July 13, 2016
Dear Actors' Equity Association:
In 2012, after twenty-four years as a non-union theatre, Profiles Theatre became a CAT Tier N Equity House.
We understand that Actors' Equity Association in Chicago had knowledge of reported grievances against Profiles Theatre from Equity Actors from the spring of 2011 continuing through the spring of 2016. These grievances included but were not limited to the following alleged violations: payment issues, hours worked, nudity clause riders, inappropriate conduct, and intimidation.
On April 14, 2015 Lori Myers of Not In Our House set up a meeting with the following individuals at the Chicago Actors' Equity Building, on 557 West Randolph Street:
Sean Taylor, Assistant Executive Director and Central Regional Director
Dev Kennedy, Central Regional Board Chair
Brittany Steiger, Profiles Theatre’s assigned Business Representative
Christian Hainds, Senior Business Representative
Equity’s New York attorney (male) video-conferenced-in
Allie, Kim, and Somer Benson: Non-Equity members.
A female, AEA member.
Lori Myers mediated concerns and referenced the Equity bylaws in question. Allie, Somer, and a female AEA member disclosed their experiences working with Profiles Theatre, and the alleged perpetrator Darrell W. Cox.
Somer Benson read aloud a lengthy written statement from Killer Joe stage manager Maryellen Rieck (as she was in Poland). Additionally, written statements were submitted by multiple AEA members, and Jeremy Hersh, a former Profiles Theatre company member.
Somer Benson (a Mandated Reporter of Child Abuse and Neglect) explicitly urged that “No child should ever take one breath, or one step within the walls of Profiles,” explaining that if adults are unsafe and unable to obtain proper support at Profiles Theatre, a juvenile was at particular risk and should not be exposed to such an environment.
The Equity team actively listened to honest, emotional, brave testimonials from Allie, Kim, and Somer Benson. These women disclosed in detail the nature, the insidious progression, and the severity of abuse they experienced by the alleged perpetrator to ensure that Equity had a complete understanding of the potentially dangerous work environment at Profiles Theatre.
As of July 13, 2016 *456 days have passed since the April 14, 2015 meeting. In that time: Equity continued to honor Profiles Theatre as a union house member. Equity continued to supply contracts to Profiles theatre through May 2016. Neither the Equity Board members who attended the April 14, 2015 meeting, nor the national office represented by an attorney that day, took action, to our knowledge, to investigate or address the concerns raised. Lori Myers continued to follow up with Equity since April 14, 2015.
The Reader article http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/profiles-theatre-theater-abuse-investigation/Content?oid=22415861
went online June 8, 2016. Equity made no public response regarding Profiles Theatre as an Equity House Member. Not a single theatre professional responded to the allegations in that article in support of Profiles.
To the contrary, many theatre professionals seconded the reports of misconduct detailed by the Reader. The only person affiliated with Profiles Theatre to respond at all to the article was Darrell W. Cox, in a Facebook post that appears to have been written by a PR agency and which appears to have convinced no one that the claims in the Reader were false. Six days after the article was published, Profiles Theatre closed its doors.
As a pillar of the theatre community and governing body, Equity’s inaction is bewildering. Sheldon Patinkin once said, “We are responsible to each other, and to the world.” Non-members comprise a large segment of the Chicago theatre community and deserve to be heard, especially non-members raising concerns about an Equity House. The fact that Equity knew well over a year about many of the allegations reported by The Chicago Reader and did nothing makes us wonder whether Equity takes seriously its obligations to its members and to those working at Equity theatres.
We are asking Equity to publicly recognize that they held power to take action towards Profiles Theatre and protect members of the theatre community.
We are asking Equity to publicly apologize for unsupervised juvenile performers lacking an accredited Youth Performer Guardian and Stage Manager abiding by Illinois Child Labor Laws during rehearsals and production runs, which included but not limited to: Cryptogram (1), and Jerusalem (3).
We are asking Equity to publicly apologize to actors, crew members, designers, and interns for failing to warn them that they were working in a potentially dangerous environment at Profiles Theatre, after the April 14, 2015 meeting.
We are asking Equity to publicly apologize for neglecting to act upon the serious concerns that the April 14, 2015 meeting survivors stepped forward to alert the union to. We are asking Equity vow to guarantee its Constitutional obligations as we move forward in the theatre community.
Actors' Equity Constitution and Bylaws http://www.actorsequity.org/docs/about/equity_glance.pdf
Equity At A Glance http://www.actorsequity.org/docs/outreach/Young_Performer_Overview.pdf
Equity’s Young Performers Guide http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2418&
Illinois Child Labor Laws http://www.illinois.gov/dcfs/safekids/reporting/documents/cfs_1050-21_mandated_reporter_manual.pdf
Illinois Mandated Reporter Manual
Thank you - Somer Benson, Allie, Kim, and Sara