Downfall

At Soulpepper, Albert Schultz was a suave and successful impresario who could charm millions out of wealthy donors. Then four actresses accused him of sexual harassment. The inside story of his dramatic collapse

According to local legend, Soulpepper Theatre Company was named by a three-year-old girl called Julia—the daughter of its founders, Albert Schultz and Susan Coyne. Overhearing her father on the phone agonizing over the need for a name that had both “depth and spice,” the toddler reportedly paused over her colouring and said, “Soulpepper.”

This story would form part of the mythology of Albert Schultz—a man who loves to weave narratives, especially about himself. He co-founded Soulpepper in 1998 with a mandate to produce underperformed theatrical classics. At the beginning, the company struggled to find its way, financing itself with hot dog fundraisers and money from its members’ pockets. It briefly flirted with a collective co-directorship, but it seemed inevitable that Schultz would ultimately take control, which he did in 2000.

At the time, Schultz was a respected Canadian actor, if not exactly a household name. Like most of the Soulpepper talent, he came up through the Stratford Festival’s Young Company. He went on to star on the hit CBC series Street Legal, then ricocheted between dramatic roles (Conrad Black in a TV movie) and less serious endeavours (children of the ’90s might recall him as a singing roofer on The Red Green Show).

Albert Schultz and his ex-wife, Susan Coyne, performing in a 1987 production of Romeo and Juliet at Stratford. Photograph by Michael Cooper

Schultz had the kind of messy good looks that serve male performers well. He was too freckle-faced to be dismissed as a pretty boy, and his considerable height and booming voice lent him the gravitas of an unconventional leading man. More than anything, he was famous for his energy—an infectious mixture of old-school bombast and boyish enthusiasm. He wore his confidence lightly, swishing it about his shoulders like a cloak.

Schultz was enormously ambitious and entitled—a vivacious character with great warmth and generosity of spirit who could also be churlish, perfectionistic, even downright mean. There are plenty of stories of Schultz humiliating actors. According to one such tale, he reduced a young actor to tears during an audition on September 11, 2001, chastising her for a lack of focus (an allegation he denies).

Schultz co-founded Soulpepper Theatre Company in 1998 with his then-wife, Susan Coyne, and a handful of actor friends. The couple split several years later. Photograph by Getty Images

Like so many actors, he had a playful ease that masked a deep-seated need for public veneration. To his enemies, he was a textbook narcissist, an expert at charming those he needed and using those he didn’t. But to his friends—many of whom banked large sums of money upon his continued success—he was a man who should have been lauded and applauded until his death.

The birth of Soulpepper could not have been better timed. When it was founded, Toronto’s theatre scene was divided by a vast cultural chasm. On one side were tiny, cash-starved outfits like Tarragon, Factory and Theatre Passe Muraille, putting on gritty original works by homegrown writers. On the other side of the divide was David Mirvish, who staged glitzy Broadway-style musicals. Albert Schultz recognized this cultural gap and filled it with Ibsen, Chekhov, Pinter, Beckett. Finally, Torontonians could enjoy a thoughtful evening at the theatre without having to drive two hours to Stratford or beat the sawdust off their bottoms at the end of the night. They opened with just two plays—Schiller’s Don Carlos and Molière’s The ­Misanthrope—both of which were box office hits. The company quickly gained a reputation for contemporary, urbane minimalism, eschewing the gaudy sets and elaborate period costumes favoured by Stratford and Shaw. They prized the texts above all else, creating a theatrical experience that served character and narrative first and spectacle second.

Like many artists, Schultz was loath to relinquish control. He involved himself in almost every aspect of the production process. His micromanagerial approach is praised by some former colleagues (“He wore 86 different hats, amazingly well”) and excoriated by others (“It was like a sickness, his need to expand and conquer everything”). The entire company revolved around his vision—and his whims.

