Patricia Fagan and Hannah Miller say they first met Schultz while still GBC theatre students
Two of four actresses suing Albert Schultz for sexual battery and harassment of a sexual nature were still George Brown College students when they first met the actor and theatre director.
Patricia Fagan and Hannah Miller, who each graduated from George Brown’s theatre school, filed separate lawsuits against Schultz on Jan. 2. Two other actresses, Diana Bentley and Kristin Booth, have also filed claims against Schultz.
In all four statements of claim, Schultz, who was the artistic director of the Soulpepper Theatre Company before resigning on Thursday is accused of being a “serial sexual predator.”
The claims have not been proven in court.
In a statement from Schultz, he said, “these claims make serious allegations against me which I do not take lightly. Over the coming time period, I intend to vehemently defend myself.”
According to Fagan’s statement of claim, Schultz was the leader of Soulpepper and “yielded immense power in a young actor’s career.”
The claim makes several allegations, including that Schultz pushed his penis against Fagan’s buttocks during a rehearsal for Twelfth Night, and showed her his penis before she went on stage during performance of Hamlet in 2005. The claim said that she told the male director of Hamlet about the incident but he took no action.
Miller, who started studying at GBC theatre’s school in 2005, said that Schultz was a lecturer in her classes and regular patron of the café in the Young Centre where she worked part-time after graduation in her statement of claim.
The claim states that “because the theatre school and Soulpepper are housed in the same building, Albert’s position is well known amongst the theatre school students” and that they were “groomed to want Albert’s full attention.”
Schultz’s position in Canadian theatre allowed him to “harass and bully actors with impunity,” according to the claim. “The terms are clear: Albert’s attention, which is necessary to advance professionally, involves enduring harassment.”
Miller’s claim alleges that during a 2012 rehearsal for The Crucible, Schultz stepped into a scene, grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her “under the pretence of how he wanted Hannah’s male colleague to perform the scene.” The claim said that Miller was stunned and angered but felt Schultz was “untouchable” because of his control of Soulpepper and that he “could ruin her career.”
Trent Scherer, George Brown’s acting chair of media and performing arts, said that the theatre community is exceptionally small and he was saddened that he didn’t hear anything about the allegations prior to the claims being made.
“Students and graduates don’t like to say anything in case they end up somehow blacklisted, or (labelled) a trouble maker,” Scherer said. “When they’re not. They’re just bringing a serious issue to light.”
Soulpepper Theatre Company was established in 1998 by Schultz and 11 other founding members including Diana Leblanc and Diego Matamoros. George Brown and Soulpepper are the founding partners of the Young Centre for Performing Arts, which opened in 2005, and houses rehearsals and performances for the college’s theatre program and Soulpepper.
The four women allege that Soulpepper management “knew or ought to have known of Albert’s sexual harassment and assault and yet allowed it to continue.”
Scherer said that the college has no plans at this time to alter its partnership with Soulpepper, but they’re in a holding pattern with the claims.
“We honestly don’t know what might happen with the lawsuit because it’s not just against Albert, it’s also against the company itself,” Scherer said. “So we’re just kind of holding on where we are just to see what ends up happening.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Soulpepper said that Schultz and his wife Leslie Lester, who was the executive director of the theatre, had both stepped away from their roles while an investigation took place. On Thursday, the theatre announced that it had accepted Schultz’s resignation.
Two days later, the executive committee on Soulpepper’s board of directors released a statement saying it had “severed” its relationship with Lester and cancelled its run of Amadeus following the recommendation of its performers. whom Schultz was set to direct.
“Unfortunately, we did not know that Albert Schultz was alleged to have engaged in any harassment,” wrote the committee. “No such complaints ever made their way to the board.”
A statement from the artists and designers of Amadeus said that they had come to an agreement to recommend that the show not go on.
“Amadeus was directed by Albert Schultz. We believe Diana Bentley, Kristin Booth, Patricia Fagan, and Hannah Miller, and stand with them,” they wrote.
Today more than 281 artists, including actress Mia Kirshner, filmmaker Sarah Polley as well as actor and founding member of Soulpepper Ted Dykstra, released an open letter calling on the theatre’s board to “acknowledge the harm that these women, and others, have suffered.”
“We believe the allegations they raised against Albert Schultz and Soulpepper Theatre Company,” the letter stated. “We also believe that there are more stories like theirs that have not been told.”