The Chicago comedy scene is filled with stories of men who abuse their power and use it to harass and assault their female colleagues and students. Brian Posen, the founder and creative director of Stage 773 and a former teacher at Columbia College and Second City, has figured in some of these stories and, more recently, a social media campaign instigated by a former assistant who cataloged his offensive comments and behavior under the hashtag #boycottstage773.
In hindsight, we should have known there was a problem when he put ads of himself fucking the world on CTA buses. pic.twitter.com/BOuQxKUSCz
— Improv Guru (@ImprovGuru39) November 5, 2017
Today Posen posted a message on Facebook in which he announced he’d resigned as creative director of Stage 773:
I’m reaching out to my community of friends and followers to share what is the saddest day of my career. I never thought I would see this day nor could I have imagined it. Today I am stepping down as Creative Director of Stage 773.
Recently, there have been some individuals who have stated negative things about me on social media maintaining that I was inappropriate. I want to say strongly that if I have ever unintentionally offended anyone by saying anything improper, which in turn hurt or offended anyone, I profusely apologize. That was certainly not my intent as I have enormous respect for artists. I would never intentionally use my position in an unethical or unprofessional manner. I love the arts and have dedicated my life to the arts. Over my 30 year career, I have taught, directed and mentored over 15,000 aspiring artists. To have successfully mentored thousands of individuals and now have had these allegations being made has been deeply saddening to me personally.
Any fan or student of comedy knows that comedy stretches boundaries to a point where a joke may be funny to some and not to others. I have reflected and all that I can say is that I sincerely apologize if I ever stretched those boundaries where I have made anyone feel uncomfortable.
I have led Stage 773 since its inception ten years ago. This organization is much bigger than me. Stage 773 has a seasoned team of over 50 dedicated, passionate employees; hundreds of wonderful artistic companies have performed the highest quality work in its four spaces, and multiple national fests have been launched that have brought together acclaimed artists from around the world to perform before over 15,000 people annually. The mission at Stage 773 has always been to offer a home for artists from diverse backgrounds and all types of genres to learn, grow, and perform.
I feel that due to the comments online about me being shared at this time, I am more of a distraction right now from the great and important work that is put forth by the many talented individuals that are a part of Stage 773. Therefore, I have made the decision to turn over the leadership reins to Jill Valentine, a seasoned professional, who has been with the theater since its inception. Jill is committed to insuring that Stage 773 will always be a space where all performers can thrive and create great art in a respectful and nurturing atmosphere.
I also want to thank so many of you who have reached out to offer me your support and share kind words; it is deeply appreciated.
Posen was suspended indefinitely from his position as program head of the Second City Training Center in March after a series of complaints from former students accusing him of harassment. This fall, he also stepped down as executive producer of Sketchfest, the annual comedy festival Stage 773 has put on since 2002. His sister, Laura Michaud, remains the chair of the Stage 773 board and the theater is funded, in part, by the Posen Family Foundation.