Albert Schultz’s return a loss for Canadian theatre

Soulpepper co-founder shouldn’t be welcomed back to arts community

Schultzhas returned to theatre in Port Hope.

In January of 2018, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente proclaimed Albert Schultz will “never work in this town again—or, for that matter, in any theatre anywhere in Canada.”

Wente’s prediction has been proven false: former Soulpepper co-founder  Schultz and his wife, Leslie Lester, mark their return to theatre at the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope, Ont., an hour and a half outside Kingston. 

Earlier this year, several actresses came forward with allegations that Schultz had sexually harassed them on multiple occasions. 

Leah McLaren’s Toronto Life article published in July describes a culture fraught with sexual harassment. Two actresses at Soulpepper, Patricia Fagan and Kristin Booth, recounted their experiences with Schultz. They included him kissing them on the lips and commenting on how soft and full they were. 

In one particularly disturbing instance during a rehearsal, Schultz asked Fagan and Booth to list every male member of the company they wanted to sleep with to demonstrate what desire looks like. 

The two eventually falsely told Schultz they were attracted to him while he judged whether their admission was believable. Fagan and Booth told McLaren they felt “demoralised and powerless” because of a man who was supposed to be their mentor. 

McLaren writes that the two never came forward “because they just assumed that was what theatre is like.” 

Schultz’s sexual misconduct, like a litany of other examples, is intertwined with the workplace. The women he was harassing were dependent on him for their careers. 

His downfall was the first in the Canadian theatre world—and his return is also the first. Schultz and his wife are working informally for the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in 

Port Hope, Ont. The 380-seat theatre isn’t small either. It has a growing base with people coming from Ottawa and Toronto to enjoy its productions and increased its annual income from about $1 million to $2 million.

In response to its growth, the theatre is taking on a new creative direction. This development is where Schultz and Lester have been offering informal consultations. 

Company President Olga Swieck stated in the Globe and Mail  that Schultz hasn’t applied for any full-time, salaried work at the Capitol theatre. In the article, Swieck describes the Capitol theatre as “lucky” to be able to work with “Port Hope’s favourite son.” 

This hospitable return to the world of theatre is problematic. People who abuse their power shouldn’t be given more of it. 

Sexual abuse in any form is, at its core, an abuse of power. 

Sexual abusers and those who support them should lose their privilege to power.

Schultz is one of many men who’ve been allowed to bounce back from allegations of sexual misconduct. Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari have returned to the comedy stage, while Jian Ghomeshi recently published an alarmingly tone-deaf article in the New York Review of Books. 

Patrick Brown was recently elected Mayor of Brampton only months after being kicked out of the Provincial PC party following reports of sexual assault while an MP. 

Men aren’t suffering any consequences for their actions. 

In the entire year since the #MeToo movement began, Bill Cosby is the only man to be convicted of a crime. Many others are continuing to advance in their careers and profit off their fame. 

It looks like Albert Schultz will be no different. 

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