Bethel Park changes stagehand policy after parent raises issue of blackened faces
Stagehands at Bethel Park's high school switched from blackened faces to black ski masks after a concerned parent contacted the district, said Vicki Flotta, spokeswoman for the Bethel Park School District.
To blend into the background and not distract from the performance, the stagehands typically dress in all black. Up until Friday, they were also using burnt cork to darken their faces, she said.
Stage crews around the country have done that for years, and the district didn't really connect it with the racist practice of white performers putting on "blackface" until a parent contacted the district, she said.
"These kids are certainly not trying to offend somebody," she said.
The parent saw the stagehands with the blackened faces during the Thursday night curtain call of "Legally Blonde."
"We don't have any kids in the play — who are in the play — who are wearing blackface," Flotta said.
Once the parent raised the issue, the district agreed the practice could be sending the wrong message and bought ski masks for the stage crew, she said.