It’s not the Great White Way.
A white sign-language interpreter says he was booted from “The Lion King” on Broadway because of his skin color.
Keith Wann, 53, was one of at least two people forced off the production by the non-profit Theatre Development Fund – which staffs Broadway shows with American Sign Language interpreters – after the group decided it was “no longer appropriate to have white interpreters represent black characters for ASL Broadway shows.”
Wann filed a federal discrimination lawsuit on Tuesday against the organization and the director of its accessibility programs, Lisa Carling.
Carling told him and interpreter Christina Mosleh to “back out” of the show — which celebrates its 25th anniversary on Sunday — so they could be replaced by black sign-language experts, according to the suit and emails obtained by The Post.
“To me, just seeing that discrimination, it doesn’t matter if I’m white or black,” said Wann. “This is blatant and I would just hope that other people who have also experienced this would step forward.”
Wann, a sign language interpreter and performer who has been working in New York for more than a decade, was offered the chance in March to work on one of Broadway’s most-acclaimed and longest-running shows.
But days later, he was shocked when he received an email from Carling sheepishly asking him and another interpreter to leave the show, citing “the current social climate.”
“With great embarrassment and apologies, I’m asking you both to please back out of interpreting the show for us on Sunday, April 24,” Carling wrote. “I don’t see any other way out of this. It seems like the best solution.”
Carling’s decision came at the behest of Shelly Guy, the director of ASL for “The Lion King,” and called for Carling to get rid of all non-black interpreters, according to another email obtained by The Post and cited in the suit.
“The majority of the characters in the Lion King are black actors and the content takes place in Africa,” Guy wrote Carling on April 1.
“Keith Wann, though an amazing ASL performer, is not a black person and therefore should not be representing Lion King,” she declared.
The following day, Wann was out of a job and the $1,000 it would have paid to interpret the performance.
He said he never answered Carling’s emails, or the phone calls that followed, as he ruminated on what he should do next before ultimately deciding to take his case up in Manhattan Federal Court.
“I lost sleep over it,” Wann said, adding that he has interpreted for a diverse array of performers including black actors – and even Donkey from “Shrek” – without issue.
“Wrong is wrong,” he added.
Mosleh did not respond to messages seeking comment. The Theatre Development Fund declined to comment. Carling, Guy and Disney Theatrical Productions, which produced the show, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
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