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Arts Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre apologizes for alleged harassment dating back to 1990s

Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre issued a public apology on Tuesday for “any harassment that has been a part of the Citadel’s past” – acknowledging that Alberta’s largest theatre company had at times been “a negative workplace for artists and staff” during its 53-year history.

In an open letter to the theatre community, Daryl Cloran, who took over as artistic director of the not-for-profit regional theatre 18 months ago, apologized on behalf of the theatre, its board of directors and its board of governors – and detailed a new “safe disclosure process” for complaints and other initiatives for artists and staff to “reclaim the Citadel space as their own.”

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Cloran said that he began to hear talk about a “negative workplace culture” at the Citadel during meetings with Edmonton artists he’s been having since he arrived on the job.

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“Last year, a couple of concerns came up specifically about harassment and triggered [me] and the board into action right away to say this is not acceptable,” he said.

In response, The Citadel started a “safe disclosure process” facilitated by a third-party consultant and human-rights adviser Wade King – who has set up secure reporting mechanisms for anyone wishing to make a report by phone or e-mail, which is detailed in Mr. Cloran’s open letter.

When Mr. Cloran received subsequent reports of past harassment earlier this year, he and the board decided to make Tuesday’s public apology and draw attention to its initiatives. “It was time to open this up – and make sure that we weren’t missing anyone, we weren’t waiting for people to come in, that we were proactively providing an invitation for people to come in and talk to us,” Citadel board president Wendy Dupree said.

Citing confidentiality, both Mr. Cloran and Ms. Dupree declined to go into specifics about the timing or perpetrators of any alleged harassment that occurred – or any actions that have been taken against any past or present employee of the organization in response.

“Unfortunately, it’s not about a specific person, it’s about a workplace culture here that we won’t tolerate,” said Mr. Cloran, who noted, however, that the concerns about harassment that were brought to his attention last year went through the safe-disclosure process and have “been resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved.”

In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Bob Baker, Mr. Cloran’s predecessor as artistic director at the Citadel, declined to answer questions about whether he was aware of any harassment or bullying during his time as artistic director from 1998 to 2016.

“I retired as AD in 2016 and, having fulfilled my transition responsibilities and contractual obligations as AD Emeritus, I have now been in full retirement for four months,” he said, adding that he had “no further comments” on the Citadel’s statement.

The Globe and Mail has learned that at least one of the complaints Mr. Cloran received about harassment dates back to 1994.

On Facebook, Jennifer Wigmore, an Edmonton-raised actor and artist and core member of a Canadian discussion group called Got Your Back, formed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, identified herself as one of the individuals who contacted Mr. Cloran about her experiences and what she witnessed at the Citadel.

Fresh out of theatre school in the 1990s, Ms. Wigmore was involved in four productions at the Citadel during the tenure of artistic director Robin Phillips, the late director who ran the Stratford Festival in the 1970s and helped form Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto in the late 1990s.

“I did four shows at the Citadel – and I can honestly say that out of the four, three of them, I had really sad and harassing things happen to me from different people, all of them in positions of authority,” said Ms. Wigmore, who is now based in Toronto. “There was a lot of pain – it was part of the reason why I left Edmonton.”

Ms. Wigmore said she was surprised by how quickly and empathetically Mr. Cloran responded to her – and is proud of the artistic director and the Citadel board of directors for the initiatives they have launched. “There are a few other theatres that could take this example as a way to really show what restorative justices really means,” she said.

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