Author Topic: What Would You do? (Coverage of long-term abuse at a Chicago theatre Co)  (Read 2936 times)

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PSMKay

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The Chicago Reader is a free weekly newspaper, long known for its in-depth coverage of matters often neglected by bigger media outlets. This week's cover story is a lengthy account of a psychopathic, abusive actor/director at Profiles Theatre, a storefront non-equity house in the city.

I encourage you to have a read. IMHO this article should be required reading for all SMs and future SMs. What would you do if this guy was on your show? Have you ever worked with someone like this? I know we have former Profiles SMs on here - is the article accurate? (You can Dear Abby your replies if you like.)

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/profiles-theatre-theater-abuse-investigation/Content?oid=22415861

Join the #NotinOurHouse movement to create an abuse-free code of conduct for Chicago non-union theatres: http://www.notinourhouse.org/

Sign the petition to oust the offending persons from Profiles Theatre: https://www.change.org/p/the-board-of-directors-of-profiles-theatre-profiles-theatre-end-your-relationship-with-darrell-cox-and-joe-jahraus
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2016, 08:31 pm by PSMKay »

Tempest

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Wow. I'm floored. I'm very lucky to have never encountered this sort of thing in my professional life, though it may as well have been describing my marriage.
I think what is most terrifying is that, there's nothing, as the stage manager of that company, that you could do. It specifically mentioned that they hired young, inexperienced, and powerless stage managers. And even if one of them could get their heads out of the abuser-induced slow-growing fog, and manage to say something, or take any sort of action, the stage manager in question would be discredited by the rest of the company, like what happened to Benson, in the article. No change would happen, and they'd be out of a job (though that may be better for them!) The Not In Our House initiative is the absolute best thing that could have happened, here.

It's so hard when working with strong personalities and temperamental artists (meant in no disparaging way!) to find and draw that hard line between an abusive environment and "just difficult to work with." And abusers COUNT on that. They know EXACTLY how far to push things, incrementally farther, each time. They create complicity. They cloud issues.
I sincerely hope that no one here ends up in a situation like that, because it's one in which you have no power to DO anything, THERE. The cards are too far stacked against you. Believe me.

Listen to your instincts. Hold tight to your courage, sense of worth, and boundaries for acceptable behavior. Advocate for those weaker than you. Find your resources. Be willing to cut and run. Speak fearlessly about what has happened to those outside the situation. In the sort of institutionalized circumstances described, that's all you can do.
There are, of course, LOTS of potential courses of action in less extreme circumstances, and lots within our power. But the situation described in the article is literally insane.
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

PSMKay

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Update: A couple of their former interns have posted comments to the article saying it's accurate. I have had business dealings with one of the authors before and am convinced they're reputable journalists.

The petition I posted in the opener is now approaching 2500 signatures.

A second petition has been started to strip Cox of his Jeff awards, and the Jeff Committee has acknowledged it. It's currently approaching 1000 signatures. https://www.change.org/p/the-joseph-jefferson-awards-committee-joseph-jefferson-awards-committee-revoke-darrell-cox-2003-jeff-win-for-killer-joe

Living somewhere in the middle of "it's just a job" and "the show must go on" is a tough place to be. The story behind the Van Halen "no brown m&ms" urban legend is telling - a tripwire they put in their contracts to ensure their own safety on stage was processed by outsiders to be them acting like divas.

Tempest, I hope you're out of that marriage.


salbano

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I know every situation is different, so I can't say what I would do in that situation.

But for me, my number one priority for stage managing is the safety and comfort of the actors.

For me, I at least at minimal would keep updated and thorough notes of conversations with the cast members (possibly confidentially) and made sure they felt comfortable talking to me about any time they felt physical pain or discomfort - (eg; today two cast members reported unwanted roughness during tonight's performance and another reported it happening twice.)

Also, I would CC everyone regarding changes for the fight choreography. Like in my notes that I send after every performance, "Hey, the fight choreography is different than what was taught by <insert name>. I may have recorded things incorrectly, so if they could come back in and reteach everyone, including me, I would really appreciate it because I don't want anybody getting hurt."

But this entire thing seems like such a disaster.
« Last Edit: Jun 10, 2016, 02:45 am by salbano »

megf

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I have reported situations comparable to this, on my own behalf and on behalf of coworkers and fellow students. Tempest, you really hit the nail on the head: the "fog" you refer to is real, and forms over time in such a way that clawing it back can take a long, long time. Just articulating the problem can be confusing. Often, there is no obvious turning point where a person's behavior switches from "normal" to abusive.

The first response I had to this article is "that's why there are labor unions!" But abuse can (and does) happen in union houses, and while stage managers are frequently the first link in the chain of reporting, we are only sometimes involved the long-term institutional response -- if there is one.

Speaking up does not guarantee change. Sometimes, the best choice is to vote with your feet.

I applaud the Chicago community for their response to this wrenching article and the petitions. Hopefully, #NotInOurHouse will become a template for theatre communities elsewhere -- a working statement of values and commitment, that goes beyond a labor agreement.

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jman255

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I stage managed at profiles for three years, from 2011-2013. I still feel very strange about the whole situation. I declined an interview with the writer of the article back in February mainly because I knew what he was looking for and I would have had very little to add (notice the timeline basically stops at 2010). I'm very familiar with most of the stories mentioned in this article and it'svery sad that it had to all come out the way it did . As I'm sure you all assume there's far more to the stories mentioned, and I'm not really comfortable going into it. I'm very saddened by the entire situation but at the end of the day some amazing things are going to come from it.

