When Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre heard about historic bullying and harassment at the theatre, it went to the community looking for information and input on how to solve the problem. This week, the Citadel issued an initial report about its findings. The document offers a window into the concerns people have raised – and what the Citadel is doing about them.
This investigation followed the hiring of Daryl Cloran, who joined the not-for-profit regional theatre in 2016, replacing long-time artistic director Bob Baker. In March, 2018, Mr. Cloran wrote a letter to the community stating that “it has become clear to me that through its history, there have been times that the Citadel has been a negative workplace for artists and staff.”
Then in May, the Citadel held a forum for members of the theatre community, attracting about 100 people.
“The reports from the session were that it was very powerful. It was cathartic for the individuals who participated. And it was also very positive,” Wendy Dupree, chair of the Citadel’s board of directors, told The Globe and Mail. “People felt very hopeful.”
This week’s report includes a number of comments that were representative of what was said that day – although the people who said these things are not identified.
“My experience at the Citadel was characterized by fear, intimidation and isolation,” reads one comment cited in the report. Another says: “There was nobody to talk to, or when you spoke up, no one listened or you were punished.”
People said the Citadel had not provided opportunities for diverse artists, and that it failed to develop and feature some of Edmonton’s best actors and playwrights. “I feel ashamed that I didn’t speak up,” reads one of the comments.
“I think in this era of #MeToo it was an opportunity for people to come forward and share things that they might not previously have been comfortable sharing,” said Ms. Dupree, who was not at the session last May (other members of the board were; she happened to be out of town).
Among the advice offered by community members at that session was the need for confidentiality in reporting complaints, for leadership to be accountable, and that the Citadel strategy and approach reflect diversity as a fundamental value. People asked that the board represent the diversity of the community and include artist representatives.
“Everyone from theatre executives to child chaperones must be aware of best practices for oversight and accountability of theatre management, employees and contractors,” states one of the suggestions shared in the report.
The Citadel was also asked to consider providing intimacy training for shows that include sexually charged work – a new and evolving practice in the theatre community, according to the report.
The Citadel said it has already implemented some changes, updating safe work environment policies including its code of conduct, child-chaperone policy and reporting mechanisms. It has piloted and will expand a new evaluation process that gives staff a way to flag any issues with management anonymously to the board. It has also hired a human-resources professional.
Next, it will hold another event with the artistic community, set for Feb. 11.
“We know that the work is far from done and that continued, earnest effort is required on an ongoing basis to ensure that the Citadel is an inclusive, positive, artistic community,” the report states.