Scot Whitney, who along with his wife, Linda, started Harlequin Productions in 1991, also left his seat as a board member as an inquiry into the allegations by two actresses continues.
The managing artistic director of an Olympia theater has resigned after two actresses accused him of ignoring or brushing aside sexual-harassment complaints against award-winning playwright Israel Horovitz.
The board of directors of Harlequin Productions on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Scot Whitney, who along with his wife, Linda, started Harlequin in 1991.
Whitney also resigned his seat as a board member, effective immediately, while the board conducts an internal inquiry into the actresses’ allegations and Whitney’s response.
Confronting sexual harassment and abuse
The #MeToo movement has sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment and assault. From actors in Hollywood to security guards at the Seattle Public Library, more people are coming forward with painful and intimate stories of abuse, casting new light on behavior that for too long has been dealt with in whispers, secret settlements or not at all. So where do we go from here? The Seattle Times’ occasional series explores that and other questions as we move forward in this changed landscape.
The board, which governs the nonprofit, professional theater, also postponed its March 31 season launch party, Eclectica, in which the 2019 season’s productions would have been announced during a catered dinner.
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“The board feels that this is no time for a party, and absolutely no time for a fundraiser,” Board President Ben Cushman stated in a letter to patrons and the acting community.
Whitney was not available for comment Thursday because he was in a preplanned vacation, said Lee Keller, a media consultant hired by Harlequin Productions.
The status of Linda Whitney with the theater is unclear.
In a Seattle Times story published last Friday, two women described being harassed by Horovitz while he assisted with productions or attended opening nights when his plays were staged at the Olympia theater. The former employees of the theater company claim Harlequin’s artistic directors didn’t take action because they were star-struck by Horovitz.
Horovitz, 78, resigned from the Gloucester theater in November after The New York Times reported that nine women, including actors and others associated with the theater, said they were sexually harassed or abused by the playwright over the past three decades. Similar allegations were the focus of a 1993 story in The (Boston) Phoenix in which 10 women said they had been sexually abused or harassed by Horovitz, seven of them at the Gloucester Stage Company.
The Whitneys announced over the weekend that Horovitz will not be invited back to the Olympia theater. Horovitz didn’t return calls for comment on the allegations.
In 2011, as Harlequin Productions was staging Horovitz’s “Unexpected Tenderness,” actress Kate Parker said the playwright insisted on seeing her hotel room. She said that once she reluctantly let Horovitz inside, he lunged at her, grabbed her waist and tried to kiss her.
Another actress, Caitlin Frances, said that after she refused to go for drinks with Horovitz in 2010, he kissed her fully on the lips while in front of an audience and Scot Whitney.
Harlequin kept producing Horovitz’s plays and bringing him to the Olympia playhouse to help with productions or for opening nights, even after the alleged incident with Parker was reported to the Whitneys.
Disturbed by Scot Whitney’s remarks in The Seattle Times story and the claims that he shrugged off the allegations and dismissed Horovitz’s conduct, Harlequin board members said it didn’t reflect their nor the theater’s opinions.
“This situation is unacceptable and we wish to be an example to the community at large in our efforts to right these wrongs,” said Cushman, the board president.
The board will continue its investigation of Harlequin Productions’ culture, incidents, policies and procedures regarding harassment.
Parker said Whitney’s resignation was the right thing to do.
“I just don’t believe he could have recovered his leadership and confidence of the community after all of the things he said and admitted publicly in that article,” Parker said.
“As board members, it is our responsibility to ensure an environment where our artists can be free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, or inappropriate behavior of any kind,” stated Cushman. “And we have failed to maintain that environment.”
He wouldn’t comment beyond the board’s statement.
“I’m really proud of the board taking a stand and being a leader on how to handle harassment seriously,” said Parker, who sent board members a three-page statement Tuesday about her incident and names of those who would corroborate it.