Four women spoke on the record, describing unwanted sexual contact by Edelstein since his arrival in 2002 at Long Wharf, a respected nonprofit theater in New Haven, Connecticut. Six other former Long Wharf employees described frequent sexually explicit remarks in the workplace by Edelstein, who led Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) from 1997 to 2002.
The groping began about two months after Kim Rubinstein began working at Long Wharf Theater in 2003, she said.
She was having dinner at a restaurant with her new boss: Gordon Edelstein, the artistic director, a college friend with whom she had a one-night fling decades earlier, before he got married. Toward the end of the meal, after returning from the bathroom, he suddenly kissed her, with his tongue.
“I immediately stopped him, told him to sit down, and told him in no uncertain terms that any physical relationship between us was a very bad idea,” said Rubinstein, who started as education director and became associate artistic director. “He seemed to listen, but when we got into his car to drive me home, he leaned over and started kissing me again, groping my breasts.”
The conduct continued on and off for years, including incidents in her office: He sometimes masturbated in front of her, she said, or would “push me up against the wall or corner of my office, squeeze my breasts, kiss me with tongue, and dry hump me until he came in his pants.” She complained to theater management in 2006; the theater brought in a counselor to work with Edelstein and Rubinstein and scheduled harassment training for the staff.
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“There were many ways I tried to make it stop, which included giving in to having sex with him, which I did but was disassociated, frozen inside myself, barely there,” Rubinstein recalled.
Rubinstein is one of four women who spoke on the record, describing unwanted sexual contact by Edelstein since his arrival in 2002 at Long Wharf, a respected nonprofit theater in New Haven, Connecticut, that has had several productions mounted on Broadway.
Six other former Long Wharf employees, women and men, described frequent sexually explicit remarks in the workplace by Edelstein, a prominent figure in American theater circles.
Before his tenure at Long Wharf, Edelstein was artistic director of Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) from 1997 to 2002.
Long Wharf officials, after receiving questions from The New York Times, said Monday that Edelstein had been put on administrative leave, effective immediately. The theater’s board was summoned to a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
“These allegations are deeply upsetting,” said Laura Pappano, chairwoman of the Long Wharf board of trustees. “We simply cannot and will not tolerate behavioral misconduct in the theater workplace.”
Edelstein did not respond to a request for comment. Pappano responded on the theater’s behalf to the questions from The Times, which were also emailed to Edelstein; the theater’s managing director, Joshua Borenstein; and its spokesman, Steven Scarpa.
This article is based on interviews with 24 current and former Long Wharf employees and collaborators. Most of them said Edelstein is prone to sexually explicit language in the workplace. And several former employees said some administrators and board members have been aware of concerns about Edelstein’s behavior for years — a claim that theater leaders called “misleading.”
“The theater is complicit in this behavior,” said Meghan Kane, a former assistant director of production at Long Wharf. “There are other administrators that know about his inappropriate behavior; there are board members.” She added, “It’s not just about one person — it’s about an entire company of people.”
Kane said that she was stunned when, in 2011, Edelstein commented on her body during a routine meeting.
“I had a breast-reduction surgery when I was there, and one of the most horrifying situations I was in was him saying, ‘Why did you cut off the most beautiful two things about you?’ in front of a big room,” she said.
Pappano said the suggestion that Edelstein’s conduct was reported to administrators and board members was an “overgeneralization.”
“The theater and its board immediately addressed the incidents it knew about,” said Pappano, who is also a freelance journalist who has regularly contributed work to The Times.
“It is misleading and unfair to imply it did not respond to occurrences that were never reported and of which it had no notice,” she said. “We know of no instance in which a report was made and not acted upon.” She said that the theater had not received any complaints of sexual misconduct since Rubinstein’s in 2006.
In interviews, several women described sexual misconduct and crude remarks by Edelstein. Halley Feiffer, a playwright and actress, said she was groped by him in 2008, when she was performing in a revival he directed of “Some Americans Abroad,” a comedy by Richard Nelson, at Second Stage, an off-Broadway theater.
“We were at an opening night party, and I walked by him and he grabbed my butt,” Feiffer said. “I remember thinking that I must have made it up, or that’s my fault for walking so close to him, and then thinking I have to be really careful around him, but he runs a theater and I want to be a playwright and I want him to produce my plays one day. So that’s why I never said anything or did anything. I wanted to be in his good graces because he’s powerful.”
Annie DiMartino, former head of the Long Wharf education department, said that in 2010, “we were sitting at a holiday party — and once Gordon has some drinks he becomes very loose — and he grabbed my hand and placed it on his crotch under the table.”
