Updated: Aug 21, 2021
I am sad today. I know the artistic director, his family, and so many of my loved ones in the current Stage Right (SR) community are reading this, so I want to say above all else that I am sad. Sad that this platform has to exist. Sad that 5+ years after my departure from SR that former students, staff, and parents still reach out to me for support in processing things that happened to them long ago that they are afraid to talk about publicly. But mostly, I am heartbroken for those who call SR home that are in danger of no longer having a home to go to. Yes, this includes the artistic director and his family. If I were still local, I would give every single person a hug and do whatever else I could to help bring this upsetting situation to a close as fast as I could.
Before I continue, I want to say that this platform was created (and I feel comfortable stating this as someone deeply involved with the website launch) due to the inaction of SR leaders to address specific situations that have been brought to their attention by individuals. Our objectives are to protect current and future students and their families from pain and also to allow those who have felt alone in their own experiences at SR to feel heard. We decided the best way to go about this would be by publishing testimonies; these personal accounts have exposed abuses of power by those in leadership positions for over twenty years.
Many of the stories that are coming in, mainly from outside of our collective, discuss bullying and are calling out specific individuals involved – which could be construed as bullying in and of itself. This not our intention. In my brief time at SR as an educator, I did not witness bullying, and I’m devastated to hear that it has become so rampant today. It is on the adults in organizations like these to address bullying, and a testament to the systemic leadership issues that it has not been taken care of. I want to make it very clear that our goal as a collective was absolutely not to single out children for defamation. That being said, we do not have permission to alter the stories of those who have submitted, as these are their truths, and to do so would also violate our own mission of allowing people to speak honestly. I hope those who read this will consider that bullying is not an appropriate response to bullying.
So, all that being said, here is a very small contribution from me.
During my short time at SR the artistic director supported me to no end. He and I became very close, due to the nature of writing and working together. I spent two Christmas’s with his extended family. When I started there, many Pittsburgh musicians were wary of working at SR because of the artistic director and history of untimely or missed payment, or general mistreatment; I vouched for him and promised that I would hold him accountable. At the time of my departure, the musician community at SR was again flourishing. Though I was often overworked and underpaid and sometimes taken advantage of, I can’t say that much “happened” to me personally, besides being on the receiving end of some outbursts. I unfortunately did witness verbal and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of both students and adults, and was even complicit in a few situations that I am still working through.
There was a situation that I accidentally became third party to shortly before my departure - a personal issue between the artistic director and another adult. I remember that five minutes before the second performance of Tink 2015, the artistic director pulled me backstage and started venting to me about this person and how upset they were making him. This was a turning point for me and the moment I knew that many stories I hoped for so long were rumors were actually true; I couldn’t believe that the artistic director of a family theatre company would consider a personal problem more important than the show that we were about to perform in five minutes. I’m not sure if he even remembers this moment, but it was very profound for me.
The other stories that have been shared with me are not mine to tell.
Despite all of this I do still consider the artistic director a friend, even today. I texted with him prior to the conception of this website and urged him to speak publicly about some of the issues that had been brought to light last week and in years prior. Though I know that many people have tried to address individual situations with him and other leaders, he could still be unaware that he and his organization have collectively hurt so many people over so many years. Others in this collective will say he knows, but I’m personally giving him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t. That’s just the type of person that I am.
I am speaking now directly to the artistic director: There are two sides to every story and everyone is capable of positive and negative actions. You have done so much good for your community. I now call upon you to read these testimonies and hold yourself accountable for your actions that have caused people pain. If you truly don’t know the kinds of hurt you have caused people, please allow this to be your own “teachable moment.”