Actors’ Equity has reached a new agreement with the Michigan regional theater founded in 1991 by actor Jeff Daniels that recently saw the resignation of its longtime artistic director Guy Sanville following harassment and bullying accusations.
The union says the agreement with the Purple Rose Theatre Company of Chelsea, Michigan, demonstrates a “commitment to creating a safe workplace, free from the discrimination and harassment the company experienced under its previous leadership.”
“The new agreement also includes advances in wages and work hours as well as additional safety provisions,” said Equity in a statement.
According to the Michigan theater website EncoreMichigan, Sanville, the Purple Rose artistic director for 26 years, resigned to the theater’s Board of Directors last week, with the announcement made public this week in a letter to donors from Steve Hamp, chair of the theater’s board.
The letter to donors was posted by EncoreMichigan, and reads, in part, “You may have seen or heard of allegations of impropriety, several of which date back more than a decade. These are similar to the types of stories that have appeared about arts and cultural organizations across the country.
“The Board, in its governance role on behalf of our community, has been aware of most of the allegations for more than a year and has taken steps to look into and address these situations. Upon learning of specific allegations last Fall, we took all of them seriously. Our Board ordered an internal review of our human resources records to ensure that nothing has been missed over the years. We have no records of complaints against any of our management via the union by any employees at any time.”
Allegations of bullying, discrimination and unsafe working conditions by former apprentices and actors have been made against the company over the years, many singling out Sanville and most focusing on the theater’s apprentice program. The EncoreMichigan report indicates that Equity has brought grievances on “on behalf of nine” former or current apprentices, eight of which were dismissed because of the amount of time that had elapsed since the alleged incidents. The ninth case remains in arbitration, the website’s investigation indicates.
The Purple Rose Theatre is conducting a nationwide search for a new artistic director.
Sanville told the website that he couldn’t “talk about my retirement at this time.” Deadline was unable to reach Sanville.
According to Equity, the key provisions of its new agreement with the Purple Rose – which takes its name from the 1985 Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo that starred Daniels – include wage increases for some positions, a five-day workweek and elimination of “10 out of 12” technical rehearsals, increase in staged reading wages, elimination of time bars for reporting discrimination and harassment, discrimination and harassment language that “more specifically prohibits bullying, all forms of discrimination and harassment and retaliation and more clearly defines the avenues for reporting.”
Other provisions: A requirement of annual anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all managers, and comprehensive intimacy protocols developed according to standards provided by Equity’s diversity, equity and inclusive strategist.
“This contract is now one of the strongest Equity contracts in the country in terms of protecting members from discrimination and harassment, and it will be a model for other theatres,” said Equity Assistant Executive Director and General Counsel Andrea Hoeschen in a statement. “Actors and stage managers will have a safer workplace because of the courage and efforts those who revealed a range of working conditions at Purple Rose that were inconsistent with a safe, equitable, unionized workplace.”
Deadline has reached out to the Purple Rose Theatre Company for comment.