The Chicago Reader has published an in-depth story about harassment in non-equity theatres, shedding light on disturbing incidents that occurred at Profiles Theatre.
The piece interviews cast and crew from earlier shows at Profiles, who speak out about varying degrees of harassment, including being seriously injured when fight choreography was ignored in the pursuit of more realistic-looking theatre.
Corey Weinberg, who was assistant stage manager on the 2010 production of Killer Joe, says actress Somer Benson was thrown around much harder than necessary by lead actor Darrell W. Cox, who also squeezed her throat so forcefully during a scene that she began to “see specks.” Benson herself says she was “attacked, essentially” onstage.
“After every performance, Weinberg had ice packs ready for Benson. She would sit outside the dressing room, still in her costume, too exhausted and overwhelmed to move or speak. Sometimes she would sob uncontrollably,” recounts the story in the Reader.
Later in the piece, another actress says the same actor touched her inappropriately during a scene, making her extremely uncomfortable. According to the Reader, more than 30 former Profiles cast and crew members attest to Cox being physically and psychologically abusive while at the theatre since the 1990's.
Many people and organizations within the Chicago theatre community have shown their solidarity and support in response to the story. Anna D. Shapiro, artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, published a Facebook post stating the company stood “with the victims of this hideous abuse and with their brave defenders.” See the post below.
The Jeff Awards also took to Facebook to announce it would address the Change.org petition to revoke Cox's Jeff Award for Killer Joe.
The Reader article re-affirms the necessity for the newly composed code of conduct drafted by Chicago actors Lori Myers and Laura T. Fisher in association with the Not in Our House collective. The initiative was launched in April in response to artists and people within the industry dealing with sexual harassment, discrimination and violence, among other issues. The code addresses some existing problems and provides an outline for how to deal with them.
Not in Our House published an open letter on its website and Facebook immediately following the Reader story, reiterating its goals to make non-Equity theatres safer. You can view it here.