Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is entering a new era — but are its leaders stuck in the past?

Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre is having a banner year. 

The nonprofit theater company ushered in its 14th season with a move to the Warwick Theatre, a historic Midtown building that had operated as a movie theater from 1914 to 1953. 

The company’s previous home, a yellow, rented storefront space at 3614 Main, had never felt grand enough for the ambitions of founders Karen and Bob Paisley (once married, now divorced, still married to the company). The Paisleys are known for producing challenging, interesting seasons that blend well-loved classics like Steel Magnolias and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with quieter, underproduced scripts like M Butterfly and Vincent in Brixton

They’re also well-known as performers at MET. Karen is in her mid-50s but reads as a leading lady, with glossy sheets of chestnut-brown hair, Cleopatra-grade statement earrings and a mellifluous voice slightly thickened with coastal Carolinian vowels. Bob recently played President Bill Clinton and suits the part — he’s about 10 years younger than Clinton, with darker eyes, but has the same easygoing charm and mop of silver-gray hair.

The purchase of the Warwick was a major step toward cementing the Paisleys’ legacy and ensuring the theater’s creative growth. Publicly, it was a triumph. 

But behind the scenes, not everyone was celebrating. 

Actors who had once whispered about their experiences over drinks began openly warning others against working on MET shows. Complaints that might have been soothed with time and acknowledgement had curdled, then turned sour, as former employees saw their own bad experiences play out on a fresh crop of young technicians and actors. 

Over the last few months, I’ve had conversations with more than 25 former MET employees: actors, stage managers, technicians, and box office staff. They described experiences ranging from union violations to unsafe working conditions to sexual and verbal harassment. Some had been with the company since its inception in 2005. Others had worked with the company only recently, after its move to the Warwick Theatre.   

Nearly all of them had one thing in common: they weren’t going to work with the Paisleys again.

 •     •     •

Jake Walker started acting when he was 19. He’s 39 now. He’s worked in nearly every theater in Kansas City and Denver. But his experience working on Picasso at the Lapin Agile at MET in September 2016 shocked him. 

“I’ve never seen anything — I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “It’s insanity.”

Walker is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, a union for professional actors and stage managers. The rulebook for small professional theaters like MET is extensive, covering everything from rest days and rehearsal hours to paychecks to when production photos can be taken and how they can be used. 

Walker’s first paycheck was late — a union violation. After more than a week of rehearsing without pay, Walker says, he told the show’s director, Bob Paisley, that he couldn’t come to another rehearsal without it. The resulting scene was cinematic. 

“[Bob] stormed off on his moped, went to an ATM, gave me cash in an envelope, and then as he was holding it — it was like a movie — he held onto it and said ‘You know, no other Equity actor has complained when this has happened.’” 

Walker describes several other union violations — photo calls scheduled without notice, a request by the Paisleys to work overtime without pay, unsafe working conditions generally. During one rehearsal, Walker entered the dressing room to find part of the ceiling had collapsed onto his dressing room table. He ultimately filed a complaint with Equity, but did so after the show had ended, when the organization has fewer options. He received a sympathetic email from Equity’s then-business representative Matt Fayfer, but didn’t get the impression that the theater would face any consequences.

Actor Nicole Marie Green says she experienced several other Equity violations while working on 2016’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — being kept in rehearsals past agreed-upon times, rehearsing full weeks without a designated day off, rehearsing more than the maximum number of hours allotted under her Equity contract. When she tallied up all the excess hours, the company owed her over $500 in overtime pay (she was eventually paid for that time, though emails reviewed by The Pitch show that Karen Paisley seemed surprised by the request). 

There were also issues with the building. When it rained, the roof leaked — often, directly onto the stage. (Green remembers adjusting her stage exit during Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to avoid a puddle on the floor.) Walker and five other performers who spoke with me independently described mold in the backstage areas. One of them, actor Deanna Barron, notes that she lost her voice overnight during a production of Tennessee Playboy in 2017. She suspects the backstage conditions were to blame. “By no means were we in a clean, safe dressing room,” Barron says. 

Karen Paisley, the company’s artistic director, acknowledges the roof leak but says “if there was mold in the building, we wouldn’t have stayed.” She adds that McCownGordon Construction had inspected the building and told her it was safe to be there.

In some ways, the building issues are irrelevant now that MET has moved out of 3614 Main. But the actors I spoke with felt they fit into a larger failure to acknowledge the safety and well-being of performers — a failure that extended into the company’s ethic and continues today. 

