Sexual harassment allegations have changed how we interpret theatre

Albert Schultz was sympathetic in a play about an unfaithful husband, but as sexual assault and harassment allegations have swept Hollywood and local theatre, the conversation has shifted to ask hard questions about the differential positions of authority and privilege that shape our sexual encounters.

Albert Schultz plays the role of Martin and Raquel Duffy as Stevie in Soulpepper's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in November. (CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN)

Albert Schultz has resigned from Soulpepper Theatre amid allegations of sexual harassment by four women. It’s a case of yet another man accused of abusing his position of power, this time one who has been admired and respected in Toronto’s theatre world for almost 20 years.

In November, I saw Schultz in Soulpepper’s recent production of Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? I admired Schultz’s performance. Albee’s language was overblown, and the play seemed to be trying too hard to be clever. But Schultz, as the successful architect who destroys his marriage and his career through his sexual love for a goat, Sylvia, was sympathetic.

Battered and saddened by his family’s anger and grief, he managed to also portray the joyous wonder of being swept away by love. His impassioned insistence that he still very much loved his wife and that he could not live without Sylvia, was painful because we believed him so much.

As the play unfolded, I realized I’d seen it before. It must have been years ago, since I could not remember what was going to happen next. How could I have forgotten a play about a guy who has sex with a goat?

I think it is because the bestiality hadn’t really stood out for me. I had seen it as a tragedy about falling in love outside of societal norms. I had felt compassion for Martin, who is torn by his love for his family and his irresistible attraction to Sylvia.