Kill the Wolf
I need to start this post by saying that I am so, so sorry.
I am sorry that this took so long. I am sorry that I brought TBO back to publish a review, and not to comment on this. I am sorry that I’m willing to be a leader in our community when it’s about writing about theater and throwing parties, and not when it’s about real shit. Because there is real shit. And it is going down.
On August 22nd, The City Paper published an excruciatingly detailed and well-researched article entitled “Abuse and Accountability in the Arts Scene: A Reckoning” by Maura Callahan and Rebekah Kirkman (if you haven’t read it, stop here, read it, and come back, here’s the link). The article, as you now know because you just read it, specifically calls out the Baltimore small theater scene:
“A member of a local small theater company who wished to remain anonymous says she continued to work with a man who she knew to be abusive from the firsthand account of a friend. She felt that she had no choice but to remain silent to respect the privacy of her friend, who had come to her in confidence—if she were to refuse to work with them, she felt that she would have to share her friend’s story with the rest of the company. Ultimately, it is the survivor’s choice to come forward.”
“Another man involved with her theater company, this artist says, tried to “parlay rehearsal work into requests for inappropriate touching” and had no problem looking down her shirt in a public social setting. But again, she decided that to continue working with him would be preferable to coming forward to her company and facing possible retaliation from the accused and potentially his cohorts.”
“One young woman involved in the small theater scene in Baltimore left the city after an abusive relationship with the director of the company she worked in heightened her struggle with mental illness.”
Are you seeing that? Are you really? Because despite the fact that this article was widely shared, intimately reported, and clearly highlighted a terrible crisis in our community…nothing fucking happened.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The Annex Theater posted a public statement on their Facebook page on August 23rd which read, in part:
Annex Theater is coming up on its tenth season, and as we continue to grow, we are committed to making our venue a safer space. One of our top priorities this year, and in the years to come, will be to hold ourselves and other community members to a higher standard. We look forward to engaging our theatre community in an ongoing discussion on what accountability looks like in the work we produce, the audiences who attend, and the artists with whom we collaborate.
That statement did not take a think tank to produce. It didn’t take weeks and weeks. It didn’t say “We are too busy promoting our season to comment,” or any such similar excuse. What it DID was demonstrate that SOMEONE at that theater (which, according to the statement, is General Manager Samy El-Noury) understood that it does not operate in a vacuum, that it had a clear responsibility to comment on what is happening. I am BY NO MEANS suggesting that Annex is not potentially complicit in harboring abusers, and a statement does not equal release of culpability. Wolves hide in sheep’s clothing, and I am not vouching for Annex’s staff or their continued commitment, because I have seen no action in that vein nor nothing further from them on the topic. But this is literally the ONLY thing I can comment on in the aftermath because it was the ONLY such statement to come out publicly from the thirty or so small theaters that inhabit this city (Rapid Lemon has yesterday also produced a public statement).
That is just not good enough. There are people in our community who are afraid to be here. Again: THERE ARE PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY WHO ARE AFRAID TO BE HERE BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN HARASSED, ASSAULTED, INTIMIDATED AND RAPED BY OTHER COMMUNITY MEMBERS. The survivors who commented in the City Paper, and ALL of the survivors of this predatory behavior, have had to watch for TWO FUCKING MONTHS while we sat on our asses and did NOTHING. Nothing that they saw. Nothing that helped. We were too worried about sheltering abusers we may be close to and not enough about protecting those being victimized. Fuck. Fuck.
We can’t go back in time. What we can do is step up. Right now. We need to do it now. If you are with me and ready to work, let’s put some pressure on. I don’t need you to open your wounds and display your pain for me. If you are a survivor of this violence, I already believe you. [Edited: I originally added a call to post on social media, I reconsidered, there is so much fear that I do not want to further trigger survivors, and I have deleted it.]
Kill the wolf. Burn the pack. Kill the wolf. It’s not too late.