NEW BEDFORD — The Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford is canceling an upcoming performance by a pair of celebrity impersonators, citing the duo’s use of “blackface.”

The Edwards Twins were set to perform at the Zeiterion on May 2, but the theatre announced on its website and social media on Monday that the performance had been canceled.

“The Edwards Twins are impersonators and, although they were not impersonating artists of color on our stage, they do impersonate them at other venues,” the theatre wrote. “Our community let us know that the fact they use blackface at all is what matters.”

Brothers Anthony and Eddie Edwards make up the Las Vegas-based act, impersonating celebrities such as Elton John, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand and Cher. According to the Edwards Twins website, they also portray black artists like Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

A year ago, the Gamm Theatre in Warwick canceled a planned performance by the Edwards Twins for the same reason, even though the duo had agreed to a contract that would prevent them from using skin-darkening makeup in the performance, according to the Providence Journal.

Anthony Edwards told the Providence Journal after last year’s cancellation in Warwick that “the Edwards Twins do not do blackface,” that “blackface was making fun of African American people” and that their impersonations of black celebrities are meant to honor them.

The practice known as “blackface” involves a white performer darkening their skin with makeup in a caricature of a black person, often with spots of white around the eyes and mouth. The practice gained popularity in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. 

“Blackface perpetuates systemic racism, which contributes to the marginalization of black people, and the marginalization of anyone jeopardizes the safety of our community,” the Zeiterion said in its post. “The use of blackface by any performer regardless of their stated intent, is dehumanizing and to dehumanize any group of people does not reflect the values of the Zeiterion.”

The theatre went on to say that “booking this show has caused pain to members of our community and for that we are deeply sorry.” The Zeiterion is offering ticket holders for the May 2 Edwards Twins show the opportunity to apply those tickets to another show, a gift certificate, a tax-deductible donation, or for ticket holders to receive a refund. They can do so by contacting the box office at (508) 994-2900.

Zeiterion Theatre/Facebook
Zeiterion Theatre/Facebook
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