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Student Blog: Confusing Change in the Broadway Industry: What Does This Mean for the Everyday Performer

Let’s dive into the changes happening in the Broadway community and how it’s not only affecting Broadway as a business, but members across the industry.

Student Blog: Confusing Change in the Broadway Industry: What Does This Mean for the Everyday Performer
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Within the past two weeks, the media has been flooded with headlines like "Scott Rudin Resigns from Broadway League after Workplace Accusations," or "Everyone Just Knows He's a Complete Monster," or "Scott Rudin Steps Back from Broadway Amidst Abuse Allegations."

I myself was late to this train, often feeling confused when reading articles about the Scott Rudin accusations and abuse findings. It seemed like information was, and still is constantly coming out in the media regarding new developments, old allegations coming to light, or comments from Scott himself. So, let's dive into the changes happening in the Broadway community and how it's not only affecting Broadway as a business, but actors, producers, casting directors, musicians, directors, dancers, singers, etc. across the world, specifically performers who have dealt with abuse or harassment in the workplace without receiving justice. This article will help you break down the new developments and understand how this might affect the growth of the theatre industry.

Scott Rudin, one of the most well-known, respected and recognizable Broadway and Hollywood producers has recently come under fire for multiple workplace harassment and abuse allegations, as originally reported in The Hollywood Reporter. Scott Rudin has won a total of 17 Tony Awards for shows including Hello Dolly!, The Book of Mormon, and Fences. Scott Rudin has also produced Academy Award winning films like Lady Bird, Fences, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

On April 7th, multiple people previously under the employment of Rudin spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and told their story. The article talks of physical abuse attacks by Rudin like slamming a computer shut on an employee's hand, throwing objects at assistants, and especially mental abuse.

Now, I didn't hear of the Scott Rudin allegations until Karen Olivo announced in an Instagram post that she would not return to Moulin Rouge! on Broadway this coming fall in order to shine a light on the victims who weren't being heard and acknowledged to the degree they deserved.

Karen talks about how victims have been silenced for too long, not just the victims of Rudin, but victims of other high powered people in Broadway's industry. Karen Olivo said on her Instagram post, "I could easily go back to the show and make a lot of money, but I still wouldn't be able to control what I was putting out into the world. And what I'm seeing in this space right now, with our industry, is that everybody is scared, and nobody is really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done. People aren't speaking out."

Karen Olivo used her platform to address something that not a lot of performers knew about, or were scared to talk about. In the past five years or so, actors and actresses in Hollywood have fearlessly come out with allegations against their abusers. However, when was the last time you heard a story like this come out in the theater world? It unfortunately rarely happens. So, Karen was bringing awareness to this fact as well as encouraging people to not be so afraid of what that casting director, that producer, that actor could do to damage your career if you came forward with your truth. Olivo put her career on hold until the careers and lives of others were taken more seriously and given more respect when it comes to allegations and evidence of abuse.

After Karen came forward and encouraged survivors to come forward, Tony Award winner Sutton Foster shared why she did not immediately post about the situation. "I needed to just step away to really address how I wanted to handle the situation," she said. "I didn't feel like I needed to post it so that it would happen. I didn't feel like that was something I needed to do because it becomes like a reactionary thing. I needed to step back and make sure the decision I made was mine and not based on the noise of social media."

The story behind the expose that shook the arts community is truly a disheartening one. On Halloween day in 2021, Scott Rudin found himself angry, distressed, abusive, and terrifying in the eyes of employees. These feelings resulted in him taking advantage of his high position at Scott Rudin Productions while he shattered an Apple monitor on an employees hand. The Hollywood Reporter states the reasoning behind his temper and abuse was the fact that his assistant didn't get him a seat on a completely sold-out flight. "One person in the office at the time described the incident as sounding like a car crash: a cacophonous collision of metal, glass and limb. The wounded assistant headed to the emergency room, and Rudin called his lawyer, according to another staffer there that Halloween afternoon," states Tatiana Siegel at The Hollywood Reporter.

Caroline Rugo, a Scott Rudin Productions executive coordinator in 2018, came forward with her own allegations and traumas induced by not only the work environment of Scott Rudin Productions, but by the man himself. The Hollywood Reporter states, "He threw a laptop at the window in the conference room and then went into the kitchen and we could hear him beating on the napkin dispenser," says Rugo. Caroline also openly stated that he has thrown a glass bowl at an employee, causing said employee to seek medical treatment. Caroline stated that was the type of environment you were signing up for when working for Scott Rudin. There are many more instances of abuse acknowledged in The Hollywood Reporter expose, each deserving attention and recognition. Please read the entire The Hollywood Reporter article for yourself.

The Actor's Equity Association released a statement regarding the situation on April 17th, 2021. AEA encouraged Scott Rudin to release any and all employees currently tied onto a nondisclosure agreement. After this announcement, members of the union suggested Scott Rudin be added to the "Do Not Work" list, which basically prohibits any person working in the entertainment industry from working professionally again. Movement toward Scott's name being added to this list has not started.

After weeks of being called out, addressed and encouraged to speak up, Scott Rudin released a statement on Saturday, April 17th. "I am stepping back from my film and streaming projects in addition to my work on Broadway. I am doing so to take the time to work on personal issues I should have long ago. When I commented over the weekend, I was focused on Broadway reopening successfully and not wanting my previous behavior to detract from everyone's efforts to return. It's clear to me I should take the same path in film and streaming. I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior has caused and I take this step with a commitment to grow and change," said Rudin. Since this statement, Scott has resigned from the Broadway League. We do not know which productions he is dropping out of, only that he has said he will resign from current projects.

Now what's most saddening about these allegations and abuse is the fact that they had been going on for more than ten years and no one has said anything about it. Because they were scared, because of the nondisclosure agreements, because a toxic person took advantage of hard working artists seeking a way to express creativity and light. If you yourself have experienced any abusive events in your time as a performer, please say something. If not for yourself, for your fellow performers. We as artists, we as performers, we as humans cannot allow something like this to happen again. We need to speak out. In the words of Karen Olivo, "Building a better industry is more important than putting money in my pockets."

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