On Friday, January 5, Ann-Marie MacDonald, who occasionally hosts programs on the CBC, appeared on CBC radio to announce her own #MeToo.
This is her story: years ago, around 2005 I believe, Albert Schultz, the SoulPepper Artistic Director, informed several actors at a production by SoulPepper that he had raised $30,000 by auctioning off dinner with the actors to several donors. He had not asked the actors for permission to do this.
Yes, that’s it. That is the charge. I am not making this up. I have put it in bold face so you won’t miss the details of this horrific accusation.
Ann-Marie MacDonald, perhaps aware of a difficulty, went on to link this heinous behavior with recent allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Albert Schultz in the complaint brought forward by several former actors who were suing Schultz and SoulPepper for millions of dollars.
There must be some reason why the CBC was giving valuable air-time to this triviality.
Yes, that was it. He didn’t ask them first.
Or, the real reason:
The idea that a public broadcaster [CBC] would form an inter-departmental investigative team to identify and bring down an as-yet-unknown culprit is not just unusual: in my 17 years of journalism, I’ve never heard of anything like it. And yet in the weeks and months after the Weinstein story, there was a sense among news editors and producers in the Canadian media that we, too, needed to get our man—whoever he might be. From Toronto Life
Ann-Marie refused to do the dinner. Well, good for her. Then she went to the Executive Director. And received another round of oppressive male abuse when he refused to take her complaint seriously. Except that it wasn’t a “he”: it was a “she”, Leslie Lester, who was Albert Schultz’ wife. Not a word about female complicity here: it was as if MacDonald regarded Lester as just another male. Perhaps she thought Ms. Lester was brain-washed. Or a zombie. Or didn’t even exist because she did not give MacDonald the respect she thought she deserved.
Not surprising, I suppose, that Lester did not agree with Ann-Marie’s complaint. What is surprising is that the CBC would allow this ridiculous story onto the air, in prime-time. It appears that Ann-Marie, desperate to get her own kicks in at the horrible men who run the world in spite of the amazing talents and genius of women like Ann-Marie, decided to use this pathetic story as leverage to get on the air and get her own rant in. Why haven’t you people called me yet?
Noah Richler, who previously worked at Soulpepper but resigned due to artistic differences, told me he believes the charges against Schultz had been strategically trumped up. “The whole thing has far more to do with power and resentment than sexual battery,” he said. Although many friends and former colleagues echoed this view, Richler is the only one who went on the record…. That Fifth Estate piece was the single worst piece of publicly funded journalism I’ve ever seen.”
I have worked for a female CEO at a social service agency. She was by far the most manipulative and dishonest manager I have ever encountered. It would be absurd to use her as an example of sexist oppression of males, and even more ridiculous to link any of her paranoid, conniving behaviors as part of a “system” that exploits young men’s vulnerabilities. No, she was just a lousy manager, and extremely self-serving. Schultz’ fund-raising effort was no worse than anything this manager did. Should I get on the CBC and launch a tirade about it?
MacDonald seized this opportune moment and her connections with the CBC and perhaps her reputation as a mediocre novelist (I found “Fall on Your Knees” tedious at best), to get on the radio and blast men.
Even though it was a woman who had the most authority in this particular “scandal”.
As for the actresses, the lawsuit alleges that the complainants could not expect to have their complaints heard by Ms. Lester “without the perception of bias and fear of reprisal”. This is a despicable twist on the justice system: we don’t have to find any actual bias or reprisal– just allege that we “felt” it would happen. This is absurd: did you try? No. But you want me to find her culpable for your feelings of victimization? Yes. So you will only be adjudicated by someone you like? Yes.
“You honor, he was standing in a parking lot near a car that was not his. I fully expected him to try to steal it so I arrested him.”
