CRANSTON, R.I. — Since the Epic Theatre Company began its residency at the Artists’ Exchange eight years ago, its founder has prided himself in conducting performances that have a “wow factor,” even going as far as “inviting audiences to head for the doors when the show in front of them gets a little too racy.”
But the Artists’ Exchange recently severed their contract, after claims of sexual assault against founder and artistic director Kevin Broccoli were brought to their attention. With nowhere to perform, Epic has ceased all operations and cancelled future events.
The alleged victim, a performer who previously worked at Epic, claimed he had been sexually assaulted by Broccoli earlier this year. He provided written testimony to some staff members and to the Globe, as well as medical records from a visit he made to his primary care doctor right after the alleged assault. The medical records plainly state: “Sexual abuse: confirmed.”
The man, who requested anonymity because he said he feared retaliation, said he and Broccoli worked together for more than three years, but their interactions only remained “professional” for about two months before becoming “flirtatious” and then “questionable” by about January 2020, he said.
He told the Globe that he tried to brush off Broccoli’s behavior: “I sometimes thought, that’s just how he is.” Their in-person interactions largely stopped during the pandemic, though he described the alleged assault, which he said happened earlier this year, as “violent.”
“It happened very quickly,” he told the Globe. “It wasn’t until I really started to work my feelings out that I realized what happened. ... This went far beyond an ‘inappropriate relationship.’ This was a violent attack.”
Broccoli, who for 20 years has worked at the library in Johnston, R.I., said he does not know who his accuser is. While he said he has had relationships with actors in the past, he has “never violently assaulted anyone.”
“I have never, ever harmed anyone in that way.” he told the Globe. “I’ve never had any complaints against me about anything at all. I’ve never had any interactions with the police. I’ve been in theatre since I was 8 years old, been in hundreds of shows in all capacities, and I’ve never hurt anybody like that.”
Epic theater’s guidance on reporting sexual harassment, which was written by Broccoli in 2017, directs people to report incidents to the artistic director (AD) -- who is Broccoli.
“Failure to report such incidents to the AD will be considered a violation of this policy and may result in subsequent action,” the guidance reads. “The AD will provide guidance as needed on investigating and handling the potential harassment. The theater will take effective measures to ensure no further apparent or alleged harassment occurs pending completion of an investigation.”
If the artistic director cannot be reached, the policy directs people to tell the producer or the General manager.
“The person will not be at fault for not contacting the AD,” the guidance continues. “But the person they tell will be expected to pass that information along to the AD, and the person being told should remind the person telling them that while the information does not need to be made public, the AD will be informed.”
The policy offers no information on what to do when the accused is the artistic director. The theater company is small, and does not have a Human Resources department.
The alleged victim told Executive Director Megan Ruggiero and General Manager Lauren Pothier about his experiences with Broccoli. Ruggiero and Pothier spent a month investigating the accusations, they told the Globe.
Ruggiero said she and Pothier met with Broccoli on June 22, and informed him of the allegations, their investigation, and their desire for him to step down from his position.
“Being a non-profit without a fully functional Board of Directors, an issue I have been trying to rectify for the past year, we did not have the ability to request a vote for removal,” said Ruggiero.
A board member told the Globe that there is a board of directors that could vote to remove Broccoli, but it does not meet regularly.
Broccoli informed Ruggiero and Pothier that he would not be leaving Epic. And so Ruggerio and Pothier chose to resign, as did associate artistic director Angelique Dina. The three women posted a public statement about the allegations on their personal Facebook pages, and urged other Epic staffers to resign as well.
“Through Kevin told us he will be remaining at Epic to accept responsibility, hold himself accountable, and swiftly try to install new leadership to carry on the company, we still felt uncomfortable remaining in our staff positions,” said Ruggiero in her statement. “For me, doing that would have felt complicit in a way and not truly take a stand for the survivor and potentially others, which based on our investigation, I believe do exist.”
Ruggiero also brought the matter to the Artists’ Exchange, which has partnered with Epic on its productions for years. Megan Howe, theatre programs manager at the Artists’ Exchange, confirmed to the Globe that their contract with Epic was cancelled.
“We did indeed cancel our residency contract with Epic, specifically because of the allegations of sexual misconduct,” she told the Globe in an email.
Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza told the Globe that the department is in the “preliminary stages” of determining if a crime has occurred.
“If so, the matter will be investigated to the fullest extent possible,” he said. “The public statements made regarding Mr. Broccoli’s conduct and his public responses to those statements are very concerning to us and need to be investigated accordingly.”
On Thursday Broccoli was suspended with pay from Johnston Library while pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, town officials said, and as a “precaution” police confiscated the computer he used there, Razza confirmed. Motif, an arts magazine in Providence, announced last week that Broccoli’s regular contributions to the publication have been suspended “for the indefinite future.”
In a statement posted to his blog, Broccoli said he still does not know who has accused him of sexual assault.
“I do not know who the person is that has spoken with members of the staff, but I do not plan on denying their experience of what happened regardless,” he wrote. “I will not deny that there is a power dynamic that exists whenever someone in a position of power interacts with someone who is not in that same position. I am not planning on making any excuses or going off the grid.”
In his blog post, Broccoli acknowledged that he has “not always” kept “things as professional as possible.”
“Over the years, I have absolutely made mistakes in regards to starting inappropriate relationships with other people I had working relationships with, and as an Artistic Director, I should have known better,” he wrote. “As someone who has always been very active on social media and has been involved in many highly-publicized projects, it’s possible that many people have not felt comfortable speaking about any inappropriate interaction with me because of what they might face in terms of things like blacklisting or even just gossip. This is wrong, and it’s all the more reason to try and keep things as professional as possible, which I have not always done.”
While he wrote in his blog post that Ruggerio and Pothier “did their best in looking into this, and I trust their judgment,” Broccoli told the Globe that he questioned aspects of their investigation and wanted a third party involved.
In the meantime, he said, Epic Theater’s productions, projects, and other events “are not moving forward” and the company is “essentially frozen.”