This story is part of an issue about abuse, harassment, and sexism in the theatre. You can read other #TheatreToo stories here.
It all started with a post on senior editor Diep Tran’s personal Facebook account on Nov. 2, 2017, announcing that she was “working on a story about sexual harassment in theatre” for American Theatre and was seeking stories from individuals about their experiences and about “how your institution dealt with harassment.” She also noted that we weren’t sure what kind of story she would write.
This was less than a month after the Harvey Weinstein stories broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker, opening the #MeToo floodgates to long-suppressed accounts of abuse and harassment in many fields, exposing many serial predators in positions of power. At that point American Theatre had already received reports about similar misconduct in our field, but we weren’t prepared for the deluge of accounts that came our way following Tran’s post, ranging in venue from high school theatres to Broadway stages, and ranging in severity from body shaming to rape. Among the worst offenders we heard about were the Alley Theatre’s Gregory Boyd and the Long Wharf’s Gordon Edelstein, two artistic directors who reportedly used their positions to bully or assault women in their employ.
The seriousness of these and some other allegations gave us pause. But so did the fact that American Theatre, as a trade publication, had never in its three-decade history done investigative reporting of the kind that would require us to call out either individuals or institutions by name. Report controversies? Publish fiery op-eds? All over that. But we had no precedent or protocols for the kind of brave, name-naming (and legally sensitive) #MeToo coverage we were seeing unfold all around us.
In December Tran reported in detail on the depth of the problem and efforts to disrupt it, but minus incriminating names. We passed along info about some of the more egregious cases to other publications, who in some cases helped expose and bring down perpetrators.
Meanwhile we’ve been engaged in a deliberative internal conversation involving the staff and board of Theatre Communications Group, our parent organization, over our next steps. We have been the subject of public campaigns urging us to do more: from writer Monica Byrne, who has self-published allegations against an Off-Broadway literary manager, and from a Change.org petition signed by 1,577 people, demanding that we publish the names we’ve received and do further reporting.
That outside pressure, and the extraordinary courage of many survivors and allies who agreed to speak to us, helped shape our internal conversation, and eventually led to this issue on #MeToo in the theatre. In it we talk to survivors about their experiences and to theatre leaders about why abuse and sexism have flourished at their institutions (and whether they’re doing enough in response). The issue also includes the extraordinary story of Texas reporter Katy Lemieux, who toiled for more than a year on a blockbuster report about an alleged serial predator. Though not a survivor herself, Lemieux captures the dim, often stomach-churning territory occupied by those that take on the stories, and inevitably the cause, of survivors. I’ve watched as Tran has bravely shouldered similar emotional labor in the nine months since her Facebook post.
But truth will out, and storytelling can heal. As comedian Hannah Gadsby observes in her landmark show Nanette, for too long men like Weinstein have controlled our narratives, centering their experiences and marginalizing others’. That center doesn’t hold anymore, in the wider culture or in the theatre. The walls of patriarchy are beginning to crack, and what’s shaking them are the stories of women and other marginalized people—the stories that “hold our cure,” to quote Gadsby.
This issue will hardly be our last word on this subject. But you may consider it our contribution to that cure.
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