Last week, BroadwayRadio critic, Peter Filichia body-shamed performers in his review of Camp Morning Wood on his weekly podcast segment. His comments included repeatedly calling a performer “substantially overweight” and mocking the genitalia of performers who appeared nude in the show. BroadwayRadio deleted the clip from their show(which they should have done before initially posting it), but they can be heard here.
Obviously, there was swift backlash with many calling out Filichia for his comments. Both BroadwayRadio and Filichia tried to apologize, but their half-assed apologies were also called out. At no point did either party truly address the severity of their actions or show any accountability. In fact, BroadwayRadio is back to business as usual with Filichia doing his reviews. It would seem that founder James Marino and Peter Filichia want to move on from this as quickly as possible and get back to their non-relevance as a theatre commentary outlet.
But something I found equally surprising and disappointing was not how much support Filichia was receiving, but from where the support was coming from. Many who posted positively on his Facebook page and negatively on ours were those who held power positions within the professional theatre ranks. These folks, 99% of which were men, did everything from voice support for Filichia to blaming the performers of the show, stating they should have had thicker skin when their manhood was mocked.
One particular person stood out to me. Evans Haile dropped these comments on Filichia’s Facebook page and ours.
Now let the record show, I honestly don’t care about what Haile says about me. I'm not egotistical by saying I’m one of the more polarizing theatre bloggers today and that there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not proverbially burned in effigy online. However, I do have a couple of issues with his statements. The first being that the articles regarding Filichia are based on fact. Did he body shame performers in an unprecedented disgusting way? Yes. Does Peter Filichia have a history with such comments? Yes. I’m not making any of this up to create a narrative on the man.
My second issue is that Evans Haile is the Executive Director at the York Theatre Company in New York City. Even though this critic body-shamed performers in a show at a fellow theatre in the same city, Haile dismisses that to praise Filichia continuously.
So my question is, what if Filichia had body-shamed cast members of York Theatre Company productions? What if he commented on the appearance of performers in Enter Laughing or Desperate Measures? What if he made inappropriate comments about the cast of Lonesome Blues or Unexpected Joy? Would he still refer to Filichia as a “gentleman,” “scholar,” or “respected writer”?
Depending on how Haile would answer that, he’s either the worst executive director in New York or he’s a hypocrite.
Either way, if this the mindset of leadership at York Theatre Company, we won’t be reviewing/promoting their productions any time soon.
But what Haile’s unyielding support of Filichia demonstrates is the fact that no matter how bad one of them behaves, the theatrical fraternity will protect and support them. James Marino stated on the podcast that the reason he didn’t edit Filichia’s initial comments out of the show was that “no one edits Peter Filichia.” The “reverence” Marino holds for Filichia trumps whatever vile comments are included in his reviews. Filichia has been the host and head of the selection committee for the Theatre World Awards, even though he has a long history of out-of-bounds commentary.
We’ve seen this many times before, whether it was with James Barbour, Amar Ramasar, Ben Vereen or a host of other male theatre professionals who are protected, supported and welcomed back with open arms by this brotherhood of man. Each time, it tells the rest of us, “your issues/abuse/marginalization” doesn’t matter.
The result of this continued narrative? This type of shit keeps happening. More people will be abused. More people will suffer from unethical treatment. And more people will be afraid to report it out of fear of non-action and retribution.
Is there a silver lining? Somewhat. What I’ve noticed is that younger generations seem to understand that this type of behavior is unacceptable. But while the old guard still hold position of power with old ways of thinking, I doubt anything will change soon.