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280 artists back Albert Schultz’s accusers, ask Soulpepper board to acknowledge ‘harm’

Some 280 artists are throwing their support behind the actresses accusing Albert Schultz of sexual misconduct, saying they believe there are “more stories like theirs that have not been told.”

Sarah Polley, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Soulpepper Theatre founding member Ted Dykstra are among 280 people who attached their names to an open letter sent to the company Monday.

The letter, titled “Harassment at Soulpepper Theatre Company,” says the artists say they were prepared to refuse to work with the company “as a sign of solidarity” with the four women alleging harassment by Schultz, its former artistic director, as long as he had some role with the company.

Last week, Diana Bentley, Kristin Booth, Patricia Fagan and Hannah Miller took aim at Schultz with four separate civil suits, claiming unwanted sexual touching, groping and harassment over a period spanning 13 years. The statements of claim also named Soulpepper Theatre among their respondents.

None of the allegations against Schultz have been proven in court. The theatre giant resigned last Thursday, saying he planned to “vigorously defend” himself against the allegations.

SOULPEPPER

Soulpepper Theater Company artistic director Albert Schultz poses in the atrium of the theatre in Toronto in 2006. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Soulpepper, meanwhile, announced an immediate investigation into the allegations, saying it had a priority to create a workplace where “all its employees feel safe.”

On Saturday, the company announced that it had cut ties with Schultz’s wife and the company’s executive director, Leslie Lester, while cancelling a planned production of Amadeus that had been scheduled to run next week. 

With Schultz’s resignation, the artists say in the letter, refusing to work with the theatre is “not necessary at this time.”

“However, the litigation continues, and we call on the Board of Soulpepper to acknowledge the harm these women, and others, have suffered,” the letter continues, saying the artists look forward to the company announcing “concrete steps” to ensure a safe environment where harassment is not tolerated.

For its part, the executive committee of the company’s board of directors has said they had no knowledge of any allegations of Schultz engaging in harassment. Nor were any complaints made to the board, said a statement Saturday.

Shockwaves

Schultz has been a titan in Canada’s theatre scene for more than three decades. Under his leadership, Soulpepper grew into one of the most important theatre companies in the country. He has earned a long list of accolades, including a Gemini and the Order of Canada.

He’s also an executive producer of the CBC TV comedy, Kim’s Convenience, which had a successful theatrical run at Soulpepper before being adapted for television.

News of the allegations against him sent shockwaves through the arts community, with some theatregoers, including Rachel McMillan, saying the claims felt like a “betrayal” from someone who was “the face and representation of all that’s wonderful about theatre in Toronto,” given Soulpepper’s role in shining the spotlight on the city’s diversity.

Full list of signatures below

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