Please consider submitting a message of support for current or former students who may still be experiencing the effects of abuse and trauma. Messages of support can be published under your real name, an alias, or anonymously.
Martha Henry, Actor & Director
My support for the students of George Brown who have encountered harassment is unreserved. This kind of abuse was an acceptable norm 60 years ago. We have grown up a bit since then. It sounds as though this unfortunate teacher was – and perhaps still is – trapped within an ethos which was supported in the mid-1900’s. It is not, and will not be, supported now. My heart goes out to the young artists who have endured this kind of behaviour. It is courageous of this website and of the people who have shared their stories to provide a safe space that will help to combat any future behaviour of this kind.
Allen Hernandez, Patron & Supporter
My love of stage and theatre began a few summers back, when a beautiful friend introduced me to the magic of the Toronto Fringe Festival. In that one weekend, I experienced: wonder, joy, confusion, sadness, suspense, laughter, awkwardness, inclusion, bravery, courage. To know now that some of those players, as well as many others in this amazing community, have come through or have been witness to darkness where there should have been light and nurturing, and yet manage to bloom forth beauty in their work and lives, speaks to the incredible resilience of the human spirit.
To those who endeavour to follow their passion and place themselves underneath the unforgiving spotlight – please continue to bring joy into our lives. We love you. To those who have voices that are on the cusp of speaking out, please know that you have so many supporters out there. We stand with you. To those who have shared their experiences, messages of support, or who make this safe space possible and work to right this shameful history, we thank you. This story is just beginning.
Rob Norman, Instructor: Second City
It is our responsibility to listen, believe and protect the victims of harassment. Your theatre education should be additive: building upon the already amazing assets you possess when you walk into that room. No student should ever feel belittled, shamed, or attacked. No theatre instructor is qualified “To tear you down, to build you back up again”. That is abuse. Great workshops leave you feeling empowered, challenged, and excited for what’s next. If something feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Talk to someone.
Christopher McCron, Supporter
I fully support any individual that has endured harassment while attending George Brown. Coming from an improvisational theatre background, I know that supportive and trusting theatre environments are possible; it is sad to hear that this was not the same experience for others. I sincerely hope that those who spoke out years ago find justice, along with those who have spoken out recently. I commend the bravery of those who have already come out of the shadows, and I would encourage others to follow suit. You will be supported.
Olive, Performer & Supporter
My love and support goes out to all the survivors of harassment and abuse at George Brown. Sadly, these are not isolated incidents of instructors who are supposed to be teaching, taking advantage of their power and influence. Art is supposed to be about creating and personal growth. It should never deepen our wounds or worse, create new ones. It should never dim our light. To contribute to the diminishment of someone’s joy, to halt their ability to express and release, or to stifle someone’s passion because of your own selfishishness is the ultimate transgression. I hope those affected can find a way to heal and begin to rebuild their relationship with their art. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are believed.
Hearing about the abuse happening at George Brown Theatre School is shocking, but unfortunately not surprising. As someone who previously worked many years in theatre and comedy, I’ve personally seen and been a victim of harassment, verbal abuse, and much more. If theatre is about speaking truth to power, then we are failing miserably when it comes to our own community. A real investigation needs to take place at George Brown, and procedures implemented to protect vulnerable students. This is urgent and important and I support Patrick’s courage and work in this regard.
Hayley Kellett, Improv Incubator Director: The Making-Box
It’s vastly important to create a space where everyone is welcome and accepted. In theatre we ask each other to step outside of our comfort zones, into vulnerable places on stage. As leaders in this community, it is our responsibility to foster trust and respect so we can do our best learning and performing. It is our responsibility to create a space where our community can be honest and know their comments will be heard. When someone steps forward to share a story of disrespect and inappropriate shaming we need to listen to them and do better as a community. I’m fiercely proud of Patrick for bringing these events forward and standing up for what he believes in. As someone who attended theatre school and dropped out due to negative experiences, I’m proud to stand with him. This kind of behaviour needs to stop.
Patricia, Performer & Supporter
My endless support to all of those who in a place of vulnerability have been victims of individuals who took advantage of their position to ruin careers and even lives. Also victims of an institution that chose to naturalize reprehensible ways and actions over basic human rights for their community. Every faculty member should guarantee a safe space for students, especially when training young performers, where the level of personal exposure can be really high. Sadly, for a lot of theatre teachers, humiliation is part of the syllabus. It’s a lie that you need that to become a strong actor. You need just the opposite. Support and tolerance build confident performers and kinder human beings.
Thanks to those brave ones who shared their experience to build awareness; it may be a long journey but thanks to you it’s already in motion.
