We, the cast of Exit 63 Theatre’s production of Horse Girls, are pained to announce that our run has been cancelled due to the abuse, manipulation, and mismanagement we experienced at the hands of Exit 63 Theatre, primarily its Artistic Director Connor Baty.
Early on in the process a cast member approached the Stage Manager to voice her concerns about racist and sexist microaggressions spoken by director Connor Baty in the rehearsal room. The next day, the Stage Manager spent time introducing the Not in Our House conflict resolution policy “Oops/Ouch,” which the cast and director Connor Baty agreed to use moving forward. On Wednesday August 28th, the cast initiated the “Oops/Ouch” protocol after Baty included the words, “just fucking do it, you bitches” in response to their question. Baty then broke this safety protocol by verbally harassing the cast, detailed below. The cast and production team decided the following evening (August 29th) that the best course of action would be to remove Baty from the remaining rehearsals and production run. The full artistic and production staff were set to move forward with an Assistant Director and Associate Artistic Director taking over the process. When Baty insisted on attending opening night and was refused, an email was sent from Exit 63 Theatre’s sole funding source, Bruce Baty (Connor Baty’s father), canceling the show. Shortly after this, the Exit 63 Theatre company website, Facebook page, and Instagram were completely wiped of all promotional material for the show and then deleted. This statement is our final recourse to end the attempted erasure of our experience, and ensure that no further harm comes to our peers in the theatre community due to this experience.
Here is a condensed list of our grievances, arranged loosely in chronological order:
-Exit 63 Theatre cast a majority white ensemble with an Asian American actor playing a quiet outsider character, and a Black actor playing a poor, diabetic outsider character. Baty never discussed race or the racial politics he gave to this production through his casting choices, even when the actors of color brought up concerns of racial stereotypes and their own experiences of racism.
-This distinct lack of race-conscious casting was made clear in the room when Baty perpetrated racist microaggressions against the Black actor in the cast. He called this actor “lazy” for saying she was tired, and told her at another rehearsal that she looked like “a minstrel” while holding an instrument (disregarding the duality and weight of that word). This actor emailed Baty and the Stage Manager explaining why it was harmful. She requested not to be contacted further about it and wanted to simply move forward respectfully. Baty called her immediately.
-When questioned, Baty repeatedly told the cast to stop overthinking, and to just trust him. Once when questioned, Baty even replied with the sexist and condescending, “Sweetie, no.” He told the cast that they were hard to direct because they were “intimidating.” This created a culture where actors felt scared and/or guilty asking questions and often apologized for it.
-Baty demonstrated a pattern of disregard for the cast’s physical and emotional well-being. He frequently touched actors to demonstrate blocking without explicit consent and never discussed physical boundaries.
The following is a breakdown of what happened on Wednesday August 28th:
-As said earlier, Baty answered a question by telling the all-female ensemble to, “just fucking do it, you bitches.”
-Following this, an actor voiced that she felt hurt by this language using the Not in Our House conflict resolution policy “Oops/Ouch” that the company had previously agreed upon.
-Baty refused to follow the “Oops/Ouch” protocol and instead began to yell at the cast for not trusting him and being “difficult.” He proceeded to yell that he “put a lot of money into this.”
-During the outburst, Baty screamed, pounded his fists to his knees, and exhibited threatening physical behavior while the actor who brought forth her concerns stood openly crying.
-Baty then justified his use of the word bitch by calling himself a “fucking faggot.”
-One actor then tried to leave the space and was physically stopped by Connor standing up, extending his arm to block her, and saying “no, you can’t leave”.
Baty never fully addressed the gravity of his actions or the weight of their repercussions. Instead he described it in person as, “three sheets to the fucking wind crazy” and in an email to the cast, “it was not my proudest moment.”
Before the website was deleted, it stated “Exit 63 Theatre implements the Chicago Theatre Standards as outlined in Not in Our House,” but Baty admitted in person that despite his role as Artistic Director he had never read the Not in Our House policy. By September 3rd all company members and artistic associates had resigned from Exit 63 Theatre except for Nora Lise and Connor Baty.
We took every step possible to move forward privately and respectfully with the production. Even when the process became steeped in trauma we decided to move forward, because we felt this story deserved to be seen. We know that our voices and our experience deserve to be heard. Thank you for listening.
Signed, The Horse Girls Cast
Ari Kraiman, Bailey Castle, Harmony Zhang, Jackie Bowes, Jenni M. Hadley, Liz Lengyel, and Marisa Lazar