I worked at Profiles for two years. While there I was an actor, assisted with casting, and assistant directed three productions. I had heard the same rumors everyone else heard before I got cast in Sweet and Sad. I decided to make up my own mind, knowing that if something inappropriate began to occur I would be out of there right away. “I’m tough,” I thought. “I’m a Navy girl. I know how to handle myself. I’ll be fine.” My friends warned me to watch out for Darrell. Some even said things like, “don’t sleep with him even though you’ll want to.” I laughed all of this off. That’s a normal warning that girls give other girls that are starting a show with a womanizer. “Don’t sleep with (fill in the blank).” It’s such a common thing to hear.
My first day of rehearsal I met this infamous ladies man. We got along great. I was never attracted to him, but I loved acting with him. He would look at you with this crazy passion in his eyes and send all this energy your way. He gave you so much on stage. I lapped it up and gave it right back. It was intoxicating.
My time at Profiles was a happy one filled with what seemed to be mutual respect and understanding. The company members were my friends, confidants, and artistic collaborators. It was my artistic home. I loved the realistic style of acting. I loved staying after the show in the dressing room and talking til the wee hours of the night about how we can make a certain moment better. There were notes after every show and I LOVED it. Nothing was ever good enough for us. It could always be better. I strove for that perfection.
It was a boys club, sure. I had to dance around some egos, sure. But what woman in the theatre…in LIFE…doesn’t have to figure out how to dance around some male egos? Or so I thought at the time. I began to pride myself in how I could trick them into thinking something was their idea, when it was really mine. And even if I didn’t always get the credit, the show was better for it. I felt important and needed and like a true collaborator. Other members of the ensemble would say that Darrell and Joe treated me differently than other women, that they actually treated me like an equal. I wore that like a badge of honor. I felt so inspired and included that I knew I had to find a way to stay. So I assistant directed the next show, and the show after that.
I reached a point where I simply didn’t believe the rumors. My experience was a better test of the truth than some rumors that I had never heard substantiated, right? Any time I had heard any allegations it always happened to “a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.” It didn’t seem credible. They laughed off the rumors at Profiles too. I heard stories about crazy ex-girlfriends and ex-wives.
I moved on from Profiles because after spending almost a year assistant directing their shows, I wanted to act again. I went back to doing musicals. I did a national tour. I wouldn’t say we lost touch, but we didn’t keep in touch either.
Last year while I was still on tour, I saw the original post on Facebook where “not in our house” was coined. I knew from the comments that they were talking about Profiles and WHO they were talking about at Profiles. I was disturbed, but I brushed it off. Surely those men who were all in steady relationships, never partied, barely drank, that I constantly teased that they were “SO boring”…surely they couldn’t be the same men in these salacious stories, could they?
I pulled my car over to the side of the road last night and read the article in The Reader about the pattern of abuse at Profiles. I read all 12,000+ words. After I read it, I sat in my car for an hour before going home. I felt numb. I started shaking. The thought that there were women who had nightmares about a place that used to feel like home to me was a hard thing for me to accept. When I got home my brain was still desparately grasping for ways to defend my old colleagues. My roommate stopped me and said, “I don’t understand why you’re being devil’s advocate about this. It really surprises me.” I stopped. It surprised me too. I’m an activist for women’s rights. I run a theatre company celebrating women. Why was I clinging to the last bit of hope that these stories weren’t true?
Because they were my friends. Because they were my heroes. Because they inspired me. They made me feel like a true artist. Because I learned more about acting and directing there than anywhere. Because I’m PROUD of the work we did there. Because it is literally breaking my heart to say #notinourhouse about Profiles because I know it means accepting the truth. But I must say it. Because it’s inexcusable. It’s intollerable. NOT IN OUR FUCKING HOUSE. Just because it didn’t happen to me doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
And you know what? It DID happen to me. Not at Profiles. But it DID happen to me. It happened when a director tried to sleep with me after the very first rehearsal. It happened when a celebrated older actor showed up to a show, took one look at me, and said “mine” and then him and his friend tried to get me drunk at a cast party and take advantage of me that night. It happened when a director cast himself in the show so he could “make out with me.” Talk to a woman who was young in the theatre. Just pick one at random. Chances are it’s happened or is HAPPENING to her. And don’t exclude young gay males being targeted by older male directors! They are just as vulnerable.
It’s happened to most of us. This is not a union thing. It’s happening in non-equity theatres and in equity theatres alike. It’s happening with some of the most respected names in the community. This is not even a Chicago thing. Or a Theatre thing. This is the culture of our society. This is the mess we have to dismantle. This does not begin or end with Profiles.
But Profiles is definitely culpable. I know that now. I think what hurts me the most is that I wasn’t just an actor at Profiles, I was in a position of some authority. I was supposed to protect those actors. I thought I was. I thought I had their backs. I was so proud of them. Some of them affectionately called me “mama.” It makes me sick to my stomach. When I look back now I can see possible little warning signs that I brushed aside at the time. And things are starting to come to the surface. Things I didn’t know. I was too wrapped up in my own artistic experience to pay attention.
To the casts of Hellcab 2012, Dream of the Burning Boy, and Hellcab 2013: I’m so sorry. I’m sorry if you needed protecting and I didn’t protect you. Anything you need, I am here for you now. I vow to spend the rest of my career making sure actors who work for me feel safe. Thank you for listening.