Last week, Clark Musical Theatre made the difficult decision to cut ties with Clark’s theater department after a controversial email from department head Gino DiIorio. DiIorio sent an email to Clark University theater faculty in regard to the recent Black Student Union protest. He was outraged at the student requests via email to cancel class in order to attend the BSU’s protest that morning.
DiIorio’s three grievances read that first, “it is not appropriate for anyone to assert that there is one right side of history. The tacit assumption of this email [from BSU] is that if one does not participate in tomorrow’s protest and/or cancel class, then they are on the wrong side of these issues.” His second grievance was at the request to address racial injustice in the classroom to which he writes, “NO ONE has the right to make such a request. I don’t tell anyone what to do in their classroom.” Finally, on the topic of the BSU’s demands being met, Mr. DiIorio writes, “I would only ask that everyone be sure of all the facts from both sides before concluding as to whether or not progress has been made.”
Based on the statements issued in DiIorio’s email, Clark Musical Theatre made the decision to cut ties with the theater department indefinitely. CMT’s E-Board stated on their Instagram that “due to the remarks made by Professor Gino DiIorio that were blatant acts of racism against the Black organizers at Clark… CMT has completely dissolved our ties with the theater department.” While Clark Musical Theatre produces many of their shows on their own, for about one show a year they will put on a bigger production with the help of the theater department’s provision of tech equipment and funding – something the club does not have access to on their own.
Zane Cameron, a tech crew member for “Fun Home” stated in an interview that “Clark Musical Theater’s lighting department has basically some fairy lights without the theater department’s equipment. That’s what a full departure from the department would mean.” When asked for a statement on CMT’s departure, DiIorio said “even though CMT is cutting ties, the theater program will honor both contracts and pay the full Director and Music Director fees.” However, because cutting ties with the theater department while using them to produce a large scale show would be a conflict of interest, the club was forced to cancel “Fun Home” to fully leave the department.
This is also not Gino DiIorio’s first offense. Various students involved within the theater department stated that DiIorio has a long history of making crude remarks which students have had to ignore in order to stay within his “good graces.” He has even been compared, by some students, to the racist uncle at a family holiday dinner. Zane Cameron reported that a genderqueer friend of theirs (a student under DiIorio for three years prior) was openly referred to by their deadname. It is a micro-aggression just large enough to remind his students that he pays little attention to their needs, and that they are not always in a comfortable and friendly learning environment.
Jest Spickler, the actor formerly set to play John Bechdel in “Fun Home”, stated in an interview that DiIorio “either likes you or he doesn’t.” They also stated that it is important for students to remain in his good graces due to his numerous connections within and outside of Clark University, something integral to those interested in a career in theater.
Gino DiIorio’s powerful position in the theater department makes it hard for students to oppose him and even harder for them to hold him accountable for his crude remarks. Making constant and unnerving comments such as “there is no right side to a history” riddled with racism, or openly calling a long term student their deadname do not only highlight DiIorio’s ignorance, but also his power as department head protecting him from being held accountable.
DiIorio stated in his email that he does not take a stance on the Black Student Union’s protest, however his explosive response to a request to support BSU, in a small way, shows opposition. Many faculty members at Clark not only were willing to cancel class or excuse students who attended the protest, but also explicitly expressed their sincere support for BSU’s cause in full. Gino DiIorio has taken an abundantly clear stance on the Black Student Union, one that should not be reflected in the values of Clark University.