Gordon Edelstein, who has been the artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven for 15 years, was put on administrative leave on Monday morning effective immediately due to allegations of sexual misconduct. The announcement came after four women described to the New York Times various forms of sexual harassment they experienced from Edelstein during his long tenure at Long Wharf.
“Here is this man whom I knew for a long time, whom I trusted and who was supporting me and believing in me, supposedly,” said former Long Wharf associate artistic director Kim Rubinstein in a Monday phone interview with the News. “It’s affected so many things in my life — my relationships, my work, even my own ability to shimmer in the world. I just became small.”
Edelstein, who could not be reached for comment Monday, was the artistic director of A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle and the associate artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre, before returning to the Long Wharf Theatre in 2002.
A pattern of sexual misconduct by Edelstein toward Rubinstein began one year later, Rubinstein says. In 2003, Edelstein and Rubinstein went to a Japanese restaurant in New Haven, where Edelstein kissed her, using his tongue, she said. Rubinstein immediately told him that she did not want to have any sexual relationship with him, especially given that he was married.
The two had previously had a one-night stand in 1981, when neither was married, Rubinstein said. She alleged that she endured unwanted verbal and physical sexual assault from Edelstein for a period of two-and-a-half years in the 2000s.
In a statement sent to the News on Monday that Rubinstein wrote in November, she said Edelstein often used phrases such as “I’m going to come over after rehearsal today” and “Have you been fooling around with anyone lately” while they were working together.
The statement charted a pattern of sexual misconduct. Rubinstein said Edelstein would come to her office unannounced, push her against a wall and squeeze her breasts, as well as unzipping his pants and masturbating in front of her.
While working at Long Wharf, she said, she gained 20 pounds and started walking with a cane. In 2007, she accepted a job on the acting faculty of the University of California, San Diego. Since leaving Long Wharf, she has spent tens of thousands of dollars on physical and psychotherapy.
Annie DiMartino, the former head of the Long Wharf education department; Laura Collins-Hughes, a freelance theater critic at The New York Times; and Halley Feiffer, a playwright and actress, recounted to the Times instances in which Edelstein made crude remarks and groped them.
Laura Pappano ’84, who has chaired the theater’s board of trustees since June 2017, said in a Monday interview with the News that a Times reporter reached out to her on Friday about the allegations from Rubinstein. She said she found the accusations “unsettling” and looked into records documented by the theater concerning past reports of sexual misconduct by Edelstein.
Pappano said the various allegations reported in the past were was very different and less “salacious” than what the Times presented to her on Friday. But she said the board of trustees took those earlier allegations — which amounted to three complaints of sexual misconduct — very seriously.
After a complaint of sexual harassment in 2006, Pappano said the theater had Edelstein meet with a human-resources professional, attend counseling sessions and relocate to a different workspace. The theater also created ground rules for communication between Edelstein and Rubinstein and made a psychologist available to address future concerns.
Pappano also said that props supervisor Jackie Farrelly filed a complaint, saying that Edelstein had used the word “skanky” in a 2004 meeting, but that this issue was resolved after Edelstein issued a written apology.
Pappano added that Edelstein had also been “reprimanded” by two members of the board of trustees after an accusation that he used rude language a year ago.
Rubinstein said she felt angered and saddened at the theater’s attempts to play down or discount the accusations, especially by Pappano’s statement in the Times that Rubinstein initially encouraged Edelstein’s advances.
“I never encouraged it, ever,” she said. “I succumbed to it out of pressure and confusion … From the very first time he kissed me in that restaurant, I was saying, ‘This is a bad idea.’”
Pappano said the new allegations against Edelstein are unacceptable and justified his removal from the theater.
“We don’t just want to look good, we want to be good,” Pappano said. “There are people who have dedicated their creative spirits, their time, their energy, their talents to putting the best possible theater on stage and … one man does not make the entire theater.”
Pappano said she consulted Long Wharf Theatre’s executive committee and notified Edelstein that he would be put on administrative leave hours before the Times published the story.
The theater’s board of trustees will determine next steps in a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Pappano said, and Managing Director Joshua Borenstein DRA ’02 will lead the theater for the time being. She said she could not provide the News with Long Wharf’s documentation of the past complaints against Edelstein, as information in individuals’ personnel files is confidential.
Megan Kane, a former assistant director of production at Long Wharf, told the Times that the theater is complicit in sexual misconduct, saying she was horrified by comments Edelstein made to her about breast-reduction surgery.
“There are other administrators that know about his inappropriate behavior; there are board members,” Kane told the Times.
Pappano rejected this characterization of the Long Wharf Theatre’s climate, arguing that the theater had taken concrete steps to address complaints of sexual misconduct.
The Long Wharf Theatre was founded in 1965 and is located on Sargent Drive.
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