Almost 50 members of the Toronto theatre community and its patrons gathered outside the doors of Soulpepper’s theatre on Wednesday evening for a silent protest in support of the actresses accusing former artistic director Albert Schultz of sexual misconduct.
Kat Lanteigne, an organizer of the demonstration, said the protest at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts was meant to send a message to the women involved in the civil lawsuits.
The suits allege that four women were subjected to unwanted sexual touching and harassment by Schultz while working at Soulpepper. They describe 30 separate incidents, spanning 13 years, including sexual comments and groping.
None of the claims has been proven in court.
The women “are not alone,” Lanteigne said. “There’s a lot of us out there that care and are deeply concerned for how they’re going to be treated during a very stressful and difficult litigation process,” she said. “We have their backs and we will continue to do so.”
Lanteigne also said that the protest was meant to be a statement to the board of directors at Soulpepper Theatre Company.
“We’re occupying this space as a theatre community in the sense that we’re standing by our colleagues,” she said.
‘There will be a safe environment’
The demonstration was intended to be an act of solidarity for the actresses, but Lanteigne said it was also in response to male acting colleagues who reached out to her because they didn’t know how they could take a stand for women in the theatre industry.
Jeff Meadows, a veteran theatre actor, said the protest was an opportunity to support his female counterparts and set an example for his family.
“It’s a moment to stand with my fellow female colleagues who have all been made to feel unsafe in the workplace,” he said.
“I’m a father. I have a daughter as well, and I think of her in the future and the future generations of all young women, and I want them to know there will be a safe environment.”
Close to home
Annie Newton, a second-year student studying theatre at George Brown College, said she was protesting because of the impact the sexual misconduct allegations have had on the industry for graduates.
“There’s a lot of George Brown grads that end up working at Soulpepper and I thought the fact that it was so close to home made me want to come out. It made the stuff happening in Hollywood closer to us, closer to home,” she said.
Soulpepper Theatre Company is still in the midst of an investigation into the allegations against Schultz and say they have a priority to create a workplace where “all its employees feel safe.”