I would hope a judge throws this out without a moment’s hesitation. No criminal has recently been convicted of the expectation of committing a crime. As annoying and tedious as it might seem to some people, the police have to actually wait for a person to attempt to commit an actual crime before he or she can be arrested. In this case, the complainants themselves do not seem to be asserting that they were fired or had their careers destroyed because they didn’t comply with Albert Schultz’ directorial style. They assert that they just felt that way.
(Actually, many terrorism cases come perilously close to– oh, heck, they meet– this standard: arrested and imprisoned for thinking about a committing a crime.)
And all of this is beside the fact that they could also have taken their complaints to the Director of Human Resources, or the organization’s general counsel.
I expected no better from MacDonald. It’s the CBC that should be ashamed of itself for allowing this to get on the air.
As for the complainants, after hearing details of their allegations, I began to wonder if they really understood what acting in modern theatre was all about. They seemed to have quaint ideas about how sexual intimacy should be portrayed on stage. In fact, I’m not sure they think it should be portrayed at all. They seemed shocked that some scenes of sexual intimacy would involve touching, or that a director might physically demonstrate how a scene like that should be executed.
Here’s the crux of the problem: there was almost nothing in their complaints that a legitimate director might not do for legitimate reasons in legitimate modern theatre. Actors embrace, kiss, hug, even expose themselves quite regularly. Most of them appear to understand that that is what is involved in “acting”.
These women simply felt that in the case of Albert Schultz, whom they found “creepy”, these actions should be regarded as abusive. But in this world, we create the conditions in which an actor may at any time decide to regard things that happened on stage or at rehearsal as “abuse”, or they might regard these things as “acting”, depending on whether they were in the mood to destroy someone’s career that day.
In one case, a young female actor was the subject of the amorous attention of a male character who, in the play, approaches her on a chaise lounge and begins to caress her body. The actress did not say, “no, I don’t want this part, because I find this scene humiliating and uncomfortable”. That’s all she had to do. Or “no, I don’t want to be in a play directed by a man I don’t like”. That is also all she had to do. But what fun is there in that when you can, instead, wait ten years, and then destroy the life’s work of a man regarded as a genius by many, and publicly humiliate and shame him in the bargain?
Yes, that actress on the chaise lounge describes feeling humiliated and ashamed. I am puzzled by this. You are an actor? You really found a scene of romantic interactions embarrassing? Shameful? Disgusting? You didn’t want to do it. Why are you in the theatre? Why did you audition for this part? Did you not read the play? Have you never seen a play before? What did you think actors do?
The actress is now saying that it was unfair to “require” her to perform this scene. ‘I should get to say, “no, let’s change the play– I don’t like that scene”‘. And, if I were a director, I would say, “Fine. No problem. Here’s what you can do: go write your own play. You can make sure there are no scenes like that in your play. Then you can start your own theatre company, audition and hire your own actors, find a theatre building for your play, recruit an administration and a board, and raise money, and then you can put your play on and see if you can attract an audience to your plays. Go for it. ”
“Now get me another actress who is willing to play this part.”
Would he have any difficulty finding someone? No.
Should this scene be removed from the play? From all plays at SoulPepper? Or Stratford? Or Shaw? If you tried to do that, would audiences like the result? And would not another theatre company soon come into being, comprised of actors who willingly commit to performing scenes like this without complaint, because they are serious actors willing to give themselves emotionally and physically to a role? Any actors out there willing to perform “Hair” or “Cabaret” or “Rocky Horror Picture Show”? Or “Oleana”? Do you think they might get an audience if the alternative was a squeaky clean free from all and any sexual content play? Bambi, anyone?
It’s clear they found Schultz creepy. He slapped their buttocks at times. He groped them at times. I think he probably was creepy. I’ve been involved in community theatre productions with a professional director who behaved a lot like Albert Schultz. And it’s clear that there are a lot of interactions in a theatre company during rehearsals and behind the scenes that most people would find inappropriate in other settings, like a Mormon church or a Republican policy convention or Marie MacDonald’s boudoir. (Or would they?) But it is also very clear that not a single actor in any of these plays is inhibited from simply walking out if he or she doesn’t want to be part of this creative, lively, sometimes vulgar, often beautiful enterprise.
