Bill Cosby's three shows in Canada are proceeding as scheduled, despite allegations of sexual assault swirling around the performer, which have prompted a number of dates in his current tour to be cancelled.
Managers at theatres in the three Ontario cities of Hamilton, Kitchener and London say contractual obligations make scrapping his local shows prohibitively expensive.
"The issue is that we have a legally binding contract with the promoter. This isn't a show we're promoting or producing ourselves," said Scott Warren, the general manager of Hamilton Place, where Cosby is due to perform on Jan. 9. "And, in fairness, the promoter has a legally binding contract with the artist."
"The promoter would be the one to make that decision, whether or not the show happens or doesn't," he added. "At this point, the promoter has said the show will continue."
Cosby has almost three dozen more shows scheduled on his current North American tour, which runs until next May. But as more women have come forward recently with allegations of sexual assault, some stretching back decades, which Cosby has said through his lawyers that he will not address, many fans have abandoned the 77-year-old U.S. comedian. One show scheduled for Friday, Nov. 28, at Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas was cancelled, according to the venue, "by mutual agreement." Another show scheduled for Feb. 15 at Tucson's Desert Diamond Casino was also scrapped last week. Both Netflix and NBC have suspended or killed projects with the performer.
But all three Ontario shows are still on track, even though at least one of the venues is distancing itself from Cosby.
In a blog post published Monday, Kitchener's Centre in the Square said the issue of Cosby's appearance on Jan. 7 "has become the primary question over recent days. The Centre takes very seriously the concerns raised by patrons and the local community. This is a rental show and CITS is contractually obligated to move forward with the show unless it is cancelled by the external promoter. Our response is not complacent or an attempt to pass on the blame." The post added that management "will continue to discuss options with the promoter, sharing the community concerns with them."
This week Mike Farwell, a Kitchener radio host, proposed a fundraiser on the night of Cosby's show in support of neighbouring Waterloo's Women's Crisis Services and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region. Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, is calling for a boycott of Cosby's Jan. 8 show in that city.
In Hamilton, questions have been raised about whether it is appropriate for Cosby to appear at Hamilton Place, a city-owned venue whose management was handed over last year to Global Spectrum, a privately owned firm based in Philadelphia. The city continues to subsidize the venue's operation, including $1.4-million in support this year, but it retains no control over programming. "We are simply the landlord with no operational authority," said councillor Sam Merulla, in an e-mail to The Globe. "I will allow Global Spectrum to perform their duties as outlined in the legally binding contractual agreement with the City of Hamilton."
Calls to the tour producer, Innovation Arts & Entertainment, were not returned. IAE, a boutique agency based in Chicago, has also produced tours with Garrison Keillor, Anthony Bourdain and William Shatner.
Cosby has not been charged in connection with the allegations.