In the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and unprofessional behavior at the city’s only dedicated queer theater company, Iron Crow Theatre, the cast of the upcoming show “Corpus Christi” has suspended its production, the group announced over the weekend.
Thirteen cast members signed an open letter, which said members “had differing opinions over specific events.”
“As an ensemble, we concluded that we could not proceed without unanimous agreement among ourselves, as well as the support of our artistic colleagues outside the production, and from the larger community with which we had hoped to engage.”
They declined to address the allegations but said they value the play, which casts Jesus and the apostles as gay men in Texas, for its emphasis on “the importance of a supportive and safe community; it shows us the power of different people uniting and loving one another in spite of themselves.”
“We do not condone sexual harassment,” the statement also said. “We do not condone retaliation, and we do not cast blame without knowing the facts.”
Reached at an email address listed in the statement, the cast again declined to comment further.
On April 6, what would have been the first night of the show’s run, the cast will be performing a live reading of the script at Sokal Stage in Fells Point, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit specializing in suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
In a statement released by Jessica Lanzillotti, treasurer of Iron Crow Theatre’s board of directors, the company says “Corpus Christi” and another show, “The Laramie Project,” will be rescheduled later this summer.
The statement went on to say: “We continue to listen to, reach out and partner with local artists and community organizations committed to creating a safe and professional theatre environment, and we plan to hold a community dialogue and forum in mid-May to hear concerns and generate solutions for moving forward. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be part of the conversation.”
The allegations became public and spread in the theater community in early March after a now-former Iron Crow member, Eddie Van Osterom, shared screengrabs of an email sent to Dr. Frank Golom, president of the board of directors, alleging that artistic director and chief executive officer Sean Elias groped him, spread rumors about his sex life with other cast members and fostered a generally abusive, unprofessional environment.
“My request is simple,” Van Osterom wrote on the Facebook post with the screengrabs. “Read. Listen. Speak up. Demand change. Demand better for our community. Because the final ‘Vision’ may be awesome and award winning, but know, at the end of the day, it’s theatre, and we’re all playing parts. What part do you want to play?”
On March 24, the board released a statement saying it had conducted an investigation and still backed Elias. They announced they would be taking steps to start a conversation around “professionalism, transparency and accountability around these important issues, including expanded policies and expectations related to professional behavior in our theater environment.”
Commenters claimed the company was deleting disparaging responses from their page, and over on Instagram, as local theater page The Bad Oracle documented, Van Osterom was called a “malicious liar” who didn’t do his job by Robert Corona, Iron Crow’s director of literature and dramaturgy.
Two days later, on March 26, the board released another statement explaining why it did not offer more details about its investigation into the claims against Elias.
“[T]o ensure the integrity of the investigatory process and the security of all, we told the artists and other staff whom we interviewed that we would maintain confidentiality to the extent we could, consistent with the need to investigate and take whatever actions were deemed necessary. We fully intend to honor that commitment. Accordingly, we assure you that the investigation was thorough and impartial, but we did not and will not comment more on the specifics of the investigative process. We appreciate your understanding of the reasons for this decision.”
The board said it would look into broader policies related to harassment and professionalism, including increased training and a structure for raising issues to the board. In light of that, the group referenced a social media post on a member’s personal account, saying it did not reflect those standards, “and he is no longer a member of our leadership team.”
“We hope you will see all of these initiatives as a sincere attempt at becoming a more welcoming and successful home for queer artists and their stories than we’ve ever been, and we hope that you will join us in these efforts. The artists who work with us continue to show up to rehearse, learn, grow, share and be vulnerable with each other, and they deserve our respect and full support as we all strive to be better together.”
In the statement released today, the board was more declarative: “Our investigation was thorough and impartial, and concluded that the specific allegations of sexual harassment by a former volunteer member of our organization did not occur.”