Theater communities in Chicago and across the country reacted swiftly to the publication of this week’s Reader cover story—”At Profiles Theatre, the drama—and abuse—is real“—condemning the alleged abuses at the north-side storefront theater and standing behind a group that has emerged to protect non-Equity theater professionals.
Not in Our House, the activist group working on a code of conduct for non-Equity theaters, immediately published an open letter on its website and Facebook page that reiterated its goals to make Chicago theater a safer environment:
“The statements made in the article were truly shocking and painful for us to read, and may leave many of us frightened or filled with guilt. “We agree that the acts chronicled in this article do not represent the Chicago Theatre community or its artists and represents an environment that is unsafe and we will not be satisfied until Profiles Theatre has taken decisive action to redress the behavior and actions of Darrell Cox and Joe Jahraus.”
A few hours later, NIOH posted a petition addressed to the Profiles board of directors, asking it to end its relationship with Cox and Jahraus, the theater’s coartistic directors. Since yesterday evening, more than 2,000 people have signed the petition, although it’s unclear how its aim could be realized, as Profiles has no independent board of directors.
As of Thursday morning 750 people have also signed a second petition asking the Jeff Awards committee to revoke Cox’s best actor award for the 2010 production of Killer Joe. Early Thursday, the Jeff committee posted this response on its Facebook page:
In addition, Anna D. Shapiro, artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre, posted a statement of solidarity on behalf of her company:
Victims of abuse can’t speak up when their predators take advantage of two things: the beautiful dreams inside of them and a complicit, broken system. It is clear from Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s astonishing article that Darrell Cox and his co-conspirators took advantage of both. Steppenwolf Theatre stands with the victims of this hideous abuse and with their brave defenders. #notinourhouse”
Meanwhile, PerformInk, the Chicago theater newspaper turned website that printed audition notices for Profiles back in the early 2000s, published a post on the story and its immediate impact, and added this editor’s note:
PerformInk is mentioned in the Reader article as a place where Cox posted “pay for play” classes that guaranteed auditions years ago. It is our current policy never to advertise for these types of classes. We will not permit any ads or audition posts from Profiles, nor will we cover their productions until a drastic change in management and culture is evident. We urge our colleagues to adopt the same policy.
Many Chicago actors have stepped forward to share their own accounts of alleged mistreatment at Profiles and other theaters, spawning the Twitter hashtag #ByeDarrell. Others have posted negative reviews on Profiles’s Yelp page.
Profiles itself has not responded to the story, except to delete comments from its Facebook page and block critical tweeters. On Monday, it had posted a notice on Twitter that it was looking for a part-time webmaster to update its site.
Thursday afternoon, playwright Vern Thiessen commented on the story:
Profiles did the American premiere of my APPLE as noted in this article. I was not involved in the production at all. I did however go down to see it, as it was well-reviewed. Even then, I felt what I saw on stage was somehow getting close to a uncomfortable line being crossed. Now I see that it most likely was. In my 25 years in the theatre, I’ve known several abusive, controlling, manipulative theatre artists where “anything for the truth” was just a mask for “anything I want.” The theatre has its own rape culture that needs to be vanquished. I stand by the women in this article. And I wish that, as a playwright, I had better control over how my work is exploited once the ink on the contract is dry.
Last night a group of actors covered the front of Profiles Theatre with copies of this week’s Reader.
They were still there this morning.
Profiles Theatre’s business license expires next Wednesday, June 15. At least one concerned citizen has gone on Twitter to ask James Cappleman, alderman of the 46th ward where Profiles is located, if he plans to take any action. This conversation ensued: