Arlington, VA

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.

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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Update on 6/24/20 — Schaeffer just announced his retirement.

Earlier: Shirlington-based Signature Theatre says newly-revealed sexual assault allegations against its leader “are false, misleading and without merit.”

Actor Thomas Keegan made the allegations public via social media on Sunday, after challenging Signature on a statement expressing a commitment to social justice. He says Signature co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals during a local theater awards show in 2018.

Yesterday, the theater — which in 2014 received a $5 million loan and rent abatement on its Shirlington location from Arlington County — responded with a statement (below) saying the allegations were investigated and found to be “not credible.”

Signature Theatre strives to play a positive role in our society and part of doing this is listening to our community in an open and fair manner. Living up to these values means taking all allegations of inappropriate or illegal actions seriously and then acting on those complaints according to robust and fair policies.

In May of 2018, Signature Theatre received a complaint concerning Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. The Signature Board took the complaint seriously and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a third-party inquiry and Mr. Schaeffer was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.

The third-party investigation was independent and involved numerous interviews with the complainant, Eric Schaeffer, current and former Signature staff along with attendees at the event where the incident allegedly took place. The investigator also did a comprehensive review of pertinent records including extensive email records and text messages.

The investigation concluded that the allegations were not credible. Signature’s Board of Directors unanimously accepted the investigation’s conclusions and Mr. Schaeffer was returned to his duties. The matter was then closed and no charges or actions against Signature or Mr. Schaeffer were ever filed. Recent allegations about this incident asserted on social media are false, misleading and without merit as evidenced by the independent investigation.

Keegan asserted that “at least one other actor I know was assaulted by Eric.” He also said that he told the Washington Post about what happened the day after the alleged assault; a search today found no articles on the topic.

Keegan’s full Twitter thread, with his account of what happened, is below.

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Morning Notes

County Opposes Second McD’s Drive-Thru Window — “Maybe, in the end, they can all sit down amicably over a Happy Meal. But the mood was decidedly unhappy when the Arlington County Board and representatives of McDonald’s recently tangled over redevelopment of the restaurant chain’s 60-year-old outlet in the 4800 block of Lee Highway.” [InsideNova]

Sloppy Mama’s to Reopen Today — “Sloppy Mama’s BBQ¬†owner¬†Joe Neuman¬†also isn’t in a rush to open his dining room, though he is launching takeout at his Arlington restaurant on Friday. He received a¬†Paycheck Protection Program¬†loan, which has terms that reward businesses that rehire staff.¬†Neuman closed Sloppy Mama’s on March 16, just as barbecue season beckoned.” [Washington City Paper]

Va. Trying to Ramp Up Testing — “As the state plans to reopen on Friday — though it will¬†delay¬†Northern Virginia’s reopening until after Memorial Day — the commonwealth is still not meeting Gov. Ralph Northam’s testing goal of¬†10,000 tests a day. This week, Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management signed contracts with three commercial labs in an effort to ramp up testing as the state gears up to reopen.” [DCist]

March Hotel Occupancy Rate Shows Big Drop¬†— “Arlington hotel and motel occupancy took a pummeling in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold…¬†March’s occupancy rate of 34.5 percent for Arlington resulted in a first-quarter occupancy rate of 52.3 percent.” [InsideNova]

GMA Profiles YHS Senior Photo Project — “In Arlington, Virginia, photographer Matt Mendelsohn has made it his mission to give the senior class of Yorktown High School the celebration they deserve…¬†With the growing popularity of his project, which he’s named ‘Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020,’ he’s enlisted the help from his daughter on shoots and a parent.” [Good Morning America]

Library Launches Virtual Career Services — “Arlington Public Library¬†is offering¬†virtual one-on-one appointments to job seekers¬†who¬†want¬†career help or¬†to¬†improve their¬†resume.¬†All appointments¬†are¬†free and¬†confidential. Appointments¬†are¬†available¬†Mondays¬†and Thursdays,¬†5:30-7 p.m., and Tuesdays, 9:30-11 a.m.¬†No library card is required.” [Arlington County]

Signature Helps With Inn’s Mannequins — “Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the [Inn at Little Washington] chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins… The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb. Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening.” [Washingtonian, Eater]

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Morning Notes

APS Expands Grab and Go Meal Locations — “Beginning Wed, March 25, APS will expand the number of sites that provide free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to five locations to better reach families. Meals will be set up outside the building for distribution from 11 a.m.to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday.” The new locations are Barrett, Campbell and Randolph elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Massage Therapist Charged with Assault — “At approximately 6:31 p.m. on March 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 7, the victim was receiving a massage when she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the suspect. Following an investigation by the Special Victims’ Unit, a warrant for Assault and Battery.” [Arlington County]

Rosslyn Launches Restaurant Support Program — “The¬†Rosslyn¬†BID¬†is… launching #RosslynRewards, a program to support¬†Rosslyn¬†restaurants that are still operating during these uncertain times. When you order takeout or delivery from participating¬†Rosslyn¬†restaurants and share on social media with the hashtag #RosslynRewards, the¬†BID¬†will give you a $10 reward for every $20 you spend.” [Press Release]

ART Bus Rides Now Free — “Starting Tuesday, March 24,¬†Arlington Transit bus riders will enter and exit all ART buses using the rear doors only. Customers who require the use of a wheelchair ramp can still enter the bus through the front door. ART will also be suspending fare collection on all ART buses since the farebox is located at the front door.” The ART changes mirror those implemented by Metro today. [Arlington Transit]

Signature Cancels Performances — “In response to guidance from the CDC and state and local authorities, Signature Theatre has made the decision to close its doors to the public through the beginning of June.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

APS Creates Learning at Home Guide — “We have created a Learning at Home webpage that pulls details on instruction, additional educational resources for families, activities and resources for coping with stress. If you have questions, please send them to [email protected]” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

How to Report Price Gouging in Virginia — “If you see excessive price increases for coronavirus¬†(COVID-19) necessities, report it to¬†Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.” [Facebook, Attorney General Mark Herring]

Costco Encouraging Social Distancing — Costco in Pentagon City has had lines out of the door every morning since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The line has gotten longer — and more spread out — in the interest of social distancing. [Twitter]

Airports Remain Open — Reagan National Airport remains open, reportedly with no plans to limit access. Most stores and restaurants at DCA also remain open, but with modified hours. [Twitter, Twitter]

Signature Theater Show Goes Online — “Signature Theater¬†in Arlington, Va., is looking to make its production of Dani Stoller’s ‘Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes’ available online to ticketholders.” [New York Times]

Ramen Shop Offering Free Food for Seniors — “Gaijin Ramen Shop¬†management and staff are heartbroken by elders without food because of the COVID-19 pandemic…¬†We are offering FREE delivery of fresh vegetable ramen soup to any elderly in need.” [Community Post]

Free Pizza for Kids at Troy’s Italian — “On March 20, from 12-8 p.m. we will be doing free pizza slices for kids. We are also offering contactless curbside pickup. Call us at (703) 528-2828 when you get here, and we will bring the food out, and put it into the trunk of your car for you.” [Facebook]

Vehicle Inspection Enforcement Suspended — “Governor Northam has¬†directed¬†the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

New Local Facebook Page — “Community activist and Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth has centralized tools and resources for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak. His Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, is up to 2,000 members in just one day of its existence.” [WDVM]

Nearby: Coronavirus Strikes Falls Church Senior Center — “A resident at The Kensington assisted living center in the City of Falls Church has tested positive for COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today. It is the first reported case of the coronavirus in the City.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Lessons Learned from Amazon in Seattle — A local real estate agent traveled to Seattle to learn what Arlington can expect from Amazon’s arrival. Among the things Arlington might see, as Seattle did: a “restaurant boom” with lots of new eateries opening, and big property price increases over the course of several years. [NBC 4]

County May Extend Signature’s Annex Lease — The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider renewing Signature Theatre’s lease for the county-owned building at¬†3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive through 2032. The theater uses the building “for set, costume, and prop fabrication and storage and for general office purposes in connection with Signature’s stage productions at 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Chamber Has New Logo — “Introducing the Chamber’s NEW LOGO! We updated our logo this past year to better match the mission of our organization. The new design is intended to increase the prominence of Arlington & give the logo a more modern feel.” [Twitter]

Beyer on Impeachment, Trade Deal — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the impending vote on impeaching President Donald Trump “is a sad moment for our country, and a solemn one.” Also, of the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal, Beyer said yesterday: “I will have the best interests of my constituents in mind as I evaluate the text of this agreement in days to come.” [Press Release, Press Release]

AWLA Recreates Viral Moment With Bunny — ”¬†Days after Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s duct-taped banana artwork went viral with a whopping $120,000 sale price, a cute Arlington bunny has come along to give him a run for his money. Her latest masterpiece involves a tasty carrot duct-taped to a tiled wall.” [Patch]

Hope Named Chair of Public Safety Committee — “Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has been named chairman of the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety…¬†Hope, the most senior member of the Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates, was the only one of the four-member Arlington delegation to be tapped for a committee chairmanship.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

New State Laws Take Effect Today — A number of laws intended to improve safety on Virginia’s roads and highways take effect today, July 1. [Press Release, Press Release]

Wardian Runs Around Beltway — “Michael Wardian has sat in traffic on the Capital Beltway and thought, ‘Wow; I wish I could just park my car here and take off and run home.’ This weekend, he ran the entire loop of the iconic highway. Wardian, of Arlington, Virginia, ran the 89.9 miles of the Beltway in 17 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds.” [WTOP, WUSA 9, RunWashington]

Organ Donation Info Session Today — “The Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) and an organ donor will join us to talk about organ donation and what we, as potential donors, need to know.” [Event Calendar]

Retired ACPD K9s Pass — “With great sadness, Arlington County Police announce the passing of retired K9 Charly and K9 Koda. Both K9s loyally served the Arlington community from 2007 to 2015. We kindly ask that you keep the K9s and their handlers in your thoughts.” [Twitter]

Police Help Find Lost Dog — “While on bike patrol [Friday], Detective Adams, Detective Olson and Detective Blow encountered a citizen who had lost her dog along Four Mile Run Trail. Shortly later, Detective Adams located Lucy further up and stayed with her until she could be reunited with her owner.” [Twitter]

DePoo Makes Giant Ship on Stage¬†— “When [Arlington’s] Signature Theatre artistic director¬†Eric Schaeffer¬†commissioned the world premiere musical¬†Blackbeard, he knew he wanted to push the boundaries of the Signature’s newly flexible space… Set entirely on the titular conqueror’s ship, every aspect of Paul Tate DePoo III’s set implies mystery, daring, and grandeur.” [Playbill]

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Effort Returns $68K to Arlington Residents — Staff from the Virginia Dept. of the Treasury were on hand at county government headquarters in Courthouse earlier this month to encourage those coming to pay their local taxes at the deadline to see if they have any unclaimed cash or property being held by the state. In all, the officials were able to return about $68,000 to people who stopped by. [InsideNova]

Population Growth Outstripping New Housing — A potential major worry should Amazon bring its HQ2 to the D.C. area is what it will do to the cost of housing. The region has fallen significantly short of housing production since 2010, according to a new report: “While the inner region’s population increased 7 percent, the number of housing units increased only 3 percent.” [Urban Institute]

County Defends Using Bonds for Artificial Turf — Despite suggestions otherwise, Arlington County Board members said Saturday that the county only uses bonds to fund artificial turf project when the lifespan of the bond equals or is less than the expected lifespan of the turf. [InsideNova]

Signature Partners with Yale — “[Signature Theatre] announced Monday a pioneering partnership to bolster musical-theater writing talent at the college level¬†— a fairly underdeveloped avenue for professional American theaters. With financial backing from longtime Signature supporters Ted and Mary Jo Shen… Signature will produce one graduating Yale senior’s musical-in-progress annually in a three-week workshop, beginning next summer.” [Washington Post]

Mea Culpa¬†— Yesterday, ARLnow sent a promotional email for a townhouse community with the pithy subject line, “So many reasons to move to Chantilly, VA.” While we didn’t get any complaints, this subject line does not reflect our commitment to serving the Arlington community and sending it as-is was a mistake for which we apologize.

