Eleven former members of the Carousel Theatre for Young People’s Teen Shakespeare Program (TSP) have penned an open letter to the Vancouver theatre community and Carousel’s board, outlining “bullying, abusive and problematic behaviours” and calling for change.
In a public Facebook post, former TSP participant and a signatory to the letter, Sofia Bunting Newman says “we wrote this open letter in the hopes that it would lead to accountability for the past, immediate action in the present, and lasting change in the future.”
Over the past few weeks, many past and present members of the Vancouver theatre community have been speaking out about…
It is the latest allegations to join other theatre artists who publically chronicled their own experiences in what is characterized as a toxic and abusive culture at the Vancouver theatre company.
Reports of “toxicity, fear, abuse, and manipulation” led to an online petition with over 480 signatures to date and many stories from artists who worked with Carousel over the years. The mounting allegations ultimately led to the departure of Carousel’s artistic and managing director, Carole Higgins.
In the open letter, the eleven former students outlined a long list of allegations dating back to 2009 against both Higgins and the TSP’s lead instructor, Mike Stack.
According to the letter, as children in the program, they “felt anxious, abused, intimidated and humiliated by Carousel’s leadership.”
The letter joins the demands made by other theatre artists for accountability, transparency and implementation of protection and reporting processes for artists and staff. In this instance, the signatories also advocate specifically for minors in the Teen Shakespeare Program stating, “TSP failed us in so many ways, and it needs to do better for current and future participants.”
The letter also encourages members of the Vancouver theatre community to add their names to the petition.
Vancouver Presents reached out to the Carousel Theatre board for comment following Higgins’s departure. After we refused to provide questions in advance, a spokesperson stated the board had nothing to add beyond their public statement.