We have had a terrible week here at Hole in the Wall. Rather than let you hear about it through the grapevine, I thought I would share what I know.
On Tuesday, December 20, Onstage, a blog “dedicated to Broadway and Community Theater Show Reviews as well as discussing the famous stage directors, actors, and technicians” published an article accusing Jim Williams, the president of HITW’s Board of Directors, of sexual harassment. At the end of our most recent production, Accomplice, on closing night, Jim made a pitch for further donations to the theater. At issue was a comment Jim made about a female actor during his speech. In the article, Jim was quoted, despite the fact that the author, Christopher Peterson, stated that he was not in attendance at the performance. In truth, Jim was misquoted. The article stated that Onstage had received a dozen emails complaining about this remark. The article stated that Jim had not apologized, and called for his immediate removal from the Board and from the theater entirely. Jim had not been contacted prior to the publication of the article, and thus had been given no chance to apologize, since he was not made aware that anyone had taken offence. The actor in question had also not been contacted prior to the publication of the article.
The Board checked the theater’s Twitter account, voice mail, facebook page, and blog. No complaints were found on any of these media. Nor has there been a letter to the editor published in any newspaper that we know of.
Board member Eugene Tellier, who was in attendance at the performance in question, posted a response in the comments section of the blog, correcting the misquote, pointing out that it was a double entendre in a show full of double entendre; stating that the theater had not received any complaints; and questioning the motivation of the writer. The post was immediately taken down and Mr. Tellier was blocked.
The actor to whom the remark was directed posted the following response:
“As the actress in question, I’m more upset about this post than I am about the comment made. Neither Williams, nor myself were contacted about this article prior to it being written and published. I would like you and your readers to take this into consideration. There are two sides to every story and you must make sure that you get both in order to accurately represent what happened in a situation like this. While I did not ask Williams to say this, I am not upset by it, nor do I feel “harassed”. We are close friends and have had a good working relationship when it comes to theatre. I have every intent to keep working with him in the future. In writing this article, not only do you villainous (sic) Williams, but you take away my voice as an actress, as a woman, and as a human being, ultimately victimizing me. I understand that some people may be offended and they have their right to be as theatre goers and patrons of the theatre. I, however, think that this article should clarify a few things or be taken down. I’m saddened that something that I’m so passionate about, as well as the people I care about have come under fire without accurate representation. When you walk on stage you will always run the risk of having things that are unpleasant said about you. What’s most important is how you choose to react. I took the comment as Williams making a comment about my character and not about me personally. I have lost no sleep over this comment, and quite frankly, I hadn’t even given it a second thought until this article was posted.”
This comment was also immediately removed. It has been quoted here in it’s entirety with the author’s permission from a screenshot that she took immediately following posting.
Jim immediately published an apology on his Facebook page. He reached out to Mr. Peterson and asked that the post be taken down, as Jim was concerned that it might do damage to the theater. He was told that Mr. Peterson would take the post down upon receipt of Jim’s resignation from the Board of Directors. After a brief consideration, Jim resigned, effective December 20, 2016. The Board reluctantly accepted his resignation, at his insistence.
The Board met on Monday, January 2, 2017, and elected me president. We will present these personnel changes to the General Membership at the next meeting on January 11th. So far the feedback I have received has been that the membership does not wish Jim to leave.
These are the facts. Now I would like to voice an opinion.
Chris Peterson does not belong to Hole in the Wall Theater. He is not part of our General Membership, nor does he sit on our Board. Therefore he does not get to decide who is a member of our theater, nor does he get to choose our Board members. If Mr. Peterson would like to provide this theater with copies of the “dozen emails” that he received about this issue, we would be happy to apologize to the offended parties and make reparations. We see this as an attack,for unknown reasons, using shoddy “journalism”, innuendo, and outright lies, on our theater, and on Jim Williams personally. Mr. Peterson claims to have started his blog to benefit theater. I emphasize the word blog, because Mr. Peterson is hiding behind this term in order to make unfounded claims under the guise of “opinion” and avoid prosecution for slander. This is not benefitting anyone or anything, except Mr. Peterson’s ego. His refusal to allow the person who was “harassed” to be heard underlines the shallow purpose of his attack, and is offensively misogynistic. The actress is not a tool to be used by a self-serving “journalist”, nor is she a damsel in distress, in need of rescuing. She is a member of our theater, and knows exactly how to express any offense she might feel. If Mr. Peterson chooses to squander the reputation of his blog, and the goodwill it has built up over the years, on vindictive, judgemental bullying and harassment, so be it. But we at Hole in the Wall will not see one of our own attacked without responding. Hole in the Wall will no longer provide passes for reviewers from Onstage, does not wish to be reviewed in this “publication” and will not accept nominations in their annual rewards.