There has been one story which has dominated theater discussion here in New York over the past month, without having made it to the Paper of Record until this past weekend. The New York Times finally ran a story about the June 29th suicide of Jeff Loeffelholz, the long-time standby for the role of Mary Sunshine in the Broadway revival of Chicago
. What makes it disturbing beyond the awful human tragedy of the man's loss, is the clear implication that Mr. Loeffelholz took his life in the aftermath of a deliberate bullying campaign by member of that show's creative team, in order to get him to leave the show. You can read the article here.
There's more to the story, of course. The newspaper article you (hopefully) just read exists in large part because of the efforts of the Justice for Jeff blog, set up by his friends in the aftermath of his death and alleging that this incident is part of a much larger pattern of harassment at the show. If you're not thoroughly depressed already, I recommend reading it here.
I don't have anything to add here, really; I don't have any personal connection to Chicago, and don't know anybody in the cast who can offer any more information. And obviously, much of what's laid out here are still just allegations in any legal sense. But still, I wanted to make sure attention was on this frustrating, anger-inducing story. And sure, most of us in the performing arts have experienced some measure of abuse in our careers, without things escalating to the degree depicted here. But that's what's so infuriating, so awful - for most of us, theater was supposed to be the face that we'd found to escape from, to insulate ourselves from a world full of bullying and abuse.
Let's do better, everybody.
Posted on July 30, 2018
by Michael C. O'Day