jealous that I had brought out a different side of her that was now getting her more attention.

Soon thereafter, she started assigning everyone to teams and I was the last person to be put on a team, which I thought was odd since I was one of the better performers.

Then, the synergy we had was lost and she began to distance herself from me with each passing week. She stopped speaking to me completely and then most of the other white students as well.

That's when it became clear to me that I was no longer welcome and I stopped attending classes. It was very disappointing, but I wasn't terribly surprised because I was a native Chicagoan and knew how segregated, prejudice and racist this city was and still is.

So I wholeheartedly support the proposed reccommendations in this petition as well as the POC that have passed through iO's doors over the decades that may have experienced racism in all its myriad forms.
And whose dreams may have been crushed like mine.

I pray that justice is served, because Charna Halpern knew or should've known what was happening to Black and brown performers because she was the one running the entire show.

Keep up the pressure and if there's anything else I can do to help bring about change, don't hesitate to contact me at 312.488.9581.

#BlackLivesShattered!

Thanks for adding your voice.

Kristof Janezic
1 year ago
We need to hold all our Chicagoland theaters accountable and make sure they reflect what the Théâtre community altogether, not just the individual.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Bianca Anderson
1 year ago
As a DiOversity Scholar at iO, I could not agree more with what this petition is asking for. As honored as I am to have been granted this scholarship, it has often felt like the program was nothing more than an after-thought.

More needs to be done to better integrate scholars/students of color into the improv microcosm.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Kathryn Thomas
1 year ago
I’m signing because the lack of diversity during my time at iO was glaring. I taught improv through After School Matter to CPS High schoolers and the work that they did in class became far more moving and interesting to me than that of a bunch of cis, white males who brought a similar POV to the audience every single night. I apologize to the comedians of color for not doing more to encourage those in power to diversify the theatre. I apologize for any time I may have said or did something on stage or in rehearsal that was racially insensitive. I never would have intended to hurt anyone, and it would have come from a place of unconscious bias and deeply ingrained racist views that I didn’t know I perpetuated. I am digging deep and facing a lot of hard truths right now, as I know many people are. iO, please follow suit.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Angie McMahon
1 year ago
I am a Chicago Alumni. To be honest I haven’t performed at IO in years and probably wouldn’t seek to even try. The community has never been even a little inclusive. I think Charna is a smart business lady. But change has never come easy. Personally I think you should retire and sell like Andrew Alexander did. Time for the next generation to build on the steps you made.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Leah Eva
1 year ago
Leah Eva

Thanks for adding your voice.

Ernest Shepard
1 year ago
I'm an iO Chicago alum. I can attest to the lack of opportunities that I had while at iO. There were some good instructors. Even one who chastised a classmate of mine for making an off-color comment during a scene we were in. If inclusion for all was fully embraced I feel that would have never happened. BIPOC are made to feel like outsiders in the classroom, during shows, and the community overall. While this isn't a reflection on everyone, the stain and discomfort is present. I stopped attending shows two years ago and I have become discouraged from returning.

Thanks for adding your voice.

Will Biby
1 year ago
I won't perform there regardless, but change is necessary!