WALNUT STREET THEATRE TESTIMONIALS
Trigger Warning: Workplace harassment, Abuse, Racism, Sexual Harassment, Fat Phobia, Ableism, Pregnancy discrimination, Mental illness, and more.
The testimonies in the link below were collected via This Workplace Survey. Survivors have given us consent to share these testimonies publicly. If one of the following testimonies is yours and you have since changed your mind about your consent given to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be removed as soon as possible.
In June 2021, a former employee of Walnut Street Theatre received a cease-and-desist letter from the theatre's lawyer after commenting on a social media post published by the Walnut with the following message:
"When will you let us know what you’ve been doing for the past 15 months to make your space safer for BIPOC, trans, disabled, and marginalized artists? What work have you been doing during this Black Lives Matter uprising? How are you going to make women feel more safe with Bernard [Havard, the theatre's President and Producing Artistic Director] at the helm? Will you ever hire a black director for the main stage? Will you diversify your board? Have. You. Done. Anything?"
The cease and desist letter claimed the former employee's inquiry falsely suggested "criminal activity", and threatened legal action should she continue to speak out against Walnut Street Theatre and Bernard Havard. In defiance of the letter, the former employee formed the organization Protect the Artist Philly which collected over 90 accounts from current and former Walnut Street Theatre employees describing racism, sexism, homophobia, pregnancy discrimination, and other forms of discrimination, workplace harassment, and abuse they experienced while working at the theatre.
On June 18th, 2021, members of Protect the Artist Philly organized a protest in front of Walnut Street Theatre and down Walnut street in Center City, Philadelphia, ending in Rittenhouse Park. Throughout the protest, former employees and members of the Philadelphia arts community shared accounts of racism, pay inequities, and other forms of discrimination experienced at the Walnut. Protect the Artist Philly also publicly released a number of demands of Walnut Street Theatre, including the removal of President and Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard, the hiring of a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access, a living wage for all employees of the theatre, a staff and creative teams that reflects the racial diversity of the city of Philadelphia, and increased financial transparency in response to publicly available tax records that show that Havard's yearly salary is over $700,000 at the nonprofit theatre and revelations that the theatre received a Paycheck Protection Program loan of over $1.42 million following the layoff and failure to properly compensate over 120 employees of the theatre during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Walnut Street Theatre has not publicly responded to Protect the Artist Philly's demands nor has its lawyer pursued legal action resulting from defiance of the cease and desist letter. (Above)