Purple Rose Theatre Director Resigns Amid Allegations of Toxic Workplace, Emotional Abuse

November 08, 2021, 2:20 PM

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Chelsea's well-known Purple Rose Theatre Company, founded by actor Jeff Daniels in 1991, is getting unwanted attention. 

Longtime artistic director Guy Sanville has stepped down admid allegations of creating a toxic workplace, The Detroit News reports in a subscriber-only post. 

The theater on Park Street in downtown Chelsea confirms to the paper that a letter told donors of Sanville's resignation after more than 26 years with the cultural attraction.

The theater's 14-member board includes Daniels, a Michigan native, and Sheila Ford Hamp, owner of the Detroit Lions.

As of  Monday afternoon, about 400 people signed a change.org petition posted by current and past theater apprentices seeking "an administrative staff that operates transparently and clearly, with measurable objectives, with adequate internal guidance, structure and support, and with a more diplomatic balance of power." It adds:

We, and others like us, have given Purple Rose Theatre Company every opportunity to listen to our voices, and to address our qualms quietly over the years. We have not been taken seriously.

On September 14, 2020 nearly 70 former apprentices, actors, stage managers, designers, and artists sent a 22-page letter detailing grievances and a list of solutions to the board at the Purple Rose. These grievances ranged everywhere from manipulation, emotional abuse, and bullying, to discriminatory hiring practices, unsafe working conditions, homophobia, and racism. Many of these grievances centered on the long-time artistic director Guy Sanville.

The letter was brushed off. After about 6 months of discussions with the Actor's Equity Association and repeated attempts by the PRTC to settle with us to buy our silence, AEA fought for us to arbitrate.

The arbitrator ruled that all but one of our grievances would be dismissed because they happened longer than 30 days ago.

This is unacceptable. Abuse has no expiration date.

We've been patient and silent far too long, and we demand accountability from Guy Sanville and the Purple Rose Theatre Company.

The News reports:

In a letter sent Friday to Katie Hubbard, managing director of the Purple Rose, board chair Steve Hamp said the board has been "aware of most of the allegations for more than a year and has taken steps to look into and address these situations."

Hamp said Sanville has decided to step down to avoid distractions from the theater's mission.

Hamp also wrote that the board ordered an internal review of the theater's human resources records and found no complaints from union employees against anyone in management.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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