Signature Theatre’s long-time leader is stepping down following allegations of sexual harassment.
The Shirlington-based theater said in a statement today that co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is retiring at the end of the month. No mention was made of the allegations.
Over the weekend, actor Thomas Keegan resurfaced his assertion that Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a local 2018 award show. Signature said in a subsequent statement that the allegations were investigated and found to be “without merit.”
Keegan, however, said he was personally aware of at least one other person sexually assaulted by Schaeffer. Yesterday he posted screenshots of other accusers who reached out to him.
TW: Sexual abuse/harrassment
I didn't know any of these men before they messaged me with stories of the abuse they received at the hands of @sigtheatre Artistic Director #EricSchaeffer. @AmericanTheatre pic.twitter.com/uG9gipiBvC
— Thomas Keegan (@TheThomasKeegan) June 23, 2020
In a statement posted online at 2 p.m. today, Keegan said Schaeffer should have stepped down years ago.
Eric Schaeffer’s resignation is more than a decade overdue. As the #blacklivesmatter movement is proving, abuse of power is systemic, insidious, corrosive, and institutional. I believe that silence is complicity. The entire hierarchy of Signature Theatre, to include the board and people I once called friends and colleagues, has aided and abetted a sacrilegious abuse of power, criminal activity, and depraved behavior, in a theatre that good, hardworking artists call home. They have betrayed their patrons, their employees, and the artistic community. They should be removed and replaced by the next generation of theatre makers, honestly and transparently committed to creating safe spaces and pursuing our most pressing matter: racial justice and equity.
Signature, which is reported to be in good financial shape despite the pandemic and its money troubles six years ago, says it will now embark on a search for a new Artistic Director, with a focus on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates.
The full announcement from Schaeffer and Signature Theatre is below.
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Arlington Holds #MeToo Event — “On Wednesday, several Arlington County groups and Arlington’s ‘Project PEACE,’ held an event named ‘#MeToo: Being Men – Raising Men’ at the Arlington County Central Library. Lisa Tingle, the senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County and Falls Church, said it is important to teach men about sexual harassment at an early age.” [WUSA 9]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) County officials are hosting an event this week about the #MeToo movement and how men and boys can stop sexual harassment.
The event is called “#MeToo: Being Men-Raising Men” and aims to create a “community discussion about masculinity and the role of men in addressing sexual assault and harassment in our community,” per a county press release. It comes at a time when officials say they’ve seen increases in requests for “sexual assault services across Arlington County… from police to advocacy and hotline to medical services.”
The event is the latest response from officials following a 2017 survey indicating as many as half the APS female students in grades 8, 10, and 12 have been sexually harassed at school.
The discussion will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Arlington Central Library Auditorium.
Officials from APS, ACPD and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office will speak at the event.
Also attending are representatives from groups dedicated to combatting sexual violence based in the county’s Department of Human Services, INOVA Loudon Hospital, and abuse hotline Doorways for Women and Families.
The event is a sequel to last year’s discussion, which was entitled #MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know.
Arlington County is planning several other events this month in honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Upcoming events include a poetry night at Metro Stage on Tuesday, April 16, and a rally at Gateway Park, near Rosslyn Metro, on Thursday, April 25.
The event, scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s Patriot Hall, will kick off Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Arlington.
Entitled “#MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know,” the event will feature nationally recognized scholar and activist Jackson Katz as the keynote speaker. Katz is also the co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), an organization that has been running gender violence, sexual harassment and bullying prevention programs for more than 20 years.
Almost 50 percent of Arlington Public School female students in grades 8, 10 and 12 report that they have been sexually harassed while at school, according to the Arlington 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Other community leaders will also be in attendance, including Arlington Chief of Police Jay Farr, County Board Chair Katie Crisol and Theo Stamos, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. Middle and high school students as well as adults are encouraged to attend.
Arlington’s Project PEACE is hosting the event in partnership with INOVA Fairfax Hospital and Arlington Public Schools. Project PEACE, which stands for Partnering to End Abuse in the Community for Everyone, is a community educational initiative to end domestic and sexual violence in the county.
Photo via APS
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Isabella Sued for Sexual Harassment — “Celebrity chef Mike Isabella, the head of a $30 million culinary empire based in the nation’s capital, was sued Monday by a former top manager who claims that Isabella and his partners repeatedly sexually harassed her in the workplace… [The plaintiff] told The Post she joined Isabella’s company as a regional manager in 2015, helping to open his three Arlington, Va., properties.” [Washington Post]
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Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
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Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.
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Flickr photo by John Sonderman
That’s the response ARLnow.com received to a Freedom of Information Act request, filed in the wake of a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood, politics and the news business.
The recent #MeToo awakening started with explosive allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and has since spread, with dozens of prominent men from Kevin Spacey to Matt Lauer to Rep. John Conyers Jr. facing accusations that have led to firings and resignations.
One common thread: often the men accused of serious wrongdoing — from rape to harassment — were in positions of authority, which they used against their victims.
ARLnow wanted to see if anyone in a position of high authority within Arlington County government has been accused of sexual harassment or assault since 2000. At first we asked a county spokeswoman, who then directed us to file a Freedom of Information Act request.
Here’s the response we received to our FOIA filing:
This letter is in response to your Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for details of any allegations, known to Arlington County’s Human Resources Department, of sexual assault or sexual harassment against Arlington County elected officials or senior staff members (director level or above) since 2000.
Please note, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 2.2-3704(B)(3) the requested records could not be found or do not exist.
Thank you for contacting this office.
Arlington County FOIA Officer
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Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
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Flickr pool photo by Drew H.