They both felt that Schultz exploited their youth and inexperience—and yet they both kept quiet in the hopes that they would get to work with him again.
In other words– well, figure it out for yourself. Are you or are you not a willing accomplice? What is so hard about “and both decided they would never work with this asshole again”? Why is that not the last sentence in that paragraph?
It’s clear that the actresses are coordinating their stories. It’s clear that they are seeking large sums of money. It’s clear that a man who has a long history of admirable achievements in live theatre has had his career and reputation shredded by actors who, safely insulated by their lawyers and legal motions, now, finally, after years and years, are saying, no, I don’t want to be an actor after all. And instead of not being an actor, I’m going to be an actor and then sue you because I can. Because right now, I can do this with impunity because a kind of mass hysteria has taken over the world on this issue and nobody reserves judgement any more. The lawyers and accountants have taken over and they are terrified and they will desperately seize upon any solution that eliminates their own exposure.
Please make it go away! We’ll pay you anything, but make it go away. The incoherent rage of your sexual hysteria has shocked and deadened my brain into complete submission: how much money do you want?
I must note the recent update on this story: 15 actors and designers who had been rehearsing Amadeus under the direction of Mr. Schultz asked the board to cancel the production. They stated that “we believe Diana Bentley…” But that is not the question. That was never the question. That is the question you ask if someone committed an act in secret and denied it after a victim came forward. This question is different: was Mr. Schultz mean to you? Did you feel bad because you couldn’t control and manipulate him? Were you jealous of the respect and admiration he earned because of his achievements while he was not even really very nice to you?
By golly, sue the hell out of him, and his theatre company too.
Why are they cancelling the production? They are asking for healing and transformation. But first, let’s destroy the production.
And now the Federal Government is reviewing its policies around funding for arts organizations. Wonderful: soon, they will begin to specify how “Romeo and Julie” should be acted– no kissing, they’re too young. And “Joan of Arc” should not be tied up. And we know that Lady Macbeth didn’t really push her husband into committing murder: it’s obviously just an attempt to deflect responsibility. Let’s fix it.
Let’s fix it all.
One last note: before you get all self-righteous about my piece here, let me make it clear that I do believe Schultz was a jerk and should have been outed. Not destroyed. Not assassinated. Not buried under a pile of steaming shit. Outed. Criticized. Face to face, not through the media. The way you criticize a friend who insulted you or forgot to return your lawnmower or got drunk and pissed in one of your potted plants.
Did not a single one of these actresses have the guts to step forward and call him out, in front of the cast or crew or administration? Yet everyone keeps insisting that you are all “courageous”, that women are “strong”, and that you admire each other for being so “brave” and determined.
And no one is particularly courageous because she hired a lawyer and demanded millions of dollars. No, you’re not. “Courageous” would be standing in front of Albert Schultz right after he slapped your bum and saying, loudly and clearly, “if you do that again, I will sue you”.
If I smacked you on the ass and told you to get over it, would that be okay?” one irate former company member asked me.
Well, indeed, I have had that experience, a long time ago. It was trivial then and it is trivial now. I would never, in a million years, have decided that someone should be shamed or humiliated for it. Never in a million years. Never ever. That person is still in my social circle, still friends, and having a hell of a lot better life than she would have had if I had chosen to go the route of the Soulpepper actresses.
How did it end? There were meetings and mediation. Albert Schultz– to his credit– refused to concede anything. Finally, the women were asked what would be required to make them go away. Of course, the results are covered by a non-disclosure agreement, but yes, they went away, and they never got an apology or the millions they were asking for. In other words, they have tacitly admitted that they didn’t believe in their own words.
All you people who went along for the ride? On to the next outrage…
[whohit]Soulpepper and Ann-Marie MacDonald[/whohit]