In the spring of 2000, Schultz formed Soulpepper’s inaugural Young Company, which later evolved into the Soulpepper Academy, a full-scale mentorship program for Canadian actors, funded largely by private donations raised single-handedly by Schultz. He often claimed that his training program was the legacy that made him proudest. He scouted budding actors from theatre schools and smaller productions around the country. Among them were Patricia Fagan and ­Kristin Booth. Fagan, who was fresh out of the George Brown theatre school at the time, had a wide-open face, large blue eyes and the kind of urgent voice that invites you to lean in and listen. Back then, as now, there was something deeply sympathetic about her, a kind of vulnerability that served her well onstage. Booth was angelically blond, with an arrestingly pretty face that will be familiar to anyone who watches a lot of Canadian TV. The two women, aged 23 and 25 respectively, were cast as Viola and Olivia, the female leads in Twelfth Night.

For a fledgling Toronto actor, landing a lead at Soulpepper was a major career break. Both Fagan and Booth revered Schultz from the outset. He was often goofy and playful, staging elaborate practical jokes at work and palling around with company members after hours. Despite the great power he wielded, he was also capable of filling a rehearsal studio with joy and laughter. Schultz was never big on boundaries—emotional, professional or otherwise. He longed for personal connection, to be treated as one of the troops as well as the glorious leader.

As the summer wore on, the actors’ worship gave way to resentment. “When he would break me down, or humiliate me, it was…followed with this unbelievable love and praise and acceptance,” Booth later told the CBC. “He was very good at breaking you down and building you back up to the point where you almost needed him.”

They also claim that the rehearsal process with Schultz was fraught with sexual advances. Booth says that he would greet her with a kiss on the mouth, claiming her lips were full and soft. He would allegedly slap the actors’ butts and sometimes stand in for male actors to demonstrate the correct way to simulate sex. At one point, according to Fagan, Schultz stood in for a male actor, fully clothed, and pressed his penis between her buttocks. Another time, they say, he led an acting exercise in the parking lot outside Harbourfront Centre during rehearsals for Twelfth Night. According to Fagan and Booth, Schultz asked them to go through the list of male company members and tell him who they’d like to fuck. The goal of the exercise, they say, was for them to convincingly express sexual interest in men they did not find attractive. Eventually, they both professed their false attraction to Schultz while he watched and judged whether he believed them. Both women say they felt demoralized and powerless under Schultz—a man who was supposed to be their mentor. They claim they didn’t tell anyone about it because they just assumed that was what the theatre is like.

When Twelfth Night finally opened in mid-August, the reviews were positive, and Booth and Fagan were singled out as new talents to watch. They both felt that Schultz exploited their youth and inexperience—and yet they both kept quiet in the hopes that they would get to work with him again.

 


“Schultz is very persuasive at getting rich people to open their deep pockets,” says his friend Noah Richler

 

Over the next two decades, Schultz’s gift for fundraising became legendary in Toronto arts circles. “He is very persuasive at getting rich people to open their deep pockets,” his friend Noah Richler told me. The most generous group of donors was known as the Soul Circle Mentors, and included such big-name Toronto arts patrons as Gary and Donna Slaight, Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky, and Sonja and Michael Koerner. Every year, Schultz would accompany the Soul Circle Mentors and a few members of the company to New York City, where they would attend several Broadway shows and schmooze over lavish meals in the best restaurants. “Those times were pure and utter magic,” one wealthy Soulpepper patron told me, his voice heavy with nostalgia. By 2016, the theatre had an annual budget of almost $12 million, the vast majority of which came from private sponsorship.

The stories of Schultz’s casual persuasion are legendary. David Young, whose family foundation awarded the company a gift of $3 million in 2003, signed the cheque without ever having seen a Soulpepper production. Charles Baillie, the former chairman and CEO of TD Bank, donated $750,000 after bumping into Schultz at Rosedale subway station.

Those two gifts formed the foundation of the company’s permanent home. In 2006, after spending the better part of a decade at Harbourfront Centre, Soulpepper moved into its own purpose-built, $14-million theatre: the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District, which it shares with George Brown College’s theatre school. The building instantly became a symbol of Toronto’s cultural sophistication.

