Co-founder of Arlington’s Signature Theatre is leaving after 30 years

The leader of Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has suddenly announced his departure.

Co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer is retiring June 30.

The news came Tuesday, a few days after an actor went public with accusations of sexual assault against Schaeffer.

On Sunday, a social media post by actor Thomas Keegan accused Schaeffer of repeatedly grabbing or touching him at an awards event in 2018.

In a series of tweets, Keegan details the incident and why he didn’t speak publicly about it until now.

“I am stating this publicly to protect those who might be hurt if I were to stay silent longer, to honor the grief and struggles other people I know to have been victimized, & to illustrate how monumentally difficult it is for those without my innumerate privileges to come forward, particularly when their abusers are powerful men in arts leadership,” he wrote.

Read the complete Twitter thread below.

Keegan filed a complaint with Signature that led to the hiring of a law firm to conduct an independent investigation in 2018.

Schaeffer was placed on administrative leave for several months during the investigation. However, the theater said the probe found the actor’s claims were not credible and appeared to be motivated by money and publicity.

Signature said two weeks after filing his complaint, Keegan’s attorney sent a letter demanding $250,000 to “avoid the publicity and expense of a trial.”

A complaint from a second actor that Signature said it received within minutes of Keegan’s was also investigated and determined to be baseless.

In a farewell letter to employees at Signature, Schaeffer wrote that he “looks forward to continuing to be this amazing company’s biggest cheerleader.”

The rest of Schaeffer’s statement read:

“I hope I leave our community in a stronger place as it struggles to find its way forward through the current COVID-19 crisis. I am proud of everything we accomplished. I am going to miss our talented staff, the Board of Directors, the many volunteers, the artists and, of course, our audiences. Thirty years was an amazing ride and thanks everyone who has helped to build Signature into the institution that it is today.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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