Signature Theatre strives to play a positive role in our society and part of doing this is listening to our community in an open and fair manner. Living up to these values means taking all allegations of inappropriate or illegal actions seriously and then acting on those complaints according to comprehensive and fair policies.
During Eric Schaeffer’s 30-year tenure at Signature, the theatre received two complaints about inappropriate behavior, both on the same day in May 2018. The first complaint was from Thomas Keegan, who initially sent his allegations to The Washington Post, several days before sending the allegations to Signature. Upon receiving the complaint, the Signature Board of Directors immediately began an inquiry and hired The Thatcher Law Firm to conduct an independent investigation. Mr. Schaeffer was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.
The third-party investigation involved numerous interviews including with Mr. Keegan, Mr. Schaeffer, current and former Signature staff along with attendees at the Helen Hayes Awards where Mr. Keegan alleges that a sexual assault took place. The investigator also did a comprehensive review of pertinent records including extensive email records, text messages and Mr. Schaeffer’s personnel file.
Evidence was found that contradicted the claims including various accounts of the alleged incident in which Mr. Keegan’s story was inconsistent, even among the text messages that he sent that evening. Additionally, the investigator was unable to find any third parties to corroborate Mr. Keegan’s story.
The investigation concluded that Mr. Keegan’s actions and statements were not credible and showed a motivation for money and publicity. Two weeks after he made his allegations to Signature, Mr. Keegan demanded payment of a quarter of a million dollars in a letter from his attorney to “avoid the publicity and expense of a trial” and that “Mr. Keegan’s demand to settle this matter without formal litigation is $250,000.” Mr. Keegan also told the investigator that the reason he was pursuing this issue was that he needed money.
Within minutes after Mr. Keegan’s complaint was received by Signature, a second complaint was received via email from Joe Carlson. This complaint was also thoroughly investigated by The Thatcher Law Firm. When interviewed, Mr. Carlson’s verbal account was different from story he had emailed to Signature and he was unable to explain why his story had changed so dramatically. The investigator also found no other evidence supporting Mr. Carlson’s claims.
The investigation of the alleged incidents lasted several months, and a verbal report was given to the Signature’s Board of Directors concluding that both sets of allegations were unfounded and likely coordinated. All 29 members of the Board unanimously accepted the investigator’s report and its conclusions.
Over the past few days, there have been other allegations which have appeared as posts on social media. To date, Signature has received no formal complaints, but would handle them according to the theatre’s comprehensive policies which could include an independent investigation.
- May 2018 was the first and only time Signature received any complaints regarding inappropriate behavior by Mr. Schaeffer during his 30-year tenure at Signature.
- Within hours of receiving the first complaint the Board was notified and soon after Mr. Schaeffer was placed on Administrative leave.
- The Board, as per policy, took these allegations seriously and retained an independent outside firm to conduct a thorough investigation.
- The Board was ready to accept the findings, whatever they might have been, of the independent investigator.
- To date, Signature has received no other formal complaints, but would handle them according to the theatre’s comprehensive policies which could include an independent investigation.