Schultz stands on the site of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District, which was completed in 2006. Photograph by Getty Images

The same year, Schultz launched the Soulpepper Academy, for which he chose 10 artists each year to train under his mentor­ship. I interviewed him for the Globe and Mail just after the academy launched, and spent a long weekend sitting in on the program’s first audition process. I recall the command he had of the room and his infectious enthusiasm when we spoke. I also remember watching as he moved himself to tears making a speech to the 32 hopefuls on the final day of auditions. “I’m getting sad now,” he said. “Parting is such sweet sorrow, but there are glories ahead of us. The problem is, it’s not enough, what we’re doing here. To take 10 of you into safety so you can express your voices…I wish…I wish we could do more.”

Much of Schultz’s success came down to his ability to communicate with the press, who universally adored him. In 2008, the Toronto Star’s long-time theatre critic Richard Ouzounian called him a “mad visionary” who revitalized Toronto’s theatre scene. In 2013, the Governor General awarded him the Order of Canada. Even American journalists paid attention. “Great cities are known for the theatre companies they keep,” read a 2001 piece in the Chicago Tribune. “In Toronto, one that in its short four seasons has attracted critical attention and audience enthusiasm is Soulpepper.” In a profile published in the ­Walrus in 2014, the novelist David Macfarlane adopted the purposely theatrical voice of a stage manager giving notes on the character that is “Albert Schultz” (a reference to Soul­pepper’s production of Our Town). “Is he a modest man?” he asks. “No. He is not a modest man. He’s an actor, a profession not noted, on the whole, for its modesty. But his aspirations—as an actor, as a director and as the leader of Soulpepper—are as much a part of who he is that neither modesty nor immodesty seem relevant. Albert Schultz is Albert Schultz.”

Schultz wielded an extraordinary amount of power at the company—a power that only intensified when Leslie Lester, the woman who would later become his wife, was appointed executive director of Soulpepper. Before joining the company, Lester was a long-time producer at Nightwood, a feminist theatre troupe that produced the works of Ann-Marie ­MacDonald, among other luminaries. A feisty, funny blonde known for her dynamism and drive, she arrived at Soulpepper in the early 2000s, soon after Schultz and founding company member Susan Coyne had separated. He and Lester entered a relationship, and they married last fall in a large ceremony at their farm in ­Northumberland County. More than 100 guests were in attendance, including many company members, like ­Ted Dykstra and his wife, Diana Bentley.

In the early 2000s, Leslie Lester was appointed executive director of Soulpepper. She and Schultz began a relationship, and were married last year. Photograph by George Pimentel

Schultz’s public persona—the affable, optimistic face he presented to wealthy donors at dinner parties—was different from the mercurial artistic director who ruled his theatre company like an autocrat. I spoke to a number of company members and employees for this piece, and each one described a man who could be evasive, hot-tempered and egotistical. One former colleague described how Schultz once screamed at him for arriving late to a meeting and then, when it was pointed out that he’d in fact texted in advance to say he’d be late, Schultz instantly reverted to his charming self, even hugging the man on the way out the door.

And yet most of the people I spoke to said they’d never heard rumours of sexual assault—just garden-variety inappropriateness. These colleagues painted a picture of someone who delighted in making off-colour jokes and flirtatious sexual comments. “He was constantly saying things like, ‘Look at the fucking body on that girl,’ ” a former colleague recounts. “I would call him on it and say, ‘Dude, you’re the artistic director, you can’t talk like that.’ But he would just laugh as if I was crazy to bring it up.” (Schultz, for the record, has denied ever making such a comment.)

Because Schultz insisted on performing so many different roles at the company—writer, actor, mentor, director, artistic director, fundraiser, husband-to-the-executive-director—his colleagues were perennially having to seek out and await his feedback. He held a stranglehold of power over one of the country’s most valuable arts institutions. Here’s a company joke one former colleague told me: “At Soulpepper, if you wanted to bake a cake, first you’d get the eggs and give them to Albert. Then you’d get the milk and give it to Albert. Then you’d get the flour and sugar, and give it to Albert. Then you’d wait around for ages and ages until Albert announced he wanted to bake a cake.” In order to get anything done at Soulpepper, it had to seem like Schultz’s idea first.