In April 2017, Karen Paisley directed Green in Tennessee Playboy. During the run, Green had an odd and uncomfortable run-in with Bob Paisley. He called her over to his desk in the lobby, she says, and complimented her on the way her butt looked in her tight herringbone costume pants.  

At the time, she brushed it off. It felt inappropriate, she acknowledges, but “it wasn’t like a come-on by any means.” 

She interacted with Bob again when he came to the theater to take production photos (which, she says, was scheduled without advance notice, much like Walker’s). The photo call itself seemed normal. But late that night, her partner, Andy Perkins, received an email from Bob Paisley with a production photo of Green laying on a table with her legs in the air, simulating an orgasm. There was only one line in the body of the message: “Taking photos of your girlfriend… he, he, he.”

Green reported the photo to Equity — setting aside the question of sexual harassment, it’s a violation simply to use production photos for non-publicity purposes. But the only resolution she received was an email from Matt Fayfer telling her he had urged the theater to conduct an “internal investigation.”

Karen Paisley acknowledges the incident with Green, but couches it as a misunderstanding. 

“I’m terribly sorry that she [Nicole] was upset about that,” she says. She adds: “He [Bob] didn’t see it as a compromising picture.” 

Bob Paisley declined my request for an interview. But in a mass email sent to current and former employees two days later, he characterized unspecified allegations as “the petty jealousies of a few shallow discontents.” He added a hashtag to the end: #IamMET.

 •     •     •

Two years ago, theaters across the Midwest received a wake-up call after the Chicago Reader published an exposé in which the artistic director of Profiles Theatre was accused of routinely harassing and endangering actors. Most of the incidents, the authors noted, took place before the company became an Equity house. The subtext was clear: one of the reasons the abuses had gone on for so long was that there was no one to run to with complaints. 

In that respect, Walker and Green were lucky — they could notify Equity. But it didn’t seem to make much difference. In addition to Walker and Green, at least five other MET employees say they made complaints to representative Matt Fayfer between 2016 and 2017 (Fayfer has since left the company). Emails obtained by The Pitch show that Fayfer often took more than two weeks to respond. When he did respond, the messages began with slight variations of the same phrase: “First off, let me apologize for not getting back to you sooner…” 

The employees were frustrated. “The impression I got,” says Walker, “was ‘Who cares? It’s Kansas City.’” 

But small scenes — where options are limited — are the ones that need worker protections the most. Boycotting a theater in New York City is a comparatively easy prospect. Bad experience? There’s another theater around the block. They’re having an audition next Tuesday. Boycotting a theater in Kansas City might mean losing your health insurance. Equity actors need at least 19 weeks of work at an Equity house each year to qualify for 12 months of insurance coverage. 

Anti-union folk are fond of telling aggrieved workers to “vote with their feet.” If workers aren’t being treated well, they argue, the best solution is for those workers to seek employment elsewhere. Let the free market work its magic! But the free market doesn’t feel so free when only a handful of employers are pulling from a field of hundreds of hungry applicants. In those cases, union enforcement may be the mechanism keeping companies in check. 

My conversation with Karen Paisley and current board member David Emerick underscored the importance of that role. Both repeatedly referenced their good relationship with the union in response to complaints. 

“It’s my understanding that we’ve never been told that we had violations,” says Emerick. Paisley notes that she had spoken with an Equity representative about several of the issues actors described and says, “There is no finding, we are all moving forward, we’re in good standing with them.”

But Equity members weren’t the only ones having issues at MET. 

“Everyone in this scene has a MET story,” says actor Ellen Kirk. 

Kirk had heard plenty of disquieting rumors about the company before signing on for her first production, Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. But Sabina was a dream role — Tallulah Bankhead once played it on Broadway. So Kirk was willing to endure a rudderless rehearsal process and comments by director Bob Paisley that seemed harmless, if a bit inappropriate — for example, asking her when she was going to wear a particular pair of tight jeans with a zipper up the back to rehearsal again. 

The Skin of Our Teeth is a challenging show — three hours, three acts, three time periods. But Bob, she says, was preparing to leave for a tour of his one-man show, Bill Clinton Hercules, and had largely checked out. 

