Amid the storm of sexual harrassment cases that have dominated headlines in recent weeks, the highest profile case in the Chicago theater community has been that of Michael Halberstam, a co-founder and artistic director of the Glencoe-based Writers Theatre.
As reported in the Sun-Times on Nov. 5, allegations were made in a series of tweets by Tom Robson, who said he was the assistant director and dramaturg for Writers’ 2003 production of “Crime & Punishment.” Robson detailed acts of harassment toward him that he said were committed by Halberstam, the play’s director. Robson, who now lives in Decatur, Ill., was 23 at the time.
In a letter issued Thursday by the theater’s Board of Trustees — which pointed out that immediately upon hearing of the charges it had hired an independent investigator to complete a thorough investigation of those charges, and that Halberstam had fully cooperated — the findings showed that Halberstam “made inappropriate and insensitive comments in the workplace. [But] the investigation did not support a finding of other inappropriate sexual behavior. Based on these findings, Mr. Halberstam will participate in compliance training and executive coaching sessions, to begin immediately.”
The statement went on to explain that Halberstam has wholly agreed to these remediation steps, and included Halberstam’s own comments:
“I understand that statements and comments I have made have caused distress and discomfort for members of our theater community. I would like to unequivocally express my sincere and deep regret. I welcome and embrace the steps that have been laid out for me by the Board as I am fully committed to addressing this behavior and to making certain that our theatre provides a safe and nurturing atmosphere for everyone.”
The Board’s letter also noted: “Writers Theatre has always prided itself on creating and ensuring a safe work environment for all. That is why we took this matter seriously.” It went on to say:
“As we remain fully committed to ensuring a respectful work environment, we also will work to determine if additional steps must be taken to reinforce and refine our Harassment Policy and training based on what we have learned through this process. We want to thank all of you who have reached out and expressed concern and support during this time. We have worked as thoroughly and quickly as possible to address these concerns. We are now ready to put in the hard work required for rebuilding.”