A publicity shot from Popcorn, the 1999 show that established Profiles's reputation as a theater that produces edgy black comedies. Credit: photo illustration: Reader staff; photo: Sun-Times Print Archive

Activists calling for a code of conduct in non-Equity theaters have declined to meet with Darrell W. Cox, the actor and artistic director accused of misconduct at Profiles Theatre, unless he apologizes for his actions.

Lori Myers, one of the organizers of Not in Our House, the activist group working on a code of conduct for non-Equity theaters, posted a statement on the group’s Facebook page Saturday morning:

NIOH has now reviewed the statement posted by Darrell Cox regarding the Reader article. The statement is a study in PR crisis management. It seeks to reframe the Reader article as if it only contains complaints by three women who were involved with Cox. This is a patent effort to minimize the many serious acts of misconduct uncovered and reported by the Reader. The request to meet with NIOH also is a transparent effort to divert attention from that misconduct. . . . NIOH is prepared to meet with Mr. Cox, but will not be used as part of his PR games. An apology is due from Mr. Cox. It is what the truth, and NIOH, requires.

On Friday night, Cox responded to the Reader‘s investigation into more than 20 years of alleged misconduct at Profiles with a Facebook post in which he dismissed the allegations and declared himself a proponent of workplace safety. At the end of the statement, he invited Myers and Laura T. Fisher, another NIOH organizer, to call Profiles to set up a meeting where “we can resolve our perceived differences and work together to fight for this cause.”

NIOH plans to go to the theater Thursday at noon to make a formal presentation of a petition that has been circulating since last Wednesday demanding that Profiles’s board of directors remove Cox and Joe Jahraus from their positions as coartistic directors. The petition has so far garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, theater professionals in Chicago and other cities continue to respond to the investigation.

A group in Seattle is interested in adopting its own version of the code of conduct, and several theater teachers have pledged to teach it in classrooms, although Fisher cautions that the code is still a work in progress.

Among the Facebook comments on Cox’s statement was a series of posts defending Cox and the theater and trolling his critics (“How many Jeff Awards do you have?”) from someone identifying herself as Sarah Lasko, an actress currently touring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz. A few hours later, Lasko posted this statement on her own account:

SO this is slightly terrifying and I need your HELP, everyone. I AM BEING FALSELY IMPERSONATED by whoever is commenting on the horrific situation at Profiles Theater company in Chicago.
Profiles Theater is currently under fire for their sexual and psychological abuse of their actors. Someone at the company decided to create a fake profile of MY NAME and HEADSHOT to defend them.
I’m shocked and horrified right now. Please go to the Profiles Theatre page and let them know how terribly wrong this is.

After complaints by Lasko and others, Facebook deleted the fake account. 

On Saturday evening, Chris Jones, chief theater critic for the Tribune, posted his own statement to Facebook, examining his previous work promoting productions at Profiles. Jones had been aware of the rumors about the theater, he wrote, but didn’t know any specifics until he read the Reader‘s story:

I found the allegations contained in the piece to be exceptionally distressing and painful.

The theater is a place of trust—actors need to trust each other to be able to make great art; audiences, critics included, must be able to trust that what they are seeing on stage is the work of professionals operating in a professional workplace. Those allegations would suggest I took too much on trust, to assume all the actors felt and/or were safe despite the lack of union representation, or some other workplace protections, in the room.

Emily Vajda and Harmony France, two actresses who had worked at Profiles, posted personal essays on their respective blogs about their own experiences at the theater. France wrote that she hadn’t experienced any abuse personally; Vajda said that she had fought her own battle with Cox. (She declined to comment for the Reader‘s investigation, but wrote in her post that she regretted not participating in the story.) Like Jones, both women reevaluated their time at the theater in light of what they learned from the investigation, and encouraged actors to stand up and protect one another.

On June 9, Colin Mitchell, editor in chief of the LA theater website Bitter Lemons, posted an essay in which he argued that the women who said they had been harmed while working at Profiles were consenting adults, and therefore needed to take some responsibility for what had happened to them. After the Hollywood Fringe, one of the website’s media partners, announced on Saturday that it was reevaluating its relationship with the blog, Bitter Lemons published its own announcement that it was removing Mitchell from his position, effective immediately. 

As of Sunday evening, Profiles had made adjustments to its website, removing all references to future productions—playwright Penelope Skinner revoked rights to her play The Village Bike on Friday—and the names of all its ensemble members and current teachers of the advanced scene study class except for Cox, his coartistic director Joe Jahraus, and playwright Neil LaBute, who “remains an unequivocal artistic influence on the ensemble.”