Tatha Swann: Soulpepper allegations spur boycott talk among actors
TORONTO — When playwright Erika Reesor heard of the sexual assault and harassment allegations against Soulpepper Theatre Company founding artistic director Albert Schultz this week, the only ethical decision she could stand by was to boycott.
“It’s the only effective way that we have to show our support for women coming forward. We have to put it in action,” she said.
“As an audience member, I won’t go see any shows produced by Soulpepper, and I don’t mean just until this court thing is resolved. It is my intention to put my money where my mouth is.
“And as an artist, I won’t myself work with them and I won’t encourage other artists to work with them.”
Reesor is among the artists and patrons turning their backs on Soulpepper after four actresses filed lawsuits against Schultz and the Toronto-based theatre company.
Patricia Fagan, Hannah Miller, Kristin Booth and Diana Bentley, who all agreed to be named publicly in the suits, allege the 54-year-old Schultz exposed himself, groped them, and otherwise sexually humiliated them.
One of the women’s lawyers, Alexi Wood of St. Lawrence Barristers LLP, said in a statement that Soulpepper did nothing to protect the actresses from Schultz, who is also an accomplished stage and screen actor.
The allegations have not been proven in court and Schultz said he would defend himself “vehemently.”
On Thursday, four Soulpepper artists — Ted Dykstra, Stuart Hughes, Michelle Monteith and Rick Roberts — resigned, saying they “support and stand” with the four women.
They also said that until Schultz has no role with the company, they will not work there. Schultz is on what he called a “leave of absence” pending an investigation by Soulpepper’s board of directors.
“Soulpepper, as it is, is not a safe environment,” Miller said Thursday at a news conference.
“It’s certainly not for an actor whose desire and training leads them to be open and vulnerable and to delve into passion, and there’s a sanctity of the theatre that is being violated.”
Miller said she struggled with the prospect of Soulpepper’s reputation being damaged by her allegations, but felt compelled to speak out.
“The implication that we are ruining something is maybe the reason why it’s so hard (to speak out),” she said.
Lawyer Tatha Swann of Levitt LLP, who also represents the four women suing Schultz, said she expects “there’s going to be a huge impact on production, and I think this is something that has to happen in order to send a message.”
“What we hope to see is that (Schultz) is removed from his role and that Soulpepper does an internal cleaning, that they put in policies that have teeth and enforce them to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Swann said.