Actors' Equity Association has hired lawyer J. Bruce Maffeo to conduct its own investigation into the events leading up to the death of longtime Chicago cast member Jeff Loeffelholz, who took his own life June 29 after allegedly being harassed and bullied by members of the show’s creative team during a rehearsal.
“Our thoughts are with Jeffrey’s family and the entire cast of Chicago. Equity is monitoring the situation, and we have retained outside legal counsel to help engage with the cast and examine the facts as quickly as possible. The relevant stakeholders will be updated on the outcome when that inquiry is complete,” Actors' Equity Executive Director Mary McColl said in a statement.
Equity’s decision to independently investigate the case comes a week after Chicago’s producers announced that they had retained their own lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into the case—a move supported by the union.
AEA did not comment further on the decision to move ahead with its own investigation.
Loeffelholz’s friends and family state that he was harassed by Chicago music director Leslie Stifelman and Walter Bobbie, the revival’s Tony-winning director, during a June 22 company rehearsal in an attempt to oust him from his contract after 22 years in the Broadway production.
A 21-year veteran cast member who had been with the revival since it opened in 1996, Loeffelholz was the standby for Mary Sunshine. He was the last remaining cast member signed to their original run-of-show-contract, a standard agreement found in all Broadway production contracts meant to protect jobs for members of a show’s original cast.
His friends and family allege that his treatment during the June 22 rehearsal were attempts to intimidate him into quitting, or to begin building a case to terminate his contract through “just cause.”