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2017-12-01 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


December 1, 2017  RSS feed
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Local theater ousts playwright after sex claims

JTA and Jewish Press staff

Acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz, far right, with cast members of his play, “Lebensraum,” which was performed at the Jobsite Theater in Tampa in January 2016. Acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz, far right, with cast members of his play, “Lebensraum,” which was performed at the Jobsite Theater in Tampa in January 2016. Accusations of sexual misconduct by high profile men have headlined news reports on a near daily basis recently, and on Thursday, Nov. 30, they hit home, rocking the Tampa theater community with accusations by nine women of sexual misconduct, including rape, against award-winning playwright Israel Horovitz.

Since 2014, Horovitz has collaborated with Jobsite Theater, the resident theater company of the Straz Performing Arts Center. Hours after the New York Times published a story on Nov. 30 detailing the accusations, the theater group announced it was cutting ties with Horovitz and cancelling the scheduled production of his play, Man in Snow.

The women cited in the New York Times article, accused Horovitz of inappropriate advances and sexual assault in incidents dating back at least four decades. The story did not indicate any of the incidents happened locally. Many of the women were teenagers at the time of the alleged events.

Jobsite Producing Artistic Director David M. Jenkins and the pool of 13 artistic associates, core members of Jobsite Theater, will spend the next few weeks coming together to find a suitable alternate for the production of Man in Snow, which was slated to go up in March 2018.

“My heart is broken right now,” Jenkins said. “I am absolutely gutted. Israel has become like a father to me over the past few years, and I have learned more from him than I can possibly put into words right now. To say I feel betrayed would be a gross understatement, and my heart goes out to the victims who have lived with this for so many years and the pain they must be experiencing all over again.”

The company, having both harassment and whistleblower policies already in place, intends to do an investigation of their own into prior collaborations to ensure that there were no similar incidents in previous years.

Horovitz, 78, has written more than 70 plays in a career spanning more than 50 years. In Tampa, Jobsite Theater has performed several of his plays and conducted staged readings of his works and he has come here for short-term residencies to help with the productions and do talk-back sessions.

He splits his time between the U.S. and France. Horovitz is the father of Beastie Boys band member Adam Horovitz.

Among Horovitz’s best known plays are Line, Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, The Primary English Class, The Widow’s Blind Date and The Indian Wants the Bronx. His play, Lebensraum, which was performed in Tampa in January 2016, deals with a post-Holocasut question: What if 6 million Jews were invited back to Germany? Horovitz’s screenwriting credits include James Dean starring James Franco and Author! Author!, a mostly biographical movie with Al Pacino.

“The nine women who spoke with the Times described Horovitz as a complicated man who was, at times, a charismatic mentor and empathic friend,” the Times wrote. “He taught at several universities and nurtured young writers, was generous with his wisdom and dazzled with tales of his famous friends.”

Horovitz responded to the newspaper that while he has “a different memory of some of these events, I apologize with all my heart to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions, and to my family and friends who have put their trust in me. To hear that I have caused pain is profoundly upsetting, as is the idea that I might have crossed a line with anyone who considered me a mentor.”

Adam Horovitz backed the women.

“I believe the allegations against my father are true,” he said in a statement, “and I stand behind the women that made them.”

The Gloucester Stage, a Massachusetts regional theater where Horovitz was artistic director, cut ties with him a week earlier as at least one of the accusations surfaced.

In 1993, the Boston Phoenix published an article in which 10 unnamed women accused Horovitz of sexual harassment and assault. At the time the Gloucester Stage board’s president, Barry Weiner, dismissed the allegations and described some of the accusers cited as “tightly wound.”

On Thursday, Nov. 30, the current Gloucester Stage board president, Liz Neumeier, released a statement announcing that Horovitz had resigned as the organization’s founding artistic director.

“When we recently learned that our founding artistic director, Israel Horovitz, has been accused of sexually assaulting a young actor in NYC – repeating conduct he allegedly engaged in here at GSC decades ago – we were appalled,” Neumeier said in the statement. “Israel denied the allegations and asked to meet with the full Board. After he was unable to attend the meeting, he resigned and is no longer an exofficio member of the board of directors.

“Our hearts go out to the many women who are, once again, reliving the harassment and assaults they endured. We recognize that in the past their reports were grossly mishandled. The Board is united and committed to ensuring that such behavior does not take place at Gloucester Stage and we will take any reports seriously.”

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