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'Community dialogue' forum prompted by allegations against Iron Crow Theatre is cancelled

In the wake of allegations of harassment and unprofessional behavior that led to the cancellation of productions, Iron Crow Theatre has scheduled a “community dialogue.” The group's artistic director Sean Elias was accused of harassment in March. He has denied any wrongdoing.
In the wake of allegations of harassment and unprofessional behavior that led to the cancellation of productions, Iron Crow Theatre has scheduled a “community dialogue.” The group's artistic director Sean Elias was accused of harassment in March. He has denied any wrongdoing.(HANDOUT)

A “community dialogue” on issues surrounding Iron Crow Theatre and allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior against its artistic director that had been scheduled for Friday afternoon has been cancelled.

The decision to cancel was made by Restorative Response Baltimore, a conflict resolution organization that had been brought in by Iron Crow.

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“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.

The group’s plan would have brought both sides together in a public forum, with participants sitting in circle, voicing their thoughts and concerns. The plan, Bhayana wrote in her email, “require(s) a certain structure and process that we no longer believe is appropriate for this dialogue...It has become clear to us that many people are looking for a different type of dialogue process, which unfortunately we do not provide.”

Reached by phone, Bhayana confirmed canceling the forum, which had been set for 1 p.m. at Motor House Baltimore, in the Station North Arts District. She declined any further comment.

The forum had been called in the wake of Iron Crow’s decision in March to cancel two planned productions.

The cast of an upcoming production of Terrence McNally's play "Corpus Christ" at Baltimore's Iron Crow Theatre has walked out following sexual harassment allegations against the company and its artistic director.

“After extended consultation with a number of community agencies and organizations,” the theater company had said in a statement posted on its website last week, “Iron Crow Theatre will be hosting a community dialogue … to discuss how we as a theatre community can heal, move forward, and ensure a safe environment for our artists and administrators.”

In a statement sent early Friday, Iron Crow’s board expressed disappointment with the cancellation. “We have done, or are currently in the process of doing, all that we said we would do in response to the events of this past spring,” the statement read, “as a proactive way of moving forward.”

The statement thanked Restorative Response Baltimore “for their services, professionalism, and stewardship.” It blamed comments posted on social media for the decision to cancel.

“We do not believe that social media is a platform conducive to discussing issues in a way that can yield positive and meaningful change,” the statement read. It encouraged those “interested in engaging in a sincere and solution-based dialogue” to reach out to the board or artistic director Sean Elias.

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Iron Crow, which bills itself as “Baltimore’s only queer theatre,” postponed productions of Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” planned for April and “The Laramie Project” planned for this month after a volunteer member accused Elias of harassing and pinching him, fueling a heated debate online.

Elias has denied any wrongdoing. Iron Crow said it conducted its own investigation and “concluded that the specific allegations of sexual harassment [made] by a former volunteer member of our organization did not occur.”

Cast and crew members voted against continuing with “Corpus Christi” in March. In announcing their decision, they did not offer opinions or comment on the validity of the accusations.

Iron Crow announced recently that it was “expanding its policies on sexual harassment and harassment through social media” and had created a “formalized standard of professionalism.”

A spokeswoman for Iron Crow did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for more information.

Iron Crow has also announced the creation of a community advisory board to support the company “as it implements its revised and expanded policies on harassment and professionalism, ensuring that Iron Crow Theatre remains a safe place for all.”

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The board is to be chaired by Ron Legler, president of the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center.

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