“You need someone to lead you into the night,” Kirk said. “And Bob was always very flippant. [The cast] would just turn to each other for notes, because it came down to, like — the audience is going to be here in three days, is what I’m doing playing? Is this making sense? And any note that I would get was like, ‘Ayy, your Act II costume looks good.’ Which was a fucking bathing suit. I need to know about this three-paragraph monologue that I’m giving, not what I look like in a bathing suit.”

Actors also say the dynamic between Karen and Bob created confusion. Three cast members of Picasso at the Lapin Agile say that, although Bob had directed the show, Karen arrived a couple days before the official opening to give the cast notes. That’s not inherently unusual. Artistic directors often check in on a rehearsal or tech rehearsal and might occasionally pass notes to the director or stage manager. But Karen, the three cast members say, gave them notes directly — notes that often contradicted directions Bob had already given them. 

“Karen comes in, two days before we open, and rewrites all of our character concepts,” one actor says. “Like, who am I supposed to listen to?”

The answer was always Karen, whether they liked it or not. 

“The joke in town,” says Matthew Henrickson, an actor and stage manager who worked with the company on multiple shows, “is that the MET’s greatest asset is Karen Paisley. And the MET’s greatest liability is Karen Paisley.” 

 •     •     •

For years, Karen Paisley has taken an active — some might say too active — role in MET’s productions. She served as director, set designer, and lighting designer for Tennessee Playboy — all in the midst of planning a major fundraising gala for the Warwick. During 2016’s Emilie, she directed, designed the lights, and co-designed the costumes — while also starring in the title role. Audiences and critics couldn’t help but notice the pattern. In his review of Emilie, former Kansas City Star critic Robert Trussell wrote that the production “marks a return to the Karen Paisley show.” 

Artistic directors often direct shows at their theaters. In many cases, it saves the company money. But theater is a collaborative art form, and most of the employees I spoke with painted Karen as a poor collaborator. 

“She doesn’t like having outside designers because they have their own ideas,” says Logan Black, an actor who worked with the theater on Emilie in 2016 and Cymbeline in 2017. Black, who also worked as a scenic carpenter on Cymbeline, says Paisley’s desire for creative control often created challenges for employees. But a disorganized scene shop wasn’t Black’s biggest concern. 

Karen, he alleges, would frequently wink at him during performances of Emilie (including in scenes where he played her father), and squeeze his arm or touch his knee during rehearsals. He considered filing a complaint with Equity over it — he eventually filed one for paycheck violations — but ultimately felt that Karen’s behavior seemed too benign to pursue. 

“You kind of go, ‘You haven’t done anything terrible, but you are making me uncomfortable to the point that when you touch me, I move away from you, and then you follow me to continue touching me,” Black says. 

Those uncomfortable touches continued during Cymbeline, although they were distributed between Black and another young male actor in the cast. Black says the two would purposefully sit so they were flanked by other actors during notes sessions to stay out of reach. It didn’t work. 

“She’d just step in front of us and put her hand on our knees,” Black says. “People visibly cringe and move away from her, and she still just pursues.” Black also describes feeling pressured to do a fight scene shirtless that the script didn’t call for. He told Karen he wasn’t comfortable disrobing, he says, but she pressed the issue multiple times in front of the whole cast. 

Actor Megan Wagner, who played the servant Pisania in the production, acknowledges that Paisley was “very handsy” with Black and the other male performer and adds, “I also recall her being very adamant that Logan do a scene shirtless that he was very opposed to. I could see how uncomfortable he was.” 

Other actors suggest Black’s experience was part of a pattern of insensitive or unprofessional behavior by the Paisleys. One male actor, who was 19 when he first started working with the company, says he felt that Karen had taken an unhealthy interest in him early in their working relationship. (The actor asked me not to use his name out of fear of retaliation.) When he was cast in a lead role at MET, he says, the attention from Karen ramped up. The show included a scene in which he and a female co-star undressed each other while kissing passionately. But his costar was called late to rehearsal one evening, he says — and Karen wanted to run the blocking of the scene without her. 

“So Karen had to step in and go through that scene with me,” he says. “And she’s forcing me to go through this blocking and forcing me to kiss her.” 

Karen alleges, through her lawyer, that the actor kissed her, rather than the other way around. The actor’s costar declined to comment on the specific allegations. The stage manager on the production could not specifically recall whether Karen and the actor kissed, but says that Karen often served as a stand-in for his love interest during rehearsals. The stage manager also says, “It was kind of known she [Karen] had a little bit of a crush on him.”   

What is more definitively known is that the actor left the union and quit acting entirely for three years. When we spoke, he chalked up his decision to leave theatre largely to his experiences at MET. 

