A Toronto theatre icon has been relieved of his duties after several women accused him of sexual harassment and abuse. The women held a news conference today:
For the past 20 years, The Soulpepper Theatre prided itself on being Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre. But according to these four actors, it came at the expense of their basic human rights.
The theatre’s co-founder, Albert Schultz was relieved of his duties Wednesday after the actors accused him of sexually harassing and abusing them for years.
And in a highly competitive industry, the women say the 54-year old Art Director weilded his power to keep them quiet.
The lawyer for the women, Tatha Swann says, “There was fear to make a complaint, if you made a complaint to him, you’d never get cast again, if you made a complaint to someone else at Soulpepper, it’ll go back to him and he would not cast you again.’
Four members of the theatre company have since resigned out of support for the actors. Schultz’s partner Leslie Lester has stepped down as an internal investigation continues.
An investigation that’s too little too late. One of the victims, Kristen Booth, said that the theatre’s response to a prior sexual harassment case propelled her to finally speak out. “My time at Soulpepper I never once saw a policy on sexual harassment, knowing the culture there, the hypocrasy of that statement was what motivated me to come forward so that it does not happen to one other young women coming up in that company”
None of the allegations has been proven in court and Schultz said in a statement that he plans to vehemently defend himself.
Some of the women say they’ve had to deal with very negative reactions via social media but that has been overwhelmingly outnumbered by the support they’re getting both online and in person.