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Case Against Kevin Broccoli Dropped, But Pain Lingers

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[Google maps] Artists Exchange in Cranston severed ties with Epic Theatre Company following sexual abuse allegations against Artistic Director Kevin Broccoli.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove the implication that people who worked with Kevin Broccoli in the past were his “defenders” based on their statements to WarwickPost.comWe apologize for any misinterpretation that our reporting created.

WARWICK — The Rhode Island theater community remains shaken following sexual assault allegations against Kevin Broccoli, Artistic Director of Epic Theatre Company in Cranston.

Johnston Police Chief Joseph Razza recently explained via email that the department will not be filing a case against Broccoli, writing: “Our investigation has been completed and he is not facing any criminal charges.”

kevin-broccoli
[Credit: Facebook] Kevin Broccoli
Broccoli is no longer employed by the town of Johnston, Town Clerk Vincent Baccari confirmed, though he would not specify whether Broccoli quit or had been fired from his previous job as Fiction Specialist at Marian J. Mohr Library.

After determining the assault claims were credible, three of Epic Theater’s staff members — Executive Director Megan Ruggiero, General Manager Lauren Pothier, and Associate Artistic Director Angelique Dina — resigned in June following a meeting with Broccoli to discuss the matter.

“The investigation took a month and included other aspects beyond victim testimony,” Ruggiero said in a recent interview. “(Kevin) admitted to inappropriate relationships both in the room with us and in his statement. He asked us: ‘I did something that the victim felt rose to the level of assault?’ We answered very succinctly, “Yes.”

In a June 23 Facebook post, Ruggiero wrote that “the claim was quite severe and truly horrified me… I am disappointed in myself for not picking up on this and not being able to come to this individual’s aid sooner.”

Broccoli’s attitude about the incident was disturbing, explained Ruggiero.

 “I would describe his concern more for himself,” Ruggiero said. “He actually said something along the lines of ‘Because I’m a gay man, I always felt I was invulnerable to this kind of thing.’ He never once asked us to apologize to the victim on his behalf.”

Ruggiero also said Broccoli refused to step down from his role as Artistic Director.

“The severity of the claim was grounds for dismissal,” Ruggiero noted, but the theater’s guidelines worked, in effect, to protect Broccoli.  

According to Epic’s sexual harassment policy, actors and staff are required to bring any allegations to Broccoli in his capacity of Artistic Director, or to the producer or general manager if the AD is not available.

The policy states that, whoever is told the allegations, they must share them with the AD. 

The organization’s Board of Directors did not meet regularly enough to consider the allegations or hold Broccoli accountable for misconduct, said Ruggiero. 

“He never once asked us to apologize to the victim on his behalf.” Former Epic Theatre Executive Director Megan Ruggiero

Ruggiero confirmed that posts on the Broccoli Frauds Instagram account were authored by the victim, who declined to speak to the Warwick Post.

“Kevin lured me into a situation under false pretenses. And when I got there, I was thrown against a wall,” the victim wrote in July. “I was never asked if I wanted to hook up. Never given an opportunity to say no. My phone was in one hand and my mask was in another, it happened so quickly. That night I was talking with friends about what happened, then I saw my primary care (physician), then started therapy for the first time as an adult, and then in late May I told the Epic staff members and asked for help. Following that, a month later the resignations happened, and now another month removed and still nothing has happened.”

According to the Boston Globe, the victim shared medical records that stated: “Sexual abuse: confirmed.”

Broccoli declined to comment for this story, but in social media posts, he admitted to “mistakes” and “inappropriate relationships.”

“While I do not know who the person is that has spoken to the staff, I do know that 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,” Broccoli wrote soon after Ruggiero and the other staff members stepped down. “Professionalism dictates that any interaction I have with someone working with the company, even while consensual, involves that person having to navigate whether or not engaging with me will be useful in some way and/or whether not engaging with me will hurt them in some way.”

Epic’s website has since been taken down, although the Epic Facebook page is still operational.

The board of Artists’ Exchange, which had hosted Epic’s productions at Rolfe Square for several years, terminated their contract after they learned of the assault allegations. 

Epic staff, actors describe Broccoli’s “sexual behavior” 

“Kevin’s sexual behavior was written off by many as him just being himself, or not being ‘serious,’” said Ashley Arnold, who handled marketing and development for Epic. 

“However, Kevin seemed to target soft-spoken straight men and young/inexperienced gay men in his behavior,” Arnold continued. “He would intimately touch people in public, playing it off as being the cheeky gay guy. He would whisper erotic things into people’s ears with no warning, also in public spaces where no one is going to ‘make a scene.’ Many people believed they were the only ones, even thinking the ‘special attention’ was valuable when continuing to work with Epic. Straight men didn’t want to say anything, for fear of looking bigoted or needing to face their own sexuality. Gay men (again, often very young) didn’t realize they were being groomed.” 

“Gay men (again, often very young) didn’t realize they were being groomed.” Ashley Arnold

Actor Jerry Middlemiss shared his feelings about Broccoli on the Broccoli Frauds account: “I was 20 when Kevin started messaging me on Facebook sexually. I hadn’t even been acting for a year and was out of the closet for even less time. I had only heard such amazing things about Kevin. How genius he was. How important he was. How on the rise he was and how influential he was in the community. In a way, I looked up to him. A sort of geeky gay guy making his own way in theater and everyone respected him for it. I admired him and what we had. However, largely due to my own awkwardness and personal insecurities, I never gave in to him. This went on for seven years.”

