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Rapid Fire Theatre cuts ties with former director over 'predatory' behaviour

Improv company says it would be 'inappropriate' to continue any relationship with Chris Craddock

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Rapid Fire Theatre has cut ties with a prominent figure in Edmonton’s theatre scene after he admitted to touching women “without permission.”

The local improv company made a public statement on Facebook Wednesday evening saying it will no longer the support the work of “identified predators” including Chris Craddock, after Craddock made the admission in his own Facebook post Tuesday.

“In that post, he admitted to behaviour in violation of our own harassment policy – behaviour including acting without consent, pursuing women and misusing a position of authority in those endeavours,” Rapid Fire Theatre’s artistic director Matt Schuurman told Metro.

“It would be inappropriate for us to continue any sort of relationship with him.”

Craddock is an award-winning actor, playwright and director.

He served as Rapid Fire’s artistic director from 2004 to 2008 and continued to perform in the company’s annual improv shows at the Fringe festival alongside other male alumni.

Schuurman said the theatre company is taking responsibility but notes that its administration has completely changed since Craddock’s helm as artistic director, and a new anti-harassment policy was written in 2010.

He said people complained about Craddock during his tenure as artistic director, under the past administration.

“We don’t have specific details, but we suspect that those situations were not handled perhaps as well as they could have been,” Schuurman said.

Schuurman acknowledged that Rapid Fire has “been a bit of a fraternity” in the past and gained a bad reputation among some artists.

He credits his predecessor Amy Shostak for spearheading a culture shift toward fostering a safer and more welcoming environment that promotes diversity.

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Craddock made a private Facebook post Tuesday under the #MeToo hashtag, a viral phenomenon that has seen many women come out as survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

In the post, which appears to have been removed, Craddock wrote that he had “contributed to rape culture.”

“I have touched without permission. I have acted like ‘no means no’ is enough, and behaved as though everything before a ‘no’ is okay,” he wrote. His post went on to say that he is in treatment for addictions and pledged to speak up against misogyny and never minimize sexual assault.

Craddock sent Metro a statement saying he plans to retire to private life.

“I have sincere remorse for harm caused to my victims. I hoped my Facebook post would reflect that, but I realize it came off as self serving, inflaming that harm, and I apologize for that,” Craddock wrote.

“I am in treatment for alcohol, cocaine and sex addiction. Through working the 12 steps, I hope to be a better man, and someday, make some kind of amends. For now, I am retiring to private life, and hope to concentrate on my two young sons.”

A woman who had a relationship with Craddock told Metro that he “violated the consent” she had given him during their relationship more than two years ago, and she felt like she had to leave the theatre community as a result.

“I was alienated from my community because of it,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, extensive therapy, all of the feelings that you would expect."

She said she was “thrilled” by Rapid Fire Theatre’s response but added that the people in the scene have known about Craddock’s behaviour for years and she is not letting the theatre company or the theatre community at large off the hook.

She added that Craddock’s alleged behaviour is not uncommon.

“Women put up with a lot of stuff in this community to get a job and keep a job and keep their position in the community so they’ll work again next season,” she said.

“My hope is that companies put into place real policies for change, and that the people who are victimized are not the people who are punished.”

Schuurman is encouraging feedback on Rapid Fire’s handling of the situation, and is also urging people to come forward if they have seen similar behaviour from anyone else involved with Rapid Fire.

“That’s really the only way that we can learn about these things,” he said.

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