The Long Wharf Theatre announced on Wednesday that it has tapped two external experts to review its internal procedures for evaluating allegations of sexual assault and to help create a safer workplace for staff members. The announcement comes in the wake of the theater’s decision to fire artistic director Gordon Edelstein last month, after The New York Times reported on allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Reports of Edelstein’s misconduct first came into the public eye on Jan. 22, when the Times quoted several former Long Wharf employees describing physical and verbal forms of sexual harassment they said Edelstein had perpetrated against them. A statement the theater released on Wednesday said that although it has sexual harassment and mandatory training policies on the books, the large number of recent allegations reveal that those rules are not enough.
“We must build a culture that makes safety, support and respect for all central to our creative work,” Laura Pappano, the chair of Long Wharf Theatre’s board of trustees, said in a statement.
To that end, the theater has appointed Margaret Mason, a partner at the New Haven-based entrepreneurial law firm LeClairRyan, to oversee an approximately 90-day review of the theater’s policies and procedures, according to the statement. In addition, Maria Trumpler GRD ’92, director of Yale’s Office of LGBTQ Resources, will lead sexual misconduct workshops and training sessions among staff members at the theater.
A former associate artistic director at the theater, Kim Rubinstein, has alleged that Edelstein harassed her over a period of two-and-a-half years, during which she reported the behavior to the theater’s director multiple times. She and Edelstein underwent mediation twice — one in-house process and one that involved external social workers.
On Wednesday, Rubinstein said the announcement represents “wonderful news” and applauded the theater for its accountability. But she said she believes the theater has not adequately acknowledged or supported the people whom Edelstein allegedly harassed and that she believes those people should be included in the decision-making process. No current member of the Long Wharf’s staff or board of trustees has reached out to Rubinstein since her allegations were made public, she said.
In the statement, Pappano said the theater has hired Mason “to make recommendations so that we can understand where the current approach fell short.” Mason has more than three decades of trial experience, according to the statement. She also serves as counsel to the Federal Grievance Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, works as an independent investigator of sexual misconduct claims at academic institutions and “has no prior affiliation with Long Wharf to help insure the objectivity of her review,” the statement said.
The theater’s managing director, Joshua Borenstein DRA ’02, said he is focussed on ensuring that the theater runs as smoothly as possible during this transitional phase. He said he hopes the new initiatives lead to systemic policy improvement and that there are changes in the “feeling” of the institution so that staff feel protected in the workplace.
“One of the most important things to come out of this workshops is for staff members to feel empowered to talk candidly about their work experiences here at Long Wharf and what kind of changes would improve them,” Borenstein said.
Trumpler said she was appointed to lead those workshops partly because substantial numbers of theater staff identify as LGBTQ and the theater was looking for someone familiar with how LGBTQ people experience sexual assault, which is often publicly presented in a heterosexual context.
She said she plans to work with theater staff members without department heads in the room. This will create an environment in which staff members are “open and honest,” she said. Ultimately, Trumpler will make recommendations for changes to theater leaders and management, according to the statement released Wednesday.
“This is an opportunity [for staff members] to express their concerns or express what’s been happening in the past, and an opportunity for culture change,” Trumpler said. “The kinds of workshops I lead are very much participatory, helping people, facilitating people into actions they can take themselves.”
The Long Wharf Theatre has premiered works by playwrights including Paula Vogel and Athol Fugard.
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