Karen Rathwell, 28 Year Teacher & Elementary Administrator
This site has brought to mind many stories, but one long forgotten came to mind from my high school days. A music teacher, respected by many, acted in this very way towards his students. In one such incident, he called my fellow Gr. 10 alto sax player a “cheapy piece of baggage”. Although I was sitting beside her, I could not figure out what she had done to deserve such a comment. I never spoke up to defend her and always have regretted my cowardliness at not doing so. My solution was to keep my head down and get out of the music program the next year.
In my many years as an educator, I purposely promoted anti-bullying programs in the schools where I worked and have many personal experiences of the corruption of “power” to fulfill someone’s need for ego boosting. No one can learn under this amount of stress. Not the student or faculty member being bullied or the bystanders that do not condone the practice, but don’t know what to do and don’t want to be the next target! Teaching young students how to stand up for themselves and others was a key area of curriculum in my drama classes.
Rosamund, Playwright & Supporter
Thank you so much for gathering and sharing these stories. They have been very moving and helpful for me to read now, during a very difficult time in my professional life.
Anonymous, Playwright & Supporter
Rob Lewin, Instructor: The Making-Box
My love and support goes out to victims of abuse in the theatre community and beyond. It is the prerogative of not only the leaders, but of every member of the community to believe survivors and to hold accountable the abusers who have for too long acted as institution gatekeepers. I hope that survivors find justice and peace of mind. I am incredibly grateful to those who made the choice to come forward and share their stories, and I hope the many more who carry their trauma as a silent burden know that they are not alone.
It is necessary and possible for creative spaces to be safe spaces, and it is the responsibility of instructors to curate such spaces. It is time for change, and I am proud to stand with survivors.
Artistic Director Rare Theatre
Professor of Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
Finally, the revolution is here, because of the brave young women and men who have spoken up about their experience of abuse in the GB theatre program. They spoke truth to power, well aware they were risking not only disbelief and the fury of the accused and their allies, but career opportunities. I experienced the same climate of fear and emotional abuse during my three years at the National Theatre School from 1976-1979, but I never had the courage to tell. There would have been no point, because nobody would have cared. It is deeply gratifying to know that people do care, and that the reign of fear in theatre schools in Canada is over. I bow to those who broke the silence.
Allen MacInnis, Director, Teacher & Actor
Reading the stories on this website, I am deeply saddened. Theatre school is hard, without doubt, but it shouldn’t be the decimating experience it was for the people who have shared their stories here. You all have my unreserved support.
I firmly believe the value of training lies in being stretched, challenged, encouraged, and tested in ways that bring you closer to knowing yourself and to building/owning your artistic process, but this can only happen in a truly safe environment. By a safe environment, I mean free from malice, prejudice, jealousy, or the personal agendas of teachers and leaders. A safe environment includes everyone’s commitment to genuinely caring about each other’s success, even when it is difficult. It isn’t about being nice to each other (though that’s pleasant) but about recognizing that I need you and you need me if we are to get better at this art form we love.
The people who wrote their stories here did not experience a safe environment in the theatre school at George Brown.
Theatre is a collaborative art form, as is theatre training. When thinking about collaboration, the term ensemble comes to mind, but with the meaning that the group is viewed as a whole and not strictly as individuals. This is not to say everyone is the same – far from it. It means every member is important, without exception. One might say, no one is left behind.
A safe environment in which to train demands deep trust within the ensemble (with teachers included as members of the ensemble). Training requires risk — to explore new skills, new artistic viewpoints, new ways of seeing. Without substantial trust, one cannot take the risk to contact the depth of the human condition. Training is not a perpetual immersion in risk-taking, however. Without trust, the pathway back to safety after plunging into a risk is fragile, unclear or, worse, non-existent. In the past, some great teachers established trust in effective, subtle ways that were not necessarily overt but deeply felt by the participants. Today, however, the ways in which trust is established need to be more transparent and the trust must be collaboratively constructed. It must also be much more than an administrative policy handed down to instructors and students. It has to be informed by policy but created in the room with the students.
The people who wrote their stories here did not consistently experience trust.
In the stories I have read on this website, I see pain, abuse and deprivation caused by some bad teachers and by administrative practices that did not consistently uphold trust, respect and emotional safety. As someone who directed there, I find it very disheartening. While I know this was not everyone’s experience, even one experience like this is too many. If ensemble means genuinely caring about everyone’s success, the causes of the harm I’ve read here during their time at George Brown Theatre School are on me too.
The artists who wrote their stories here were meant to go to theatre school.
They were/are good enough.
No one can take that away from them.