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Gay Sexual Favors, Misconduct, Abuse Run Rampant in Theatre Industry

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A recent New York Times report reveals the dirty underworld of the theatre industry, which, despite all its glory, behind the curtain could be described as nothing more than a cesspool of unheralded sexual advances, personal misconduct, and malfeasance at the hands of a faction of homosexual managers, who often prey on young gay men.

After entering what would later become an abusive personal relationship with a fellow cast member in 2012, theatre actress Marin Ireland is seeking to rewrite the industry’s protocol for the handling of sexual and personal misconduct.

Ireland, a former Tony Award nominee told the New York Times that during her tenure on the 2012 production of Troilus and Cressida in London, her romantic relationship with fellow actor and show lead Scott Shepherd became strained, which ultimately led to acts of domestic violence by both parties.

The Times conducted separate interviews with the former couple, wherein Ireland admitted to slapping Shepherd on one occasion at their shared residence. Two nights later, Shepherd reportedly struck her back with enough force to put her on the floor.

When the actress arrived at rehearsal the following morning donning a black eye, she said fellow cast and crewmembers on the Wooster Group production were concerned, but the group, including Ireland, collectively decided the integrity of the show was paramount, and the events were swept under the rug.

She now regrets that decision, as she says Wooster ultimately charged her with deciding the outcome of the events, as Shepherd was a veteran actor. She also proclaims that hers is not an isolated incident and that abuse is commonplace, since there are few consequences for serial offenders in theatre.

While one cast member did raise questions as to why Shepherd was not in jail for the assault, Ireland asserts that due to a lack of proper accord between theatre companies and their talent regarding like matters, production members are left unaware of how to handle abuse and other unwanted behavior, including sexual advances.

“I continue to wonder where responsibility and accountability should be for what happened,” Ireland said. “Many actors don’t know what to do when behavior — physical, sexual, harassment, bullying — crosses a line.”

Now, Ireland is piloting a charge to press unions and other administrative officials to define the rules of conduct by creating clear-cut protocols to register and deal with grievances regarding harassment.

With no human resources departments, which are prevalent in other industries, acts of sexual impropriety and other personal misconduct simply go unreported, mainly because of the potential damage they could cause within both shows and careers.

According to the Times report, it is not uncommon for young thespians and other creative contributors to fall victim to wrongdoing at the hands of veteran performers and directors.

“When you’re young, you’re vulnerable — you’re auditioning, you need your next job,” said Julia Jordan, a writer who is assisting Ireland with the campaign.

Jordan claims a prominent director previously offered her a gig, only to retract it after she refused to have sex with him.

“And when actors prey on actors, but everyone wants to put the show first and help it succeed, what do you do?” she wondered.

Although seasoned professionals assert that a small amount of sexual playfulness is standard, as the acts often require kissing, touching, and simulated sex, a generational gap is being credited with a changing opinion of those behaviors.

According to actors from New York to Chicago, rampant issues often include the proposal of sexual favors, especially between those of gay men, who are heavily represented.

“So many gay men are in charge in theater, and there’s an attitude of, ‘We’re all guys, we all love sex, we can do anything to each other,” said Ryan Duncan, who previously appeared as an actor in a Broadway production of Shrek.

Duncan says in one instance, he was propositioned for acts of gay sex by the musical director on the production of Alter Boyz. When the actor approached the stage director with a complaint, he was subsequently met with another sexual advance.

While Hollywood has a de facto watchdog in media and entertainment news, theatre has no such safety net, and therefore, no accountability.

Ireland’s three proposed changes to industry’s protocol include informing crews of how to file complaints about harassment or other unprofessional behavior on day one of production, to designate union officials to handle complaints, and to create a confidential mediation process where victims and the accused can talk through instances of harassment, misconduct, and abuse in the presence of a mediator, without fear of consequences.

As for Ireland’s former flame, Scott Shepherd: “I wish we’d all been able to do mediation,” Shepherd told the Times. “All I want to do is take that moment back, take it out of her life and my life.”

There seems to be a consensus that the time has come to hold predatory and improper behavior accountable, as almost 500 actors, artists, and other professionals are now standing behind the campaign, including the likes of Jessica Chastain and Joanna Gleason, as well as noted playwrights Lynn Nottage and Stephen Adly Guirgis.


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