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Ken Gass considers wrongful dismissal suit against Factory Theatre

Already dealing with a boycott from Toronto theatre artists, the board of directors of Factory Theatre may now face a wrongful dismissal suit from fired artistic director Ken Gass.

Last week, Gass's lawyer sent a letter to the board outlining his concerns surrounding the circumstances of his recent termination. He intends to file legal papers against the board as well as its individual members next month.

"It's not my desired route," Gass told the Globe and Mail Tuesday. "Whether it needs to go to conclusion will depend obviously on actions of the board."

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Gass, who founded the theatre in 1970 and returned to its helm 15 years ago as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, was fired following a dispute with the board over the direction and scope of a planned capital project that would make the theatre accessible and improve conditions for artists.

On Monday, Ron Struys, chair of the board of directors, released an open letter outlining his side of the story and responding to the recent boycott of the theatre by over 250 artists, including playwrights Judith Thompson and George F Walker, actors Gordon Pinsent and Fiona Reid and filmmaker Atom Egoyan.

"The Board and I, and the many people who have written to us, have been deeply disturbed by the assaults on the institution and its 2012-2013 season," Struys wrote, alleging that pressure was being put on artists to pull their work.

"Any boycott is a direct attack on the livelihoods of the artists and the staff who work at the theatre or wish to work there… The boycott and harassment of artists needs to stop."

Struys's letter alleges that Gass has supported the boycott, which "urge[s] the board to reinstate Mr. Gass immediately, and to enter into meaningful negotiation to resolve the crisis that led to his firing."

The former artistic director, however, says that he is remaining officially neutral and has not been encouraging people to sign it. "I would say that I certainly do not oppose the boycott as a tactic – I think it has come to this," Gass said.

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Theatre critic

J. Kelly Nestruck is The Globe's theatre critic. More


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