No, you're not taking crazy pills. Take off the tin foil hats. You can come out of the basement. What you thought was true, is true. Broadway is doing everything it can to sweep incidents of sexual misconduct within its ranks, under the proverbial rug. They've been doing it for decades. By doing so, it's allowed perpetrators' careers to flourish which has only led to further abuses.
And the worst part is, we've allowed it to happen. By not holding the industry's feet to the fire, they've been able to cover these things up for decades.
Since I've started working with victims of sexual assault and harassment within the theatre industry, a couple of things have become clear to me. The first is that this is a rampant problem and has been for a while. The second is that very often the perpetrators are some of Broadway's busiest and most-renowned professionals. And the third is that Broadway has done whatever it could to protect them.
While Hollywood has been shaken up by victims of sexual misconduct, very little has been brought forward from the theatre industry. That doesn't happen by accident. While headlines of Ben Vereen and James Barbour have been shared all over social media, seldom does it come from Broadway's biggest influencers. Job security trumps speaking out every time.
While we at OnStage Blog have worked very hard to make sure victims are helped and heard, other sites such as Playbill, BroadwayWorld and Broadway.com haven't done anything except share an occasional headline or two.
I've spoken with staff at all three sites and they all have told me that a number of factors are the reasons why: It's a mix of these sites not wanting to become controversial, stir the pot, or damage important relationships that can impact their access. I understand that, but turning a blind eye and not reporting on these types of stories when they're presented to you, is just wrong.
During our work with victims of sexual misconduct, I've seen emails sent to the news desks of these sites with proof and asking for help. Some of them dating back to 2-3 years ago. And yet, nothing was ever done. With the exception of a couple of instances, the victims hardly ever received a reply. In one situation, when a site declined to follow up on one of these stories, the abuse continued. Knowing that turns my stomach.
It doesn't stop there. Major news outlets are also feeling the same pressure from the Broadway-powers-that be. I've heard many reports of an expose was scheduled to publish, which featured accusations against 6-8 Broadway professionals. However, at the last minute, the story was squashed by lawyers representing one of the accused. Lawyers, they'll get you every time. But the good news is, we're going to pick up where other outlets have stopped.
It's even happening on chat boards. I've seen and heard many instances where these topics are removed from BroadwayWorld's infamous chat boards. The popular Facebook group, All Things Broadway has made it clear that topics such as James Barbour are off-limits. As uncomfortable as the topic can be, for a chat board/group to deny the discussion of it, seems counter-productive.
My biggest fear is that these types of actions will only further suppress the courage for victims to come forward.
Well, I want to make sure that ends now. While other sites might not want to touch these topics, please know, we will. OnStage Blog has never been beholden to industry relationships/connections and we never will. If we have a great relationship with a performer or producer, if they have used their position to sexually abuse, that relationship is over.
We will not be in the business of protecting the reputations and careers of sexual predators. They've had enough help already.
It's time that the victims of sexual abuse and harassment within the theatre industry were finally heard. I'd like to think all the other theatre websites would be with me on this, but if they're not, I'm fine going at it alone.
We can and should celebrate Broadway and it's best. But by doing so, sometimes we need to address its worst.
So if you are someone who has been the victim of sexual misconduct in any theatre community or institution, please know there are plenty of resources available to you. From support centers, law enforcement to media outlets, like ours. If you want to get in touch with us, our email is email@example.com or you can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will listen.
For too long aspiring performers have been victimized by their theatre mentors, teachers and idols. This needs to stop and certain entities need to stop protecting them. Time's Up Broadway.