The Long Wharf Theatre’s board of trustees voted to terminate Gordon Edelstein, the theater’s artistic director, effective immediately on Tuesday evening in light of allegations of sexual assault.
In Tuesday night statement, Long Wharf Theatre’s board chair Laura Pappano said the theater’s management is committed to ensuring a fair, open and supportive workplace. She said the board voted to consolidate artistic and administrative leadership under Joshua Borenstein DRA ’02, the theater’s managing director. In addition, she said, a third party will conduct an independent review of staff and board procedures and policies surrounding reporting instances of sexual misconduct, per a vote by the board.
“This is a time that demands sober self-reflection and openness. We must do more to create the kind of working environment that our talented and committed staff deserve,” the statement read. “Long Wharf Theatre has long been a place where great things started. We need to make that true on stage — and off.”
The assault allegations first came into the public eye when the theater’s former associate artistic director, Kim Rubinstein, alleged in a New York Times story on Monday that Edelstein sexually harassed her in multiple ways over a period of two-and-a-half years. The Times also included allegations against Edelstein from several other women with whom Edelstein worked over the years.
Rubinstein told the News earlier this week that Edelstein repeatedly groped her, masturbated in front of her in her office and made sexually explicit remarks. According to the Times, he also made crude remarks and groped other female members of the theater’s staff, including Laura Collins-Hughes, a freelance theater critic at the Times, and Halley Feiffer, a playwright and actress.
Pappano said she heard about the allegations of sexual misconduct last Friday when a Times reporter reached out to her, and the board placed Edelstein on administrative leave effective immediately on Monday.
After Rubinstein came forward with her accusations, several other incidents involving Edelstein came to light. Former Long Wharf education director Annie DiMartino said that at a company holiday party in 2010, Edelstein grabbed her hand and placed it on his crotch.
“At first, I was shocked, then incredibly embarrassed,” DiMartino said in an email to the News.
She then made an excuse and stood up, and after leaving the party she told the theater’s director of marketing and communication, Steve Scarpa, whom she was dating at the time, about the incident. DiMartino said she “wanted to forget it happened,” and neither she nor Scarpa brought up the incident again.
Rubinstein twice reported Edelstein’s behavior to the theater, which required him to participate in in-house mediation and then mediation with a pair of social workers. Although Edelstein’s harassment of Rubinstein then came to an end, Rubinstein said, his behavior made other colleagues consistently uncomfortable.
“[Edelstein] could be crass in his language and was most misogynistic while making an attempt at humor,” DiMartino said.
In the Times article, former Long Wharf assistant director of production Meghan Kane accused the theater of being “complicit” in Edelstein’s behavior.
“I believe there were years with specific managing directors in the lead that were more strict on the subject [of sexual misconduct] than others,” DiMartino said. “However, as time created distance from what happened between Kim and Gordon, I believe the theatre became relaxed in its no-tolerance policy.”
Rubinstein told the News she experienced a sense of “release” after hearing about Edelstein’s termination. In the future, she said, the theater should have a clearer protocol for dealing with cases of sexual misconduct and victims should have a greater say in consequences for the offenders.
The Long Wharf Theatre has won a Tony Award for Best Regional Theatre.
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