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Former managing director says change needed at Cleveland Play House

Cleveland Play House exterior doors with show posters on the windows
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
"I'm Back Now" was halted after the playwright pulled the rights to the show at Cleveland Play House.

Collette A. Laisure, former managing director of the Cleveland Play House, criticized her former employer in a social media post Wednesday, specifically singling out “egregious behavior and disrespect” by the century-old organization.

Laisure said in the post that she decided to stand with the creatives who recently raised issues with the production of “I’m Back Now” at the Cleveland Play House.

“It angers me that my presence as the first woman of color (black woman) to serve as managing director was not enough to disrupt this egregious behavior and disrespect,” Laisure wrote. “My take away is, micro aggressions and aggressions seem to be at the expense of people of color, specifically, black women.”

Laisure added that “there may have been apologies yet no consequences for actions identified as wrong by CPH.”

Laisure stepped down in October of 2022 after joining the organization in February of 2021, first in an interim leadership role and then later that year as the appointed managing director.

While Laisure said she hasn’t been in contact CPH leadership or with the artists who reported the mishandling of an assault by CPH earlier this month, she supports them speaking out. She said there needs to be leadership for healing.

A Cleveland Play House spokesperson said the institution is "unable to provide a comment" about Laisure's statements.

The institution issued an apology earlier this month in response to claims about why its world-premiere production was halted, acknowledging there were “missteps in efforts to respond to a sexual assault.” 

The director of “I’m Back Now,” Stori Ayers, said that CPH Interim Artistic and Managing Director Mark Cuddy failed to notify her of the assault and that the actor who was assaulted at an offsite apartment building was required to continue rehearsing for two days. During that time, a break-in also reportedly occurred at an apartment provided for visiting artists. The playwright, Charly Evon Simpson, pulled the rights to the work in solidarity with the artists involved.

Ayers said the actors and production staff are still seeking payment. Grievances were filed with the Actor’s Equity Association, a national union.

The Cleveland Play House is also seeking permanent replacements for managing director and artistic director.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.