 


Kristin Booth says Schultz repeatedly propositioned her and suggested they get a hotel room together

 

After performing in Twelfth Night, Kristin Booth returned to the company in 2005, when Schultz cast her in the title role of Ferenc Molnár’s Olympia. At 30, she was no longer an ingenue. She was also engaged. Despite this, she says, Schultz spent most of the rehearsal process propositioning her, leaving notes in her dressing room suggesting they get a hotel room together. Another time, during a rehearsal, she says he stepped in for an actor and ran his hands up her body. Booth’s costume was a low-cut dress, and she says her chest became a point of obsession for Schultz, who allegedly commented and joked about it regularly. “How could anyone resist those milky white breasts?” he reportedly said.

Patricia Fagan went on to become a regular company member at Soulpepper, performing in several productions over the next few years. During that time, she claims a culture of abuse proliferated inside the company, and that Schultz was regularly ­inappropriate, sexually and professionally. She alleges that one night in the summer of 2001, she attended a party at Schultz’s home while Coyne and their kids were out of town. As the party began to wind down, Schultz apparently suggested a game of strip poker to Fagan and four other Soulpepper actors. According to Fagan, the game began with Schultz exposing his penis, though he denies the claim. Fagan, who feared being mocked as a prude by her boundary-pushing boss, says she felt pressured to participate and removed her shirt. A male cast member stripped from the waist down, and a female cast member ended up completely naked.

In 2013, Fagan left Soulpepper, saying she wanted to focus on her family. She’s married to TV show­runner (and former Soulpepper member) Adam Pettle, and they have two small children. She never thought about going public about her experiences working with Schultz until May 11, 2016—the day she turned on the news and watched Kathryn Borel, a complainant in the criminal case against Jian ­Ghomeshi, make a statement on the steps of Old City Hall. The Crown had agreed to drop the case against Ghomeshi if he signed a peace bond admitting his workplace conduct had been “­sexually inappropriate.” In Borel’s statement, she described years of sexual and emotional predation she had allegedly experienced at the hands of her former boss.

Watching Borel speak about her experience with Ghomeshi, Fagan had flashbacks to working with Schultz. The grabbing and groping, the sex jokes at work that went way too far, the psychological abuse—it was all very familiar. No sooner did she have the thought than she tried to banish it. She thought of his family, his kids. And yet the notion was suddenly there, and it wouldn’t go away.

By all outward measures, Schultz was still a hugely effective leader. He had ushered Soulpepper into a new era of artistic glory, remounting sold-out shows for off-Broadway runs, adapting the award-winning play Kim’s Convenience for television, and persuading the great and the good of Toronto to donate millions on top of the company’s hefty annual arts grants.

At Soulpepper, Schultz involved himself in every aspect of production. Here, he directs rehearsals for Spoon River in 2017. Photograph by CP Images

Behind the scenes, however, he was dealing with his own problems. The Soulpepper Academy had begun to fray at the edges, with four of its nine actors leaving by the end of 2017. That year, associate artistic director Ravi Jain had also unhappily parted ways with the company. Hired to bring more diversity to the theatre, Jain quickly found himself at odds with Schultz. “They’re not ready for the change they’re talking about,” he told the Globe last year. After the Ravi Jain fiasco, some people in the theatre world had started to believe that Schultz, though brilliant in his way, was increasingly out of touch and despotic, and that his gestures toward openness and diversity were political moves designed to ensure his grip on power.

On October 5, 2017, Patricia Fagan, along with the rest of the world, read the New York Times investigation detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the producer Harvey Weinstein. A few days later, she and her husband hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family. Conversation turned to the subject of Weinstein, and, for the first time, Fagan shared some of her own alleged experiences working with Schultz.

Her friends were outraged and urged her to go public with her story. Emboldened by the #MeToo movement, she felt it was her duty to speak out—not just for herself, but for her fellow actors and the future of Toronto theatre. At the beginning, all she wanted was to get Schultz to step down from Soulpepper. She never considered pursuing a criminal case. Schultz, after all, didn’t rape anybody. She didn’t believe he should go to jail, but she didn’t want him to hold a position of power any longer. So she sat down and wrote out a diary of all the instances of impropriety she remembered experiencing at the hands of Albert Schultz. Then she picked up the phone and hired a lawyer.