Laura Collins-Hughes, now a freelance theater critic at The Times, said that in 2003, when she was attending a Long Wharf gala as the arts editor for The New Haven Register, “he kissed me on the lips, and his lips were wet, and it was lingering and disgusting.” She did not report the incident to the theater.
Long Wharf is among the nation’s important regional theaters, a distinction recognized in 1978, when it became one of the first regional theaters honored with a special Tony Award for its work. It regularly develops new work and has credits on 19 Broadway productions, including this season’s “Meteor Shower,” a comedy by Steve Martin starring Amy Schumer that closed Sunday.
Edelstein received $235,000 in compensation in the 2016 fiscal year, according to an IRS filing. He has directed three plays on Broadway, including, most recently, a 2012 production of the Athol Fugard drama “The Road to Mecca.”
In 2004, the theater’s props supervisor, Jackie Farrelly, filed a discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, objecting after Edelstein had used the word “skanky” to refer to an actress who irritated him.
In 2005, the theater’s administrators signed an agreement denying any injury to Farrelly but agreeing to make a $500 donation to the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, and Edelstein signed a letter to Farrelly that said, in its entirety, “I apologize that my using the word ‘skanky’ caused you discomfort or that you found it offensive,” according to documents viewed by The Times.
Deb Clapp, a former Long Wharf general manager who is executive director of the League of Chicago Theaters, gave Farrelly the money to file the complaint.
“I told her I thought she should do that because no one had done it in the past, and I thought it would be a way to document the behavior that was making women uncomfortable,” Clapp said.
A former assistant and a former audio supervisor at Long Wharf, both of them lesbians, said Edelstein also made a habit of inquiring about their sex lives.
“If I had a dollar for every time he propositioned me and my partner at the time, I would be a very rich woman,” said Corrine Livingston, the former audio supervisor. “He would make sexual comments all the time. He would talk about wanting to have threesomes and hook up.”
Livingston said she complained orally in 2013, when, while discussing circumcision and eunuchs at a tech rehearsal, Edelstein “slapped me on the shoulder and asked me when I got my balls cut off.”
According to two former employees, when Albertus Magnus College, a Catholic liberal arts school in New Haven founded by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, announced that it was giving a 2017 honorary degree to Edelstein, he twice blurted out, in an effort at humor that some employees found unfunny, “I had sex with all the nuns.”
Pappano confirmed that incident but said the board had acted. “After it was reported that Mr. Edelstein joked about having sex with nuns, he was reprimanded by representatives of the board of trustees and told that such behavior was out of line and would not be tolerated,” she said.
Some theater officials were made aware of concerns from other women. DiMartino, the former education department head, said she had told the theater’s spokesman, Scarpa, the night Edelstein placed her hand on his crotch. (DiMartino and Scarpa were dating at the time.)
Rubinstein said she spoke about Edelstein’s behavior toward her with Borenstein, then the theater’s general manager, as well as board members.
Joan Channick, who was managing director at Long Wharf from 2006 to 2008 and is a theater management professor at Yale, recalled that before she accepted the Long Wharf job, leaders of the search committee and the theater board called her to disclose that “something inappropriate of a sexual nature” had happened between Edelstein and Rubinstein.
“Gordon was apologetic and regretful, and we talked about the fact that this kind of behavior could not happen again,” Channick said. She said there were no new complaints against him during her time at the theater.
In 2007, Rubinstein left Long Wharf; she was unhappy that Edelstein had reassigned a play slot she was expecting to oversee, an act she viewed as retaliation. She moved to San Diego, where she teaches acting and directing at the University of California, San Diego. In an exit interview with Channick, she said “she felt that she had no choice but to leave,” Channick recalled.
Pappano defended the theater’s handling of Rubinstein’s complaint, citing steps including mandatory counseling sessions for Edelstein.
“From the moment Kim Rubinstein approached Josh Borenstein with allegations of sexual harassment in May 2006, Mr. Borenstein took the charges extremely seriously,” Pappano said. “He met with her on six occasions. Ms. Rubinstein relayed to Mr. Borenstein that she had had a consensual affair with Mr. Edelstein in the past. She reported to Mr. Borenstein that she initially encouraged Mr. Edelstein’s advances. The lurid account you now offer differs materially and in tone with the allegations she brought to Long Wharf 11 years ago.”
Rubinstein disputed that characterization, saying that although she had slept with Edelstein once years before working at the theater, their relationship at the theater was never consensual and she never encouraged Edelstein’s advances. “That is absolutely not true and makes me so mad and upset,” she said.