Another actor, who requested anonymity, recalled Broccoli frequently making sexual comments. 

“The most common being something along the lines of ‘sit on my face’; this was quite often. I also feel like he would take ample opportunity to pat people on the butt. I did an underwear scene once and I remember him touching my butt backstage before I went on. I always played it off like him being a flirt but knowing what I know now, I feel lucky that I’m not a victim. But I also never really played into it; I witnessed others play into it a bit more and he definitely took more opportunities to get closer to these men.”

Others: Broccoli “professional” with them, but not with everyone 

Former performers and a director who worked with Broccoli at Epic said he didn’t exhibit this behavior toward them but they offered vocal support for the victim. 

Lynne Collinson, who directed “The Revolutionists” and “Agnes of God” at Epic, said she was “shocked, confused, heartsick and angry about the allegations.”

Collinson recalled Broccoli as “friendly and professional” during those productions, adding she stands on the side of victims and survivors of sexual abuse and thanks them for their “bravery in coming forward.”

“My interactions with Kevin were unfailingly professional and amiable,” said one actor, who requested anonymity. “When news of an alleged incident came to light, I was in shock — I still am. I have the utmost respect and support for alleged victims.”

 “I never actually saw him be abusive to anybody,” said one actress, who requested anonymity due to the “toxic” climate which she said was created after the sexual abuse allegations came to light. “A lot of it was very kind of all about Kevin, but that’s Kevin. I worked with (another director) and that was a nightmare. He was extremely abusive towards me. Kevin was just always very polite and kind to me, but I know people for whom that was not the case.”

Misconduct cases force reckoning among theater groups

Broccoli is not the first theater figure to be brought down by allegations of misconduct. Tom Gleadow, a veteran actor who also taught theater, was fired from Salve Regina University in 2020 after multiple women filed complaints against him.

According to the Providence Journal, a 2014 Salve graduate named Kat Witschen posted on Facebook that when she was 18, Gleadow tricked her into filming various bondage scenes.

Police conducted 28 interviews of students or former students who said they were asked by Gleadow “to perform [in] or create videos for a film project” for his friend, Eric Feeley, police said in a news release Thursday.

“It was discovered that ‘Eric Feeley’ was fictitious,” police said in the news release.

No criminal charges were ever filed by the Newport Police. Gleadow never commented on the allegations. Gleadow’s last stage appearance was in the musical “Assassins” at Warwick’s Gamm Theater in March 2020. 

Artistic directors of other Rhode Island theaters acknowledge that sexual harassment and abuse is a problem which needs to be addressed.

“We are feeling the tremors of a socioquake, and we all need to wake up and face reality,” said Milly Massey, President of The Wilbury Theatre Group Board of Directors. “Entrenched, and often subtle, power structures have allowed harassment, assault, bullying, and abuse to permeate our theatre community.  We must change how we think about power and its impact. Reinforcing our support structures to create systemic change is a top priority for Wilbury, in order to ensure a safe space for all.”

“We are feeling the tremors of a socioquake, and we all need to wake up and face reality.” Milly Massey, President of The Wilbury Theatre Group Board of Directors

Wilbury’s Artistic Director Josh Short said “all theatre companies, large and small, need to have strong policies and protocols in place that provide an avenue for reporting issues and concerns as they come up, and more importantly preventing them from occurring in the first place.”

“Over the last few years, our Board, Staff, and Resident Artists have worked together with outside consultants to enact these policies, and we know that we can always do more,” Short added. “We’re committed to working with the rest of the Rhode Island theater community to make certain that wherever artists work, they are protected.”

“The Gamm Theatre is aware of the allegation against Epic Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Kevin Broccoli,” said Managing Director Amy Gravell and Artistic Director Tony Estrella in a statement. “Speaking for ourselves, The Gamm has policies in place throughout the organization with clear protocols to deal with any potential instances of abuse. As a professional company, we also operate under agreements with unions representing performers, stage managers, directors and designers that ensure protections for their members.”

“Progress can not be made when we place singular personalities on a pedestal over what’s in the best interest and safety of the community as a whole,” explained Christopher Plonka, who had acted and directed numerous shows at Epic before moving out of state.

Plonka added that if the Rhode Island theater community is to recover from this episode, it will need to make some hard choices: “It seems there is a crossroads, however, of where people want to stand and it’s about inclusivity and safety in the theatrical process or exclusivity and unhealthy relationships.”

Ruggiero said she believes that it will take more than a change in policies to keep performers from being abused.

“I do think this community is capable of change, but it will be a long road,” Ruggiero said. “We can talk about buttoning up policies and processes all day, but until we develop a culture that believes survivors and the people who attempt to hold abusers accountable, this community will remain unsafe, one where victims will not feel comfortable reporting them.”

Pothier wrote on Facebook that “If we want to see change within the profession we love so much, we can’t wait for the people at the top to decide when it’s trendy or convenient for them to make promises of change. I think that safety and agency in our community is something worth fighting for, no matter how isolating that fight can be.”

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.

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