 



Post Merge: Jun 11, 2016, 02:56 pm
And just to be clear,I'm not comfortable talking about it because my opinion and testimony is contrary towhat the article is saying mainly due to the fact that I never witnessed any of the major accusations. (I was in the14 hour rehearsal and unpaid interns). it puts me in a strange situation to have figuring viewpoints than those who are furious/disgusted. I guess it would be like someone defending the Stanford rapist...defending isn't the right word,but I hope you get what I'mtalking about .

I actually have a trip planned to go toChicago later this week to see my old crew.  I don't think it will be as intimate as I had originally planned... 



 
« Last Edit: Jun 11, 2016, 02:56 pm by jman255 »

PSMKay

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Jman yours in particular was a voice I wanted to hear in all of this.

Worth considering is the response of Harmony France, who, like you, worked at Profiles and saw none of the reported actions. She is choosing to believe the accusations. I understand the disconnect when the stories don't match your personal evidence.

What matters is gaining the skill to recognize when this sort of thing is happening, especially if it has never happened to you personally. And it sucks because theatre is supposed to be an environment where you can trust people. But even the most benign of shepherds occasionally has to kill a wolf, no matter what they're wearing.

SMAshlee

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It made me ill when I read the article and I've followed it closely since then. This summer I'm helping one of the small pilot theatres adapt the Code of Conduct. I posted about the code on the Chicago board shortly after attending the unveiling of the code and meeting the Not In Our House team. There is another meeting this week and honestly, 'excited' does not begin to describe how I feel about attending.

I don't know what I would have done in that situation as a stage manager. I would like to say I would have been all up in someone's business, but as a young stage manager, it's terrifying to think of being put in that situation, and from what it appears, have my concerns swept under the rug. The fight choreographers would have been my first call, and from there I probably would have done some severe soul searching and been fired after calling out the lead actor.

And jman, I completely understand your position since you did not witness what the article describes. I appreciate that you took a step back to consider what you could have contributed to the interview and felt it best not to participate. 

Tempest, thank you for sharing. You are absolutely right.
Listen to your instincts. Hold tight to your courage, sense of worth, and boundaries for acceptable behavior. Advocate for those weaker than you. Find your resources. Be willing to cut and run. Speak fearlessly about what has happened to those outside the situation. In the sort of institutionalized circumstances described, that's all you can do.


DeeCap

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What a nightmare. He left emotional and physical scars on so many people.

Mr. Cox responded.

http://www.playbill.com/article/chicago-actor-responds-to-harassment-allegations

PSMKay

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Here's a full summary from the author of the original article on what's happened over the weekend:
http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2016/06/13/the-statement-is-a-study-in-crisis-management-not-in-our-house-leaders-decline-to-meet-with-darrell-cox-without-an-apology

Summary:
Lots of action. NIOH refused to meet with Cox unless he actually apologizes, which he did not do in his response.
The petition is getting presented at the theatre on Thursday, although their business license expires Wednesday.
Someone impersonating actress Sarah Lasko started making comments on Facebook in support of Cox & Profiles. The real Sarah Lasko stood up and announced that it wasn't her. The fake account was deleted.
Critics from Timeout Chicago and the Tribune have posted their own analyses of their prior reviews of Profiles shows, examining how they encouraged the violence by giving high ratings to lurid production after lurid production.
Two actresses posted their own accounts of what happened - one a survivor, the other who saw nothing.
Bitter Lemons in LA fired their editor in chief after he posted an article blaming Cox's victims for not saying anything until now. BL initially deleted the article but then restored the comments section.
Playwright Penelope Skinner retracted the rights to her script, which had been the next slated work at the company.
The NIOH code of conduct is being examined by non-equity theatres across the city and country.


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SMAshlee

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The NIOH code of conduct is being examined by non-equity theatres across the city and country.

There are a few Equity theatres that are piloting the code for their non-equity actors. NIOH will list all the pilot theatres on their website in the next few weeks. I am an advocate for the code (even as an AEA member in Chicago) and look forward to what the pilot group will learn over the next year.

PSMKay

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One day before their Chicago business license was scheduled to expire, Profiles Theatre has announced that it is closing.

https://www.facebook.com/ProfilesTheatre/posts/1083950601644169

While I really don't like seeing any theatre go permanently dark, this particular event is in some ways a heartening reminder after the madness of the past week that sometimes the good guys win, even if the win is a stopgap measure.

There are definitely some points of concern. Where will Cox wind up working next? Will this bring undue censure of other theater companies that produce the same sort of works that Profiles did? Did a community of extremely dramatic people make a rush to judgment without adequate evidence? Will that house remain active in the Chicago community - a community always lacking in rehearsal and performance space - under a different name?

Michelle R. Wood

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What I find sad is that closing this theatre will be taken as a victory for gaining better protection for actors ... when in actuality, it just means this particular space (flaws and virtues aside) will no longer produce shows. It does nothing to address to assist those damaged from past work experiences, it does nothing to protect those in other houses who may be (silently) suffering, it does little to address the wider issues. It is a very slim, minor moment that could have happened in a few years anyway for a variety of reasons (theatres open and close every day).

As you pointed out, there are still far too many questions and need for conversation in this ongoing story. I sincerely hope that there are more changes in the larger theatrical world due to this expose than the closure of one specific house.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

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