Alexi Wood is a civil litigator in her 40s with a self-contained manner and a head of dark corkscrew curls. She’s a partner at St. Lawrence Barristers LLP, a small downtown firm that specializes in civil litigation and regulatory disputes. Fagan realized that in addition to getting Schultz fired, she might well be able to negotiate a financial settlement with Soulpepper. If other women with similar stories came forward, it would strengthen her case. She started calling around. At first she ran into nothing but dead ends. And then she called Kristin Booth.

The two women had fallen out of touch, but they quickly began sharing memories of that production of Twelfth Night nearly two decades earlier. After some discussion, Booth said, “Let’s do this.” From that moment, she never wavered. The two women resolved to go forward together.

Soon, they heard from Diana Bentley and Hannah Miller, two other Toronto actors who said they’d be willing to share their stories of working under Schultz. Bentley is married to Ted Dykstra, a founding member of the Soulpepper company. She claims that when she appeared in a 2011 production of Our Town, Schultz slapped her butt on successive nights while she helped him with an onstage costume change. When she confronted him, he reportedly said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Miller, who joined the Soulpepper Academy in 2011, claims that during a production of The Crucible the following year, Schultz, who was directing, verbally humiliated her during rehearsals. At one point, she says, he stepped in for a fellow actor without warning and kissed her on the mouth.

 


According to some of Schultz’s defenders, butt-slapping and flashing are just part of day-to-day business in the theatre

 

Schultz’s defenders told me that many of the claims against him are opportunistic recasting of the sort of boundary-pushing behaviour that goes on backstage in almost every theatre. “This is jealous, tall poppy syndrome,” one of Schultz’s friends told me. According to some, practical jokes, butt-slapping, flashing, even directors stepping in to demonstrate sexualized blocking are just part of day-to-day business.

While this may well be true, says the anti-Schultz camp, it doesn’t make it acceptable. “If I smacked you on the ass and told you to get over it, would that be okay?” one irate former company member asked me. “Would you say that was okay because we’re ‘theatre people’? Parading that as an excuse is the definition of the problem.”

As Fagan was preparing to launch her civil suit, she heard that J. Kelly Nestruck, the Globe and Mail’s theatre critic, had been calling around, asking about the toxic culture at Soul­pepper and Schultz’s rumoured history of misconduct. She waited for him to call, but he never did.

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, ­Nestruck had been assigned to investigate the rumours swirling around Soulpepper. In addition to plenty of party gossip about Schultz, Nestruck had received an anonymous letter written on loose-leaf paper in what looked like disguised handwriting. It read, “SOULPEPPER LASZLO MARTON ALBERT SCHULTZ FIND OUT NOW! END IT.”

Laszlo Marton is a Hungarian director and former Soul­pepper guest artist whom Schultz considered a mentor. His relationship with the company had been quietly and abruptly terminated in 2016 under mysterious circumstances—the board claimed there had been complications with his work visa. But post-Weinstein, an actor in Hungary came forward and accused Marton of sexual harassment; nine more women soon made similar claims. Soul­pepper finally admitted the truth: Marton had been fired for allegations of sexual impropriety from someone in the company.

Schultz had unequivocally supported Marton after he left the theatre, urging company members to send their former mentor messages of support and even hosting a dinner for him at his home. Fagan was on the guest list for the party, but she declined to attend. “I was asked to go and honour a man who was fired for sexual harassment at the home of a man who sexually harassed me,” she claimed.

Nestruck broke the Marton story in late October. Immediately, Schultz and Lester held a meeting onstage at the Young Centre. He read a statement to the assembled troops disclosing the true nature of Marton’s departure and said that the reason they had kept quiet about it was to protect the anonymity of the claimant. He insisted that Soulpepper took all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and was firmly on the victim’s side.

The couple closed the meeting by saying there would be no questions or comments, then they walked into the lobby as company members were filing out. “Albert was hugging everyone, and it made people furious,” one source told me. “There was an element of hypocrisy—to hear Albert saying he cared deeply about sexual harassment when clearly he’d supported Marton all along was too much.”