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Morning Notes

Ballston Mall LED Screens Nixed — Developer Forest City is, for now, withdrawing a request to install two large, high-definition LED video screens above the main entrance to its still under-construction Ballston Quarter mall. The screens do not comply with Arlington zoning rules. Attorneys for Forest City say they are still hoping that the County Board will eventually amend the zoning ordinance to allow such screens. [Washington Business Journal]

Free ART Bus Rides Thursday — “Think there’s no such thing as a free ride? Not if you take the bus in Arlington, Virginia, and you’re traveling on Sept. 20. Arlington Transit is letting passengers ride free Sept. 20 as a way to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary.” [WTOP]

Tax Delinquency List — Arlington County Treasurer¬†Carla de la Pava has released her office’s annual list of residents and businesses that have not paid their taxes. The list includes nearly $200,000 in delinquent real estate taxes, $1.3 million in delinquent personal property taxes, $1 million in delinquent business license and property taxes, and more than $500,000 in delinquent meal (restaurant) taxes. [Arlington County]

Celebrating Community and Elders in Nauck — “Celebrating the lives and achievements of the community’s elders was a centerpiece of the 2018 Nauck Civic & Community Pride Day, which brought food, music and fellowship to Drew Model School on Sept. 15.¬†Four community residents who had reached, or were set to reach, the centennial mark – Elizabeth Cole, Novella Cummings, Mary Lockett and Thelma Russell – were honored by the Nauck Civic Association.” [InsideNova]

Critic Praises Shirlington’s Signature¬†— “The Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre — the Arlington troupe known for musicals — shapes up as my favorite D.C. company. I’m not saying Signature is hands-down the best theater in Washington… But Signature showcases a lot of assets, from its singular glam factor to plain old ease of use.” [Washington Post]

Late Night Storms¬†— Thunderstorms that rumbled through Arlington around midnight last night brought a period of frequent lightning and thunder that set off car alarms and awakened some residents from their sleep. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Signature Theatre’s annual open house¬†will take place in the Village at Shirlington between noon and 8:30 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 5), accompanied by a road closure.

The Arlington County Police Department will close Campbell Avenue from S. Arlington Mill Drive to S. Randolph Street from around 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the event.

Harris Teeter shoppers should plan to use the alternate entrance to the store’s parking garage while the road closure is in place, and street parking will be limited in the area.

The open house aims to introduce Signature Theatre’s 2018-19 season. Attractions include free performances, discounted tickets to upcoming shows and show merchandise at clearance prices.

Photo via Arlington County

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Signature Theatre’s annual Sizzlin’ Summer Nights cabaret series will return tomorrow (Thursday) in Shirlington with a performance from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.

Cabarets run for approximately one hour. Tickets for individual performances are $35 and all-access passes are available for $175.

The first ten cabarets are listed below. The full schedule may be found on Signature Theatre’s website, and performances run through Aug. 4.

  • July 19 (8 p.m.) —¬†The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.:¬†It Takes Two
  • July 20 (7 p.m.) —¬†Rochelle Rice:¬†American Remix
  • July 20 (9 p.m.) — Mason¬†Cabaret:¬†An Evening with Stephen Sondheim
  • July 21 (7 p.m. and 9 p.m.) —¬†Bob McDonald:¬†Best of Bob
  • July 22 (5 p.m.) — Monumental Theatre:¬†Flip Flop, A Miscast¬†Cabaret
  • July 22 (7 p.m.) —¬†Nova Y. Payton and Mark G. Meadows:¬†Hotter than July
  • July 24 (8 p.m.) —¬†Awa Sal Secka:¬†Soul Divas
  • July 25 (8 p.m.) —¬†Nova Y. Payton and Mark G. Meadows:¬†Hotter than July
  • July 26 (8 p.m.) — Erin Driscoll: Ladies’ Night

The Washington Post has noted Signature Theatre’s cabaret series for lending the stage to out-of-town performers and promoting cabaret in the D.C. area. The Signature Theatre’s productions are routinely recognized as among the region’s best — they have won 107 Helen Hayes Awards and received 411 nominations.

Photos courtesy Signature Theatre

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