Following sexual harassment allegations, Iron Crow Theatre pledges more supportive, structured response

Iron Crow Theatre came under fire earlier this year for its response to sexual harassment allegations against artistic director Sean Elias (pictured). On Friday, the theater company issued a press release pledging a more structured response to workplace-related complaints.
Iron Crow Theatre came under fire earlier this year for its response to sexual harassment allegations against artistic director Sean Elias (pictured). On Friday, the theater company issued a press release pledging a more structured response to workplace-related complaints. (HANDOUT)

In the wake of charges of sexual harassment against Iron Crow Theatre’s artistic director that it continues to say were unfounded, theater officials are pledging more openness and a more structured response to workplace-related complaints.

The steps, outlined in a press release issued Aug. 3, include creating a first-ever handbook for the theater company’s volunteer staff, as well as establishing “new policies and procedures on discrimination and harassment, reporting and resolving concerns, and the use of social media.”


The company has contracted with Hollaback! Baltimore, whose founder, Shawna Potter, will institute safe-space training for all Iron Crow volunteer staff and guest artists.

Fallout from the #MeToo movement is sending seismic tremors through Baltimore’s performing arts scene, perhaps permanently altering the landscape.

“We are determined to strengthen the organizational foundations needed for a safe and inclusive environment for all of our artists,” Iron Crow board President Frank Golom said in the release.


Potter said her goal was not to decide on the validity of any claims against Iron Crow, but to establish procedures that will ensure a proper, and supportive, response to any similar situation.

“We tell people what to say, what to do, how to be supportive of a victim," she said. "Everyone understands that harassment is bad… but they just don’t know what to do. I literally tell them what to do."

Iron Crow is the latest in a trio of small local arts organizations to come under fire over the past year for their handling of accusations or revelations of sexual misconduct.

Last August, several women sent statements alleging sexual misconduct by the executive director of the high-profile arts incubator Le Mondo to the organization’s board. He resigned later that month, was rehired briefly in September as a consultant for a real estate group affiliated with Le Mondo, then was fired three days later by Le Mondo’s board.

And in December, Fells Point Corner Theatre and the Collaborative Theatre Company canceled a joint production of “A Christmas Carol” after it was revealed that the actor cast to play Scrooge was a registered sex offender.

In late March, Iron Crow, which bills itself as Baltimore’s only queer theater, canceled its planned production of Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” amid allegations of sexual misconduct by its artistic director, Sean Elias. An internal investigation of those allegations, under “consultation” with an outside law firm, found “sexual harassment did not occur,” according to Iron Crow. But fallout from the allegations, including social media postings against an accuser that led the company to seek the resignation of a volunteer staffer, continued to plague the company.

“We believe that if we were to facilitate the dialogue tomorrow, it could potentially be harmful, re-traumatizing, and unsafe for people,” Priya Bhayana, a facilitator from Restorative Response Baltimore, wrote in an email sent out Thursday evening announcing the cancellation.

Elias remains as the company’s artistic director. River Hansen is serving in the new position of interim managing director. Elias had been artistic director/CEO, but that leadership role has been split into two positions.

In June, a “community dialogue” that had been planned to bring together Iron Crow leaders and other interested parties was canceled by the conflict resolution organization Restorative Response Baltimore, which cited fears that it “could potentially be harmful, re-traumatizing, and unsafe for people.”

Many of the procedures outlined in the release “come directly from conversations with a variety of community members following events of this past spring,” according to the release. People who had registered for June’s dialogue were contacted, in order to “provide a direct line of communication to the community for inquiries, concerns and/or feedback.”

Under procedures outlined on Iron Crow’s website, volunteers who feel they are being harassed or otherwise discriminated against can bring their concerns to a specific production’s cast deputy, stage manager or director or assistant director, or to the company’s managing or artistic director. That person, in turn, will make a member of the company’s “senior administration” aware or the complaint; if the complaint involves a senior administrator, the complaint will go directly to the company’s board of directors. A “timely response” is promised.

In addition, the policy pledges that “no volunteer will be penalized, formally or informally, for merely voicing a concern… in a reasonable, businesslike manner, or for using this concern resolution procedure.”

In a separate release, Iron Crow announced its productions for the coming season. They include “The Laramie Project” (Sept. 14-23), “The Rocky Horror Show” (Dec. 14-16), “The Mystery of Love and Sex” (Jan. 25-Feb. 3, 2019) and “A New Brain” (May 31-June 9, 2019).

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