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Eric Schaeffer Departs Signature Theatre After Multiple Allegations of Sexual Assault

The theater's artistic director has announced that he's "retiring" after the charges came to light on social media.

Eric Schaeffer
(© David Gordon)

Eric Schaeffer, the founding artistic director of Arlington, Virginia's Signature Thaetre, has announced that he is "retiring" from the position after three decades, following multiple allegations of sexual assault that recently came to light on social media.

Actor Thomas Keegan took to Twitter and Facebook recently to accuse Schaeffer of groping and fondling his genitals "at least three times over the course of a bewildering five minute exchange, including twice after I made it clear that I wanted him to stop." This took place during the 2018 Helen Hayes Awards show, which Keegan's wife, Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, was hosting.

A second actor, Joe Carlson, wrote on Facebook that Schaeffer grabbed his genitals in public, while being held "forcibly around the throat by a second man" at a 2016 fundraiser at Signature sponsored by Theatre Washington called Summer Hummer.

It is widely believed that these allegations against Schaeffer are not the only ones that exist. According to WAMU, other stories involve Schaeffer being reported to Signature's human resources department after repeatedly calling a female employee by derogatory terms for female genitalia, as well as creating a company culture filled with inappropriate conduct.

Signature Theatre responded by saying that a 2018 investigation found the accusations to be baseless. That statement, originally posted to their website, was deleted. Schaeffer ignored the charges in a statement the theater released about his departure, referring to his departure as his retirement. "I hope that the next generation of leaders can weather the many storms our profession faces. To do so, it needs to pull together, dedicate itself to the work, and avoid the toxic polarization that damages not just the institutions, but the work itself, the art," he said.

Schaeffer is the second Washington, DC-area artistic director to leave his position this week. On Monday, June 22, the board of the Flying V Theatre Company terminated Jason Schlafstein, the theater's cofounder and artistic director, after multiple assault and sexual misconduct allegations were published on social media. Jon Rubin, the associate artistic director, tendered his resignation at the same time.