In a nearly thirteen thousand word exposé in the Chicago Reader, Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt concluded a year’s worth of investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse over the course of twenty years at Profiles Theatre, primarily perpetrated by actor and Co-Artistic Director, Darrell W. Cox. It’s an intense, difficult, and essential read.
A small excerpt describing a moment of stage combat during the 8-month run of the hit production of KILLER JOE:
“Cox squeezed Benson’s throat so hard, she says she began to see specks. She tried to squeeze his thigh and say the safe word they’d agreed upon to let him know he was hurting her, but he didn’t respond to the signal and held her throat so tightly she couldn’t make a sound.”
Taking to social media, the Chicago theater community is clearly wounded, but reacting. A petition for the profiles Board of Directors to dissolve its relationship with Cox and Joe Jahraus has been started (the duo are co-artistic directors, and unfortunately, two of the four board members), as well as a petition to the Jeff Committee to revoke Cox’s Jeff Award for KILLER JOE.
The article comes not long after a Tribune piece by Nina Metz shedding light on a culture of harassment and abuse in the Chicago comedy scene, the creation of the #NotInOurHouse movement, and the Code of Conduct for non-union theaters, which is being piloted by several companies.
Though the details were not public until now, the #NotInOurHouse organizers began their efforts in direct response to the situation at Profiles. They have asked PerformInk to share a letter addressed to the Chicago theater community, which follows in its entirety:
Open Letter to the Chicago Theatre Community
We are writing to you from a myriad of backgrounds in the Chicago theatre community as part of the Not in Our House Chicago Theatre Community movement. We have worked in the theatre from one year to fifty years. We are Stage Managers, Artistic Directors, Lighting Designers, Stage Crew, Set Designers, Sound Designers, Actors, Directors, Playwrights, Educators, Citizens, Mothers, Fathers, Box Office, Marketing, Casting, Audience Members, Artistic Associates, Producers and Dramaturgs.
There will be many responses to the Reader article entitled At Profiles Theatre the Drama and Abuse is Real that was published on June 9, 2016. The alleged conduct of Profiles Theatre and Darrell Cox highlighted in this article is unacceptable. We as a community may be feeling the shockwaves for many years to come. So many conversations that were quietly whispered are now revealed in a public forum. The words of this article are in plain sight, out in the open and for all to see. The statements made in the article were truly shocking and painful for us to read and may leave many of us frightened or filled with guilt.
We agree that the acts chronicled in this article do not represent the Chicago Theatre community or its artists and represents an environment that is unsafe and we will not be satisfied until Profiles Theatre has taken decisive action to redress the behavior and actions of Darrell Cox and Joe Jahraus.
We as members of the Chicago theatre Community are committed to a safe theatre community and we are angry and deeply saddened about the conduct described in the Reader. As we work towards building a better way in Chicago, we anticipate that those around you will need your support as we absorb the information presented to us. Let this give us hope and strength that light was shed on an existing problem, and that we can face the challenges that are brought to us, together, as a cohesive unit. We no longer have to hide in the shadows amid stories and rumors, but rather build solutions together to ensure that this does not happen in our community again.
We aim to prevent future abuses of power in the theatre community and provide a source of support for people who have been abused. We can work together for change and positive action so that we as artists can embrace the freedom of creativity safely, respectfully and with open arms. We are working to build a support network, change existing language concerning discrimination, violence, intimidation and sexual harassment, ensure accessibility to proper complaint paths, and create the Chicago Code of Conduct that we as the Chicago Theatre Community will be proud to call our own.
With much love and respect,
Not in Our House Chicago Theatre Community
Update 6/9/16: Statement from the Jeff Awards: The Jeff Awards Committee has read the Chicago Reader’s article about Profiles Theater. We are supporters of the “Not In Our House” movement, and the new Non-Equity Theatres Code of Conduct Guidelines concerning treatment of actors, now closely following the long standing Equity (AEA) rules. The Jeff Awards Executive Committee will address the change.org “Petition To Revoke Darryl Cox’s Non-Equity Jeff Award for Profile’s “Killer Joe” and advise the community.
Editor’s Note: PerformInk is mentioned in the Reader article as a place where Cox posted “pay for play” classes that guaranteed auditions years ago. It is our current policy never to advertise for these types of classes. We will not permit any ads or audition posts from Profiles, nor will we will cover their productions until a drastic change in management and culture is evident. We urge our colleagues to adopt the same policy.