RI Theatre Tight Lipped on Sexual Harassment Investigation, Yet Artistic Director Resigns

(T. Rick Jones)

(T. Rick Jones)


Despite promises of maintaining transparency, the findings from an investigation of two claims of sexual harassment at the Colonial Theatre will not be made public.

"The Colonial Theatre has concluded its approximately one-year-long investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in the nature of a hostile work environment. As part of the investigation the Colonial Theatre board has determined to keep all of its findings confidential in order to respect the confidentiality of the individuals involved," said Nicholas Moore, the board's vice president.

At the same time, the board announced the resignation of longtime artistic director Harland D. Meltzer. Citing family responsibilities, Meltzer steps down from a position he held for 33 years.

Is Meltzer’s resignation and the results of the investigation tied together? It doesn’t look like we’ll ever find out for sure.

The Westerly theatre, known for its summer Shakespeare productions, were notified of two separate allegations of sexual harassment. While the details and identities of all parties involved hasn’t been(and won’t be) made public, it’s important to note that the allegations were made against the same person. The allegations came from two people, a former theatre employee and a person applying for a job at the theatre.

At the time, Meltzer stated the following to local news,

"I'm greatly saddened that anyone, at any point, ever felt that they have been put in an uncomfortable situation at the theater. I would say, in the 33 seasons that we've had, where we have employed three or 4,000 people over that time, that no one, at any time, had ever registered a complaint by me, or a stage manager, or a deputy, or any member of the board. So I was kind of surprised, but, you know, saddened that it happened, and hopefully we can work through it."

Last week, the board announced that it had completed its investigation. However no details about the investigation, its results or any changes the theatre will implement have been made public. It’s also not known if the accused employee is still working at the theatre.

Given that the board’s refusal to give any information and their relationship with the Westerly School district, I have a problem with the “no comment” route they’re taking. Has there been a massive systemic problem with it comes to sexual harassment at the Colonial for years? What are they going to do to protect their future performers and employees?

The Greater Lewisville Community Theatre in TX has massively mishandled their own sexual harassment issues, but at least they made their plans to improve public. The board at the Colonial would rather try to absolve themselves from the responsibility.

Community theatres have a obligation to be forthcoming to the public on these types of issues. The doors remain open due to public funds and tax funded grants, so the public deserves to know if the theatre they’re supporting is on the up and up. By making silence the practice when it comes to this investigation, the Colonial is not following through on their transparency promises.