The 30 semifinalists for the Rob Guest Endowment (RGE), Australia’s $50,000 musical theatre scholarship, have rejected the organisation’s claim that the competition was cancelled because the competitors were “bullied” as part of a protest over the lack of diversity.
Last month RGE was called out for overlooking artists of colour when it announced its 2020 semifinalists, a lineup that appeared to be all white. What followed was a string of disastrous PR moves by RGE.
Last week RGE announced the cancellation of the 2020 scholarship, saying in a a statement that it was “concerned for the mental health and welfare” of this year’s finalists who have “endured significant challenges which are likely to intensify should the competition enter its second and third rounds.”
RGE also claimed some semifinalists had been “targeted”.
“We are aware that some semifinalists have been targeted and intimidated from a number of sources and as a result have experienced significant anxiety over recent weeks.
“Bullying and intimidation have no place in a competition that has only ever sought to bring joy and hope to talented young performers in the commercial musical theatre sector,” the RGE leadership committee wrote in a statement.
But in a statement through the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) the semifinalists blasted RGE’s reason for cancelling the prestigious award, calling it a “harmful antiquated narrative.”
The 30 semifinalists denied they were bullied and say they had withdrawn from the competition voluntarily “to de-centre ourselves and to amplify First Nations and POC voices”.
“We categorically refute any claim or insinuation made by the Endowment, or any others, that the competition had to be cancelled in order to protect us from bullying and/or intimidation from the EDC [MEAA’s equity diversity committee], or the POC and First Nations members of our industry,” the semifinalists said in a joint statement.