Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company has cut ties with Executive Director Leslie Lester following the resignation of her husband Albert Schultz. The board had asked Schultz, who served as artistic director, to step down as four women filed civil suits against him and the theatre company detailing a history of sexual assault allegations.
Lester, according to the Globe and Mail, had been on voluntary leave since January 3, when the allegations were brought to light.
While the Soulpepper board of directors maintain they were not aware of any specific accusations against Schultz, the executive committee said in a joint statement, “We understand why many artists in the Soulpepper community felt that raising concerns about the safety of the Soulpepper workplace was very difficult.”
According to the formal complaint from the plaintiffs, members of the company felt they could not feel comfortable disclosing complaints against Schultz “without the perception of bias and fear of reprisal” as they would have had to report to the accused’s partner. Lester claimed shortly following the announcement of her departure that she was not made aware of any allegations against her husband during her employment with the theatre.
In light of the allegations, the Canadian company has canceled its production of Amadeus, which Schultz was to direct; performances were slated to begin January 10. Additionally, Alan Dilworth has been named Acting Artistic Director.
Following the lawsuits, multiple artists had expressed their intentions to abstain from any involvement with Soulpepper until Schultz had been removed from his position. Now, nearly 300 artists have signed an open letter to the board, calling on the board to continue to announce “concrete steps it is taking to ensure that Soulpepper is a safe environment, where abuse and harassment cannot be tolerated, and where art can flourish.”