Former Metropolis artistic director responds to accusations

One day after his departure from the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, former artistic and executive director Joe Keefe responded to allegations against him and reflected on his tenure at the Arlington Heights theater.

Declining to discuss specifics related to his departure, Keefe acknowledged that during July and August he experienced "two weeks that were the most stressful in my career." During that time, he said he reached out to several co-workers, acknowledging that he distressed one of them.

"I did not intend to distress anyone though I did, and I take responsibility for that incident," said Keefe, who declined to elaborate further.

Metropolis board president Stephen Daday declined to comment on the circumstances of Keefe's departure.

He acknowledged Keefe's contributions to Metropolis' artistic and financial renaissance over the last few years.

"Metropolis grew," Daday said. "We improved upon virtually all aspects of what went on in the theater and what went on onstage. The production quality improved significantly as did the actors, and he (Keefe) was a big part of that."

Daday acknowledged an investigation, since concluded, took place before Keefe's departure. According to Daday, the investigation commenced several weeks before onetime resident director Lauren Berman posted a letter to an online theater forum recounting experiences she said she witnessed at Metropolis. In it, she recalled a female actor who felt pressured to dance with Keefe and another actor who was "verbally berated and pressured to talk in front of an entire cast and production team."

Responding to those statements, Keefe explained that as a nationally ranked ballroom dancer he was demonstrating proper technique.

"Any activity done in the context of a rehearsal was for the purpose of training," he said, adding that particular issue was never raised as part of Metropolis' "concern resolution process" whereby cast, crew or staff members bring concerns to the human resources department for resolution.

"None of the issues that appear online (in Berman's post) were raised through the normal concern resolution process," he said.

Regarding Berman's claim that an actor was "verbally berated," Keefe said Berman, who was directing the show, asked him to "deal with an actor who was ad-libbing and adding lines to the script."

"The problem was light, music and actor cues were not able to be followed because the actor was improvising ...," said Keefe. "The director requested I address this issue and I addressed it in a professional manner."

Keefe expressed gratitude to the community and the theater where he spent nearly seven years.

"I've been honored to be a part of it. The people there, the people in Arlington Heights, the mayor, village board, the support they give to the theater has been life-changing," he said.

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