Fallout continues at Alley Theatre after sudden retirement of artistic director

Miya Shay Image
ByMiya Shay via KTRK logo
Saturday, January 13, 2018
EMBED <>More Videos

Fallout continues over the Alley Theatre's former Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Fallout continues over Alley Theatre's former Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.

Since a hastily announced retirement on Tuesday, a number of current and former employees of the Alley Theatre have spoken out about the issues of workplace harassment and abuse during Boyd's tenure.

"Did you feel like you were abused or harassed in any way, during your time there?" ABC13 asked Amy McKenna, a former rising actress.

"Oh yea, oh yes," she said from her home in Washington State.

McKenna was just 28 years old when she began acting in the Alley Theater in the late 1990s. At the time, Boyd was 47 and already a powerhouse artistic director. McKenna says she briefly dated Boyd during her time at the Alley, and still suffered verbal and mental abuse while acting.

During staging of the play "Travesties," McKenna says Boyd took out a scene between two women set as an afternoon tea. She says he replaced it with a scene where she and another actress would have to wrestle in whipped cream on stage, in their underwear.

"When he proposed it, my heart sank, because of where it came from. Rehearsing it, made me feel humiliated," she said.

McKenna was not alone. Eyewitness News has spoken to at least a dozen current and former employees. All tell similar stories of verbal and mental abuse, especially among younger, up and coming actors.

RELATED: Alley Theatre employees speak out against retiring artistic director

"He's an incredibly intelligent man, and could just literally destroy you with words," said Jonathan Beasley, who acted in several Alley productions during the early 1990s.

"I witnessed several times when a young person actually get in that line of fire, they were just verbally annihilated," he said.

Boyd, whose official tenure ended Thursday, has repeatedly refused to comment. However, in early December, Boyd did speak about the issue during a staff meeting. Eyewitness News was given a recording of that meeting. In the recording, Boyd could be heard talking about the theater's recovery from Hurricane Harvey, then he talks about harassment.

"The first concern is harassment. The Alley's had a written policy on the issue and we want to reinforce that we mean it. When we say, it can't be tolerated," Boyd is heard saying.

Boyd did not admit to any wrong doing, but did say he needed to work on the way he criticized actors.

"Criticism in our business is a good thing. It's how we deliver the criticism, going forward. Uh... and I know myself, I need to look into it. "

The Alley Theatre finally released a statement Friday afternoon. It does not address the issue of harassment or abuse. Instead, the Board of Directors is promising to form a committee.

Alley Statement:

"The resident company and employees that comprise the Alley Family have enabled the Alley Theatre to become one of the most prominent artistic institutions in the United States. During this transition to new artistic leadership, the Board of Directors has renewed its commitment to providing a dignified and respectful workplace. The Board has also appointed a special committee to assess the workplace environment and deliver recommendations to ensure the Alley Theatre continues to be a destination for world-class talent."

Report a typo to the ABC13 staff