A social media firestorm of allegations of sexual harassment and emotional abuse ignited Tuesday afternoon and incinerated Dead Writers Collective, a six-year-old theater company, which announced this morning that it was closing for good.
The source of the trouble was a contract disagreement between Jim Schneider, the company’s cofounder and artistic director, and Megan DeLay, a “collective member” who’d been slated to perform in a company fund-raiser but dropped out a week and a half before rehearsals were scheduled to begin, citing another, better-paying opportunity. Schneider responded with an angry e-mail stripping DeLay of her “collective member” status.
When DeLay posted about the incident on Facebook on Monday, Schneider commented, “You really don’t want to go here Megan. I can easily smear you with many of the theatre producers and directors in this town.”
He added, “And to the rest of you if you break your contracts with theatre companies one and a half weeks before rehearsals and leave your company in the lurch don’t be surprised if it comes back to bite you. Without theatre companies you would not have a job.”
Schneider’s threats came back to bite him instead. Members of the theater community responded with messages of support for DeLay and began giving bad ratings to Dead Writers on Facebook. Then individual actors and crew members began to come forward with stories of bad behavior behind the scenes at Dead Writers and publicly announced their own resignations from the company. You can read all about it in Jason Epperson’s well-reported story in Performink.
As of this morning, both the Dead Writers website and Facebook page have gone dark. Schneider told Epperson, “In lieu of this firestorm, as the Founder of the company and AD, I have tended [sic] my resignation and we are closing down the company. I have apologized for my statement to Megan publically [sic] on Facebook. This matter should have been worked out between she and I and not in the court of public opinion. She chose to make it all public before I had any chance to respond to her.”