Karen categorically denied any romantic or sexual interest in the actor in both an in-person interview and in follow-up emails after the fact. 

“I have led a pretty straightforward life in my relationships,” she says. “And no, I don’t date actors.”

 •     •     •

In a year in which you could field a baseball team with powerful people accused of horrific abuses, one could conclude that a lot of this stuff doesn’t rise to the level of serious infractions. Most of the actors I spoke to ranked sexual harassment near the bottom of their concerns with the company. In your average corporate environment, the Paisleys’ behavior might add up to a note in a file — a complaint to an HR rep, a requirement to brush-up on the employee handbook or retake a sexual harassment training module. 

But professional theater isn’t your average workplace environment. The industry’s reputation for late nights and wild antics have, arguably, led it to lag behind others in workplace protections. So what happens when there is no HR? What happens when there is no employee handbook or sexual harassment training? What happens when the only person you can complain to about a director’s behavior is the director’s ex-spouse?  

These are not impossible problems to solve. An employee handbook is an easy, obvious fix. Copies of board minutes obtained by The Pitch show that then-board president Valerie Schlosser had urged MET to adopt one as early as March 2016. The minutes stated that Schlosser had even circulated a draft she’d prepared based on an employee handbook used at Barkley. When I asked Karen in September 2018 — two and a half years later — if one had been implemented, she told me no: “Because the people who were charged with making it didn’t finish it.”

Some professional companies, like the Actors Theatre of Louisville, have mandatory sexual harassment training each year. In 2015, The Lilly Awards Foundation, which honors women in American theater, released an “Official Statement on Harassment” providing clear, actionable steps for companies to follow with regard to filing and mediating complaints. After Profiles Theatre in Chicago closed, a group of Chicago-based actors formed Not in Our House, an organization devoted to rooting out harassment and abuse in the art form. In December 2017, the group released a revised, 33-page standards document for Chicago theaters.

At the same time, theaters are increasingly employing “intimacy consultants” or choreographers for romantic scenes, just as they use fight choreographers for combat. Organizations such as Intimacy Directors International offer consent and anti-harassment training. Establishing clear boundaries before intimate scenes allows actors to take creative risks without losing control. The actor’s role, to quote the famous acting teacher Sanford Meisner, is to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” The director’s role is to make sure those circumstances remain imaginary.  

Many of these changes don’t require extraordinary sacrifices or financial outlays. But they do require a theater willing to swim with the changing current. Artists aren’t asking to be coddled like rare-earth artisanal snowflakes; they’re asking for the protections they need to make good art. Good theater requires vulnerability. And few people are able to make themselves vulnerable when they don’t feel safe. 

Allegations of sexual harassment at MET were rare. But allegations of garden variety harassment were much more common. Several employees I interviewed said that Karen was noticeably harsher — bordering on cruel — to the women she worked with than men. 

“She was a bully,” says René Harden, a development director who left the company after three months. Harden describes multiple occasions in which Paisley’s comments would drive a young female office employee to tears (the employee confirmed Harden’s account but asked not to be identified in this story). 

I spoke with three former office and administrative employees — all of them young, all of them women, and all of them unwilling to use their names out of concern for their careers — who described an atmosphere of fear and verbal abuse. 

“She treated me like a dog,” says one. Another employee who overlapped with her described the environment in similar terms: “That was the norm,” she says. “If [Karen] couldn’t get her energy out to someone else, it would come back to whoever was in the next room when she storm[ed] out…and then it would be Maleficent coming at you, screaming.” 

“I’ve never seen an adult speak to another adult the way she does sometimes in rehearsals,” says Deanna Barron. “Just blatant disrespect.” 

“It often felt like she was trying to break a horse,” says actor Katie Gilchrist, who walked away from the theater after her experience during The Who’s Tommy in 2011. “If you are a strong, talented, vibrant woman, and you’re working there, it was never going to be a good time for you. Because the envy or the displacement [Karen] feels is really palpable and really hurtful. It didn’t matter any choice you made — it was never the choice she would have made, and therefore it was wrong. You can’t create that way. You could see the fear in some of the [cast’s] eyes because they were afraid to make choices. And if you can’t go into a rehearsal process with the permission to fail — the encouragement to fail — then you can’t do the work.” 

Gilchrist called and filed a complaint with Equity during The Who’s Tommy

“It’s the only time I’ve ever complained about a theater,” she says. “Ever.” 