Into this brewing calamity wandered one of the CBC’s most venerable investigative reporters, Julian Sher of The Fifth Estate. A long-time senior producer with the CBC, Sher is the author of six books, and previously worked for the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. He’s a slight, grey-haired man in his 60s with the squint of someone who’s spent an unhealthy portion of his life hunched over a laptop, and he’s unusually open and affable for a man with his job description.

 


The CBC came up with a list of powerful men allegedly guilty of sexual impropriety. Then they set about finding their Harvey

 

In the midst of #MeToo, the CBC decided that Canada needed to find its own Harvey Weinstein—a powerful and famous man guilty of sexual impropriety in the workplace. So, Sher told me, they did something unusual. “We created a team where we brought together departments who don’t usually work together. In this case it was the entertainment unit, The ­Current, The Fifth Estate and the investigative unit.” The investigative dream team made a list of story leads on influential, well-connected and powerful Canadian men alleged to be guilty of impropriety. Then they set about finding their Harvey. “We were making calls, reading books, looking at old newspapers, you know, doing the same thing we always do,” said Sher. “We had several subjects on the go, but quickly the Schultz story percolated to the top. There were more leads, and people were calling us back.”

The idea that a public broadcaster would form an inter-departmental investigative team to identify and bring down an as-yet-unknown culprit is not just unusual: in my 17 years of journalism, I’ve never heard of anything like it. And yet in the weeks and months after the Weinstein story, there was a sense among news editors and producers in the Canadian media that we, too, needed to get our man—whoever he might be.

In late 2017, with four complainants on board, the case against Schultz and Soulpepper was looking strong. If the media went big on the story, he would be finished as artistic director before the negotiating process even began. The Globe and the CBC agreed to break the story the same day, and on January 3, 2018, the claimants held a press conference to announce that they were seeking $7.85 million in damages from Schultz and Soulpepper­ collectively—$4.85 ­million for Fagan and Booth, and $3 million for Miller and Bentley. The CBC devoted an entire episode of The Fifth Estate to the story, using footage from the press conference, complete with menacing music and voice-over.

On January 3, four Soulpepper actors—clockwise from top left, Hannah Miller, Patricia Fagan, Kristin Booth and Diana Bentley—held a press conference announcing their $7.85-million civil suit against Albert Schultz and Soulpepper, claiming he subjected them to years of sexual harassment. Photograph by Getty Images

Schultz learned of the story hours before it broke. At the time, he released a statement saying he would defend himself vehemently. Then, within hours of the press conference, he stepped down, and Soulpepper’s board of directors announced they would be launching a formal investigation into his alleged misconduct. A few days later, they also severed ties with ­Leslie Lester. That same week, 280 past and present Soulpepper artists signed a letter calling on the board to acknowledge the harm the complainants and others had suffered.

I reached out to Schultz several times asking for an interview, but he declined to speak to me. So did Lester. The Soulpepper board and executive team didn’t respond to interview requests. Schultz hasn’t filed a defence, but through his lawyer he denied all of the allegations outlined in the statement of claim, none of which have been proven in court. According to one loyal friend, Schultz and Lester have been avoiding going out in public and declining most invitations. “They’ve gotten to know who their real friends are,” the friend said. “Leslie is better equipped at dealing with the stress because she’s a manager by nature, and she practises mindfulness.” Another source close to the couple said they’re trying to figure out a way forward. “When I asked Leslie how Albert was, she said, ‘Well, you know he loves a problem. And now he’s got a big one.’ ”

Noah Richler, who previously worked at Soulpepper but resigned due to artistic differences, told me he believes the charges against Schultz had been strategically trumped up. “The whole thing has far more to do with power and resentment than sexual battery,” he said. Although many friends and former colleagues echoed this view, Richler is the only one who went on the record.

He also believes that there was a serious ethical failure in how the media handled his friend’s case. “I’m not victim-blaming here. Believe me, I’ll be the first to admit that the way Albert wielded power within Soulpepper could be infuriating. But the court of public opinion has made extraordinary victims out of Albert and Leslie. That Fifth Estate piece was the single worst piece of publicly funded journalism I’ve ever seen.”

Sher insists that all journalistic standards were rigorously met and that the story was firmly in the public interest. But while he might well have reserved judgment of Schultz, the Soulpