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Better Communication, Training Urged in Long Wharf Culture Audit After Sex Harassment Scandal

06/12/2018

Long Wharf Theatre on Tuesday released the results of a culture audit ordered in the wake of January’s bombshell report in the New York Times that led to the firing of Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein over sexual harassment reports.

Attorney Penny Mason of the firm LeClairRyan in New Haven found that while Long Wharf had rules, procedures and training in place “that met the rule of law,” Edelstein was “a big personality who dominated the room.” (“The phrase ‘too big to fail’ comes to mind, with an amendment: ‘Too big to be held accountable,’” she wrote.) That persona and his artistic success “gave him cover for harassment of theater employees who did not feel empowered to complain,” Mason wrote in her report.

The Times report presented four women who alleged unwanted sexual contact by Edelstein since his arrival in 2002, six other former employees who described sexually explicit remarks by Edelstein in the workplace and even the former arts editor of the New Haven Register, Laura Collins-Hughes, who spoke of an unwelcome kiss on the lips. The day the article came out, Edelstein was put on leave by theater board of trustees Chairwoman Laura Pappano. He was fired after a meeting of the board a day later and a process was started leading to Tuesday’s report, which was announced to staff earlier Tuesday and endorsed by all members of the board.

Managing Director Joshua Borenstein said the lawyer’s report did not find a “rampant culture of sexual harassment” despite the incidents and lewd comments by Edelstein.

“We ultimately had a culture where there wasn’t a lot of good communication,” said Borenstein Tuesday afternoon. “And so people didn’t really understand the procedures if they were witnessing or concerned about misconduct. And they were also concerned whether or not they would be believed or taken seriously if they offered a complaint.”

After interviews with 21 people involved with the theater and a review of handbooks and other documents over several months, Mason included in her findings that management should respond to employee issues, not the board. She said staffers have a misconception that the board has not changed since 2006 but it should be noted that the “board has turned over since the sexual harassment complaints.”

Read the full article in the New Haven Register here.

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