The violations she alleged matched those described to me by multiple other actors — late paychecks, photo calls announced with no notice, rehearsals going over allotted times, and harassment by Karen Paisley (“I was often told that since I was bigger than Karen, that I should be grateful that I even get to play any of the roles that I played.”) 

But Gilchrist also describes a feeling of alienation — bordering on retaliation — as a result of her adherence to union rules. During The Who’s Tommy, Gilchrist says, she insisted on taking breaks at the required times. She says Karen confronted her about being “difficult” and blamed her for the cast’s low morale. 

To the recollection of the production’s stage manager, Alex Murphy, Gilchrist was never difficult. But he acknowledges that her Equity status may have created some tension. 

“I learned that even from the beginning, even from my first show, that Karen’s not a big fan of Equity,” Murphy says. 

Today, Murphy is one of the more respected Equity stage managers in town, but he managed three shows at MET before joining the union. His first two shows with the company were good experiences — he described Time of Your Life and Enchanted April as “smooth sailing, a wonderful process.”  

It was The Who’s Tommy when things went off the rails. Tommy was a challenging show: an enormous cast, a limited rehearsal window, and a director, Karen, who Murphy described as passionate about her craft but frazzled from wearing too many hats. 

“It was frustrating to just get her to nail down the schedule,” Murphy says. “It would be so much easier if people were hired in certain positions and allowed to do their jobs.” 

That included his job. Murphy constantly felt disrespected in the rehearsal room. 

“It was multiple days of me just driving home bawling my eyes out,” he says. (Another cast member of Tommy, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that “she [Karen] was so degrading to him.”) The stress of the show started to change Murphy’s behavior in subtle ways. When Karen’s number showed up on his caller ID, he let the calls go to voicemail. He took a moment to compose himself before calling her back.

The stage manager is the organizational powerhouse of any production. They’re there to grease the wheels and protect directors and actors from their worst impulses. It’s one of the reasons why Equity’s rulebook for small professional theaters takes care to point out that the stage manager is not an “entry-level position.”

But until recently, MET didn’t seem to place much stock in the role. Stage managers were sometimes late hires — artists fresh out of college and those who had little or no stage managing experience were at times thrust into the role. Those staffing decisions have consequences. Multiple employees describe receiving their contracts late, sometimes three weeks into the rehearsal process. More than one stage manager describes arriving to the process after the cast had already been rehearsing for a few days. 

Lindsay Adams, who had been hired as a dramaturg and assistant director for 2017’s Cymbeline, left the production after a week and a half when director Karen Paisley still hadn’t secured a stage manager. Adams never received a contract for her work on the show, though she recalls requesting one on multiple occasions. The result? She was never paid for the work she put in (though Adams acknowledges she didn’t follow up with the company after her departure).

Emily White was the stage manager for Tennessee Playboy; she had a contract specifying that she be paid weekly, but says her checks rarely arrived on time. She often had to ask for them directly, she says, and the interactions were always awkward — even more so when her final paycheck from the company bounced. The Paisleys corrected the error quickly and reimbursed her for the returned check fee her bank had charged her account. But for her, that was the final straw. 

“It was in the middle of all this fundraising for the Warwick,” White says, “and from my perspective, it was like, ‘Why are you purchasing a theater when you can’t pay your staff?’”

One former box office employee says there were “several times” when she had to approach Bob Paisley directly for a late paycheck because she needed to pay bills. Another office employee describes similar issues getting her checks on time, noting, “The actors would get paid, but no one else would get paid. For the most part, box office would get paid last, because they weren’t forward-facing in the company.” 

An involved board of directors could help avoid accounting issues. But employees familiar with MET’s board suggested that in the past, the board’s involvement in the theater’s operations seemed limited at best. When the board did intervene, it was largely around the matter of fundraising — a matter that Karen Paisley seemed to have difficulty delegating. Emails obtained by The Pitch show a terse exchange between former board secretary Don Dagenais and Karen Paisley after Paisley emailed him to suggest that he approach their realtor on the Warwick for a donation to the theater’s capital campaign. 

“I am getting a little frustrated at the scatter gun approach of this campaign,” Dagenais replied. He went on to outline how capital campaigns were typically organized, adding “I’m repeating this now for the dozenth time at least!” 

The big punch came at the end: “If we can’t get this one ‘together’ in the matter that has proven successful for all other organizations that have ever done one of these (at least, as far as I know), then it’s not one in which I want to be involved.”

 •     •     •

It is not a crime to be a struggling theater. It’s no secret that theater audiences are dwindling — Karen acknowledged this when we spoke — and that a preponderance of new companies has spread already-thin audiences thinner. 

“Artists struggle,” says Matthew Henrickson. “And what they’ve [the Paisleys] done to bring a theater up from nothing is impressive.” 

Nearly everyone I spoke to agreed on a few points. Paisley casts well. She works hard. And she picks great shows — challenging shows, cerebral shows, shows that actors are desperate to perform and that no other theater in town will touch. The theater is currently producing the Kansas City premiere of Horton Foote’s Orphan’s Home Cycle. It’s also only the second theater in the country to perform the full cycle of nine one-act plays.  

And recent changes have created more optimism for the company’s future — chief among them, the purchase of the historic Warwick Theater in 2015. While the theater is still in the midst of renovations (and a capital campaign to support them), the space has already been dramatically transformed. There’s a cheery new rehearsal space with wood floors and natural light as well as an expanded stage area. 

Another boon, depending on your point of view: according to board member David Emerick, the theater’s board of directors has ultimate governance over the Warwick. Emerick was careful to highlight multiple times in our interview how “engaged and involved” the board was in the Warwick. He emphasized the importance of sustainability, too — “beyond just whoever the founder is” — and mentioned that the board had discussed adding a board liaison so that employees could share feedback with them directly. 

Todd Lanker’s appointment to the theater’s leadership team — he’s now associate artistic director — in June was also an encouraging sign for many employees. One of Lanker’s early ideas was to add a complaint form to new contracts so that employees would have a clear sense of the chain of command. 

The complaints to Equity yielded some changes, too. 

“We know that members still feel frustrated by their experiences with this employer, and with us,” says Brandon Lorenz, the communications director for Actors Equity, in a prepared statement. “Based in part on feedback from members who felt this employer failed to meet its obligations, Equity now requires this employer to use an Equity Stage Manager on all their productions.”

Having an Equity stage manager is a good start. A knowledgeable stage manager can curb violations before they happen and provide a neutral intermediary for any actor or crew complaints. But when I asked MET to provide the name of the Equity stage manager for the current production, Orphan’s Home Cycle, I was surprised to see a familiar name:

James Paisley. Bob and Karen’s son. 

When I started this piece, I felt optimistic about MET’s future. I felt certain the Paisleys could rise above these complaints, that they could listen and grow and respond to them in the way that good artists do. 

I do not feel optimistic now. I do not feel optimistic about a company that responds to a punitive Equity requirement by circling the Paisley family wagons more tightly. I do not feel optimistic about an artistic director who, over the course of our nearly three-hour meeting, spent more time criticizing the character and work ethic of the employees I’d spoken to than expressing concern for their grievances. 

I do not feel optimistic about a company that has attempted to bully The Pitch into silence with disingenuous legal threats. After learning of this story, MET and its attorneys scoured my social media feed for ammunition, located a Facebook post I made in 2017 at the height of the #metoo movement detailing my personal, painful experiences with sexual assault and harassment, and submitted it to The Pitch as evidence of, I don’t know, my status as a living, breathing woman? 

“Such experiences further call into question her ability to objectively report about allegations such as those made here,” their attorney wrote, of me, in a letter to The Pitch.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this would disqualify just about every female reporter I’ve met — and many male reporters, too — from reporting on sexual harassment. Also obvious: these are not the actions one associates with empathetic people aware of the politics of power and sexual harassment. These are the actions of people concerned about protecting one thing: themselves. In the end, Bob’s #IamMET hashtag was more appropriate than he realized: I, not we. 

“In the beginning, we had these dreams of what the company looked like,” says a former employee who held multiple roles at MET and worked with the Paisleys nearly continuously between its inception in 2005 and 2017. “Originally, when the MET was created, it was Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, and their vision of having leadership roles in every aspect of the theater was grand, and it was coming to fruition. But all of a sudden there was just this switch with Karen, and her vision, her ideas were the only poker chips on the table.”

She continues: “Karen and Bob have gotten away with a lot of things for far too long. It’s time that people know what’s happening. I’m sad every time I hear what’s happened on the next show…that’s what hurts my heart. It’s just time people know— as they go into the Warwick, it’s time for people to know what they’re investing in.” 

On Twitter: @lizcookkc.

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