I said “No Comment”, but here is my comment. In regards to Profiles Theater and the Chicago Reader article.

My name is Emily. I’m the actress in the Chicago Reader article (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/profiles-theatre-theater-abuse-investigation/Content?oid=22415861), the article that exposes the professional and sexual abuse, and predatory nature of Profiles Theater, who threatened to leave a production (Kid Sister). I originally declined comment when the journalist approached me, but had I known that the article would be such a thoughtful, eloquent display of journalism, I would have opened my voice. Now I am.

I did not want the article to be a smear campaign. And I felt that my battle with Darrell Cox and Profiles Theater was won, so why would I add to the list of victims? Why should I take attention away from their plight? But I should have added to the list because while I fought my battle, there was still a battle to fight, and there shouldn’t have been. This article was no smear campaign. I can attest to many of these stories. I lived it with these men and women.

But here’s the thing. A tricky thing. I was so proud of the work that I did on that stage. I still am. And I feel uneasy, a bit ashamed, that I have this pride for performing on a stage that was used for predatory purposes. And that stills my voice a little bit. That makes me be quiet because I was compliant, wasn’t I? I mean, I was, a little bit. Even though I talked with these women, even though behind the scenes we would build each other up, give each other strength to walk away from this “family”, yes, that’s what we called each other, and strength to say – “No. This is not OK.” Still, I complied. Because I saw the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  And yet, I used this wolf and this theatre to build my resume, to do good theatre – yes, we did good theatre because I thought, “I can handle this man. I’m aware of this man. My eyes are wide open.”

But there are other theatres. Other good theatres. Theatres who will not abuse your time or your talent or your body or your mind.

And we do not have to sacrifice, not like this, for our passion.

When I moved to Chicago, I was told Profiles Theater was THE BEST non-union theatre and the only way to be “seen” by them was to take the Advanced Scene Study Class. I vowed that I would take the class, and I would be seen, and I would work my ass off to get on their stage because their stage was a springboard to theatres such as Steppenwolf and The Goodman, and that was my dream, so I took the class. And I quickly realized how charming Darrell Cox was, how special he made you feel when he turned his gaze on you. Because he was so unaffected, right? (But really, so deeply affected and insecure – but you ignored those things because he was THE DARRELL COX.) And he didn’t give his attention to just anyone. He didn’t bother. So when he looked at you, spoke to you, you perked up a bit, you craved his respect, the thrill of the unattainable.

I’m pretty sure he fucked one of the other girls in the class in the wee hours of the morning in the dressing room while we, the students, were all partying at the theatre, drinking and dancing onstage, because I heard them through the thin walls grunting and moaning, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure I heard what I heard, but my ears are sharp, and my intuition like a knife. I was friendly with Darrell, but aware. Kept a bit of a personal distance. My first show with Profiles Theater was Graceland, where I stepped in for Somer Benson as she went on to another production. I was then cast as the understudy for Somer Benson, as Sharla, in Killer Joe.

It was inferred to me that Somer was jealous of me and despised me so I kept my distance. And it was inferred to her that I felt that same. Already, women were pitted against each other. Distance settled in. Distance that allowed abuse to be quieted. Little did I know (I would find out later), that the violence onstage was real as Darrell choked and ignored Somer’s safety word, that she was abused (because she was). Meanwhile, I was told by others in the company that she was protective of her role and would never allow me to play the role of Sharla in front of an audience. It annoyed me, angered me that she would be so intimidated by her understudy.

But really, she was protecting me. In my opinion, she was protecting me. Because if I’d been put on that stage, I wouldn’t have been prepared for what was to happen because no one taught me the fight choreography.

Darrell caught wind that I wasn’t comfortable performing and he belittled me, looked at me as though I were a disappointment and said something along the lines of, “What do you mean you wouldn’t be able to perform?” And I was incredulous. Of course I couldn’t. This show had so much violence. I needed rehearsals. And so then we had understudy rehearsals. We were taught the fight choreography. But had I not spoken up – I would have just slipped right in unprepared.

I was cast in their next show, Kid Sister. The relationship between Darrell and Allie was uncomfortable, the tension thick, and I just knew, knew, there was more simmering beneath the surface, that there were secrets here. Darrell would complain about Allie to me, once again pitting females against each other, complaining that she was the reason he was tense and angry because she wasn’t being “honest” on stage.

Honesty is a huge deal at Profiles.

One night, days before opening, I asked Joe Jahraus (the director) a question about my notes. Darrell was lurking, listening, and misconstrued my question. He thought I was placing blame on him and flew into a rage, screaming at me, telling me it was all my fault because I wasn’t giving him anything real to work with onstage, I wasn’t being honest. But the tirade didn’t end. I found myself sitting in a chair being abused for hours. I remember thinking, “Listen, breathe, rebuttal.” And so that is what I did. I would listen to his abuse, take a breath, and refute it. I threw his teachings in his face. I didn’t back down. I had no idea I possessed this much strength. And that is a beautiful thing to realize, to recognize one’s own power. But the abuse should have been stopped. Joe, the director, this was his job. But he sat idle, compliant.

I went to the bar down the street when we called a “break” and took a shot of vodka. Met a good friend there, a theatre friend, who said, “You’ve got some balls.” (To stand up to Darrell Cox – that’s a career-breaker.) In fact, during the abuse, I threatened to quit and Darrell said something like, “You would quit? After everything we’ve given you?” And I remember saying, “You didn’t give me anything. I earned it.” But that was their mentality, it seemed. We’ve given you art, theatre, and we can take it away, too.

Around 2 am Joe called me back to the theatre. I walked in and Darrell sat on the couch, arms slung out on the backs of the couch, cocky, so self-assured, with this arrogant look on his face like, “This is my theatre.” There was one lone chair in the center of the stage, presumably for me, while the rest of the company sat in the audience, watching. I sat down in the chair and said, “Round two? Bring it.” And he brought it. And I fought. And no one stopped it. And it wasn’t until I began to cry where he was like, “Oh, baby, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” And I won. (But did I? Really? Because it doesn’t seem like a win. Not any longer. Not as I write this.)

This was clear: Darrell got off on it, the power, the tears, and afterwards he took me in his arms and whispered apologies and called me, “Baby”, and said it had nothing to do with me, that he was pissed at Allie for messing up and he took it out on me.

Bullshit.

After that altercation, certain friendships within the theatre dissolved, while others flourished. Somer, Allie, Claire – these women, each one stepping forward saying, “This wasn’t right.” Wasn’t it? All of us whispering to each other, sharing our stories, becoming closer and closer. At first there was hesitation and unease as we were conditioned to be quiet, to doubt ourselves, manipulated into silence. I could go on and on about a hand grazing my ass, barely, just barely, like a feather, so that I would question if it really happened. Or dancing in the middle of the night on the stage for fun, just for fun, and Darrell murmuring, “That’s sexy, Baby.” Or Darrell trying to mind-fuck me into breaking up with men I was seeing because he was jealous. All of us – his actresses – we were his. Tucked carefully away into boxes away from each other so that we wouldn’t speak, our stories wouldn’t come out, secrets wouldn’t surface. And he was good at it. But secrets have a way of coming out. And now, those boxes have blown wide open.

And I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t afraid of posting this, of throwing this out into the universe, or that I didn’t fear his wrath and disapproval because I do. Still, I want to please him. Still, part of me seeks his acceptance. This, folks, is honesty.

There has been some criticism within the Chicago theatre community on how long it took for people to speak up, but I spoke up, and what did that get me? Behavior did not change. Sometimes it takes time for change to be enacted. Sometimes it takes patience, and research, and a flawlessly constructed article to reach not just a handful of people, but millions.

I should have shared my story when called for comment. I should have publicly stood behind my friends and colleagues – Somer Benson, Claire Wellin, Corey Weinberg, Darcy McGill, Cheryl Graeff, Allie – this is truth – I hear you, I see you, and I stand behind you all.

*These are my interpretations, and my experience.*

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44 thoughts on “I said “No Comment”, but here is my comment. In regards to Profiles Theater and the Chicago Reader article.

  1. Thank you for you strength and honesty, and for really being vulnerable to convey how deeply this abuse not only affected you but others you worked with. You are only human; thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, Emily. I always wanted to know who it was that pushed back. You’re so strong and so honest. Thank you for coming forward and filling in the blanks. Nothing to fear now, he’s silent.
    BTW: He would whisper “Baby” and other things in my ear immediately after curtain call backstage in the dark before stage management got back there. I wish I could silent that playback.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so, so fantastic. I was a Chicago actor from 95-01 and this story is really hitting me hard for some reason. I do a lot of teaching now and working with young people. I feel like this story, and your essay, should be required reading for young theatre artists before they try to establish themselves. Bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There needs to be transparency in all aspects of the arts. This is beyond brave and it will cause change. I am so angry about this scumbag. Let’s see how “confident” he is when he has to deal with the legality of his actions.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So utterly unacceptable that the theatre and its artists should be abused in this way. I speak as an actor and director. This is an outrage against our art, and I thank you and all the others who have had the courage to speak out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All I can say is my heart hurts for all of you who could not speak of this until now. I’m horrified and outraged. Your bravery and courage to speak up will give strength to others so they speak up as well. Sadly I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg. ((( ❤ )))

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I hate what was done to you. I deeply appreciate your fighting back. And I hope you know how many people you’ve never met support you.

    I’ve studied fight choreography to make sure this NEVER happens to people. Especially people like you. It’s unacceptable, and you are so strong for dealing with something no one deserves. Thank you for being impossibly strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. And for your courage. I was part of the Chicago theater community during the 90s and I’m sorry. I feel like we failed you and the other artists who suffered this prick. I’m sorry for what you went through.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you. So much. For what it’s worth – here is what happens when you share your story – you make others (like me) feel so much less alone.

    I never experienced Darrell’s manipulation and psychopathic tendencies but I have from another person who is in my FAMILY and it’s been a constant re-reminder that standing my ground was a strong choice. That avoiding him at all costs is the SANE and CORRECT action. That if you just change the location and a few words in your post I’m seeing a fun-house mirror of my own story.

    And then I’m strong again. Because I know it’s not all “in my head” and I don’t NEED the rest of my family on board or to agree for the abuse to be real.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you. So. Much. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have done the same, Ali! Your words will be very helpful to others in similar situations of abuse and manipulation. You may be a member of “the walking wounded”, as my therapist said, but you are walking and speaking out, and you are not alone. It’s a big club. Keep on keeping on!

      Like

  10. Thank you for your honesty in these words. There are so many lines that can be crossed when doing theater, and those lines, if crossed, must be fully agreed upon by the actors for their comfort and sanity. I’m struggling and angry with all of these revelations, because it’s clear that a great many talented young actresses have had their dreams corrupted, their talents stomped, their souls deeply bruised. Acting is an illusion, and the better a director and actor refine that illusion, the better our art becomes. It sickens me that Profiles made their productions a sick substitute of the beautiful illusions that real performers strive to create. My heart goes out to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As concerned members of the PRO99 theatre community in Los Angeles, we would like to express our support for our fellow theatre artists in Chicago. We believe in the transformative power of theatre, and that can only be achieved in an atmosphere of respect, trust and safety. We applaud the courage and bravery of the actors who have come forward to shine a light on abuse, and of the Chicago community at large.

    Additionally, we would like to state that we condemn the sentiments expressed in the recent article by the editor of Bitter Lemons, which placed blame on the victims. We stand in solidarity with Chicago. ‪#‎NotInOurHouse‬

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think you are awesome, incredibly brave, and stronger than you realize. While I don’t live in Chicago, I’m an actress who loves that city’s theatrical community very, very much. This story has made me sick, sad, and extremely angry. Hold your head up & continue being creative in whatever way that brings joy to your soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The first thing people who haven’t experienced the abuse always say is, “How come it took you so long to say anything?” It takes time because abusers are good at laying their traps. They always confound you into thinking it was your fault, that you were complicit. Good for you and all the other women for coming forward and bringing genuine honesty to the surface.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you, Emily. Your words broke my heart and renewed my faith at the same time. This won’t close the book, but it may well have ended an inhuman chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I admire you. This happens, and when I read, “women were pitted against each other. Distance settled in. Distance that allowed abuse to be quieted.” my feelings of empathy for the victim became undescribable anger toward the perpetrator.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I know it feels like you’re late in saying anything, but don’t beat yourself up about it. The truth sets everyone free, not just the ones who speak the truth. And truth, and freedom, work in their own time. Your truth is right on time. Know that you have done well.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for speaking up. I should have done that thirty years ago in undergrad when a teacher told me I needed “private lessons.” And in grad school when an Equity actor would fondle me backstage, saying he needed “inspiration” to play a master with a maid.

    Like

  18. Thank you so much for writing this. Both my girlfriend and myself are entering our senior year of college and then headed to Chicago, where we could have easily been caught in this web of abuse. Thanks to you and the other women who spoke up, we are aware of the problems and can be on the lookout for them. I have no doubts that you have helped to protect a new generation of artists and given us a wonderful model to follow in defending ourselves if we do find ourselves in this sort of situation. I have unending amounts of respect and love for you and all of your friends and colleagues that have come forward. Keep yourself safe and I would love to have the pleasure of working with you in the future.

    Taran Snodgress

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oddly, as I’m reading your experiences I can almost visualize it on the stage. Your experiences that night you stood up to him sound and seem like the kind of honest work that could play out on the very stage you were sitting. A story about a tribe of actresses who initially were pitted against each other and then banded together to stand up to their oppressor. It could be inspiring, therapeutic, important. Words are so powerful and the ones you’ve shared here, even if some people think it took “so long” to share them, are so important. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  20. So brave. So eloquent. So necessary to have your voice, your story, your truth. Thank you for letting us see the abuse up close and understand the sick mind-games on an even deeper level. No comment no longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Emily,

    This is bona-fide bravery and flourish you will here and forward, as will all who feel the effect of Profiles Theatre.

    A new landscape awaits, let us demand it, organize, nurture, and continue to create until we are exhausted and hunger for more.

    We are the new horde.

    You will lead us.

    Liked by 1 person

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