Soulpepper Theatre dirrector and founder Albert Schultz has resigned and facing civil charges of sexual improprieties. In October 2017, the theatre revealed it had cut ties with longtime guest artist Laszlo Marton after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him in late 2015

Soulpepper Theatre director and founder Albert Schultz has resigned and is facing civil charges of sexual improprieties. In October 2017, the theatre revealed it had cut ties with longtime guest artist Laszlo Marton after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him in late 2015
Photo Credit: Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Sexual improprieties: improving the theatre workplace

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The entertainment industry has been rocked by allegations of a variety of sexual misconducts. While the famous producer Harvey Weinstein case in the U.S. may have been the spark, allegations have spread to Canada.

In Quebec the founder of the Just for Laughs festival, and a couple of well-known actors have been accused of improprieties. Recently, the actor, producer and founder of the Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto, Albert Schultz is facing sexual misconduct allegations and a civil lawsuit.

Bruce Pitkin is an arts administrator and former actor and director  an presently the Executive Director at Theatre Ontario, where they’re taking action to change things in the theatre world.

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Former actor, Arts administrator and director of Theatre Ontario, Bruce Pitkin © supplied

In the latest fallout of the Albert Schulz case, more than 280 artists have signed a public letter, supporting the four women who filed a civil lawsuit against Schultz.

The letter urges Soulpepper, the theatre company he co-founded, to do more to ensure a safe working environment.

In an effort to eliminate future cases of sexual improprieties,  theatre companies are holding a variety of workshops to address issues of consent

Plaintiffs, left to right, Diana Bentley, Hannah Miller, Kristin Booth and Patricia Fagan attend a press conference after filing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment from Soulpepper Theatre Company director Albert Schultz.
Plaintiffs, left to right, Diana Bentley, Hannah Miller, Kristin Booth and Patricia Fagan attend a press conference after filing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment from Soulpepper Theatre Company director Albert Schultz. © Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press

These are called “Intamacy for Stage” workshops, and there are workshops for directors  and workshops for actors.

Pitkin notes that the theatre environment is not a cut and dried environment. He says roles of actors, directors, and others are often more fluid than other types of work. He also points out that in the close-knit theatre world the lines between professional and private life can also be blurred.

Pitkin says an “Intimacy for Stage-for directors” is being planned in Toronto this weekend  and that such workshops are now being held in many countries.

  Intimacy for the Stage for Performers Workshop, November 2016.   Centre—Tonia Sina, Creator of the Intimacy For The Stage method;  to her left: Andrew Hodwitz, participant
Intimacy for the Stage for Performers Workshop, November 2016. Centre—Tonia Sina, Creator of the Intimacy For The Stage method; to her left: Andrew Hodwitz, participant ©  Claudia Araya, Theatre Ontario

He points out that these are  helping to develop knowledge and awareness of the issue of consent in a wide variety of situations and roles in the theatre.

Pitkin says, the theatre world and entertainment world more widely is already beginning to change long-standing attitudes because of this series of recent allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of authority.

He notes that in addition, through such workshops clear guidelines are resulting so that safe practices and consents agreed to- or not- in rehearsal will be replicated in further rehearsals and performances and if anything goes outside the lines, it can be stopped before problems arise.

He says safer workplaces in the theatre are already beginning to develop.

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2 comments on “Sexual improprieties: improving the theatre workplace
  1. Linda Rogers says:

    What is not being addressed in most of the stories about this subject is that sexual harassment thrives in an overall atmosphere of bullying. I have worked in the arts for more than two decades and many Boards and Artistic leaders have the attitude that their organizations are outside of the normal rules of law when it comes to the workplace. The deification of the artist/creator results in Boards supporting those individuals’ rights beyond what any reasonable person would allow in other workplaces: not just sexual harassment but bullying, temper tantrums and unreasonable 24/7 dedication from all staff. So I would say to Mr. Pitkin that it IS a cut-and-dried situation where an employer uses his/her power to blackmail, harass, and otherwise harm employees.

  2. Tangential says:

    Here’s a suggestion for a production featuring Mr. Schulz.

    An adapted version of John Osborne’s ‘The Entertainer’. This time the lead character, Archie Rice, will be suffering from ‘Middle Age Crazy’ syndrome.