Updated June 14, 2016
A statement issued Tuesday evening by Larry Larsen, Senior Vice President of the Greentarget, a public relations firm, confirmed what was widely believed to be inevitable. In the wake of a scandalous story in the current issue of The Reader, Profiles Theatre is closing its doors, effective immediately.
Here is the official statement posted on the theater’s Facebook page late Tuesday night:
“A Message from Profiles Theatre:
We are sad to announce that Profiles Theatre is closing its doors after 28 years and 81 productions. The closure is effective immediately.
We want to thank all of the artists who have worked with us during the past three decades. We are very proud of the many successes we have achieved together. We care about all of you tremendously and wish you only the very best.
We also want to thank our patrons. We will be forever grateful to you for your devoted and enthusiastic support of our work.
We hope this decision will further the healing process within our community. May Chicago theatre thrive and its future be bright.”
Last week’s cover story in The Reader, which bears the headline “At Profiles Theatre the drama — and abuse — is real,” generated a massive amount of conversation — setting social media afire, and inspiring statements from many theater companies, the Jeff Awards Committee, actors, directors and others.
At issue are allegations that Darrell Cox, the co-artistic director, actor and director at the theater that makes it home in two storefronts on North Broadway, has for years engaged in questionable conduct — most notably with the actresses, many of them young — who have appeared in his productions.
Since its founding in 1988, the theater (which became an Equity contract operation in 2012), has attracted many skilled performers and other theater professionals to its stages, garnered a slew of rave reviews, developed a loyal audience, and attracted the attention of many high-profile playwrights (Tracy Letts, Neil LaBute, Jez Butterworth). It also garnered a reputation for staging dark, disturbing plays in a very intimate space.
A sampling of the responses to the Reader’s allegations suggests a mix of ethical outrage and self-protection.
From the Steppenwolf Theatre (whose veteran ensemble member, Rick Snyder, directed Profiles’ greatest hit to date — “Killer Joe,” an early work by fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts) came these words posted by the company’s artistic director, Anna D. Shapiro: “Victims of abuse can’t speak up when their predators take advantage of two things: the beautiful dreams inside of them and a complicit, broken system. It is clear from Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s astonishing article that Darrell Cox and his co-conspirators took advantage of both. Steppenwolf Theatre stands with the victims of this hideous abuse and with their brave defenders.”
The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee, which was asked to revoke a past award given to Cox, said: “The Jeff Awards has read the Chicago Reader’s article about Profiles Theater. We are supporters of the ‘Not In Our House’ [NIOH] movement, and the new Non-Equity Theatres Code Conduct Guidelines concerning treatment of actors, now closely following the long standing Equity (AEA) rules. The Jeff Awards Executive Committee will address the change.org Petition to Revoke Darrell Cox’s Non-Equity Jeff Award for Profile’s ‘Killer Joe’ [a production dating back to 2010] and advise the community.” [NIOH is the Chicago-bred advocacy organization whose mission statement proclaims: “No one should be forced to choose between her personal safety and dignity, and her job. But too often in the theater community this is exactly the choice that women must make. Sexual discrimination and harassment, and gender-based violence often occur in the intimate and physical context of a theater production.”]
In addition, NIOH posted a petition addressed to the Profiles board of directors, asking it to end its relationship with both Cox and Profiles’ co-artistic director, Joe Jahraus, and said that although “more than 2,000 people have signed the petition … it’s unclear how its aim could be realized, as Profiles has no independent board of directors.”
The League of Chicago Theaters, the advocacy organization for this city’s more than 200 companies, has not yet issued a formal statement.
According to its executive director, Deb Clapp, “We are discussing this matter seriously, but do not plan to make a statement yet.”
On Friday, photographs on Facebook showed the facade of Profiles Theater’s storefront papered over with copies of the Reader story. And by the end of the day came word that British playwright Penelope Skinner (whose first play, in 2008, was titled “F…ed” ) had withdrawn the rights to her play, “The Village Bike,” which was scheduled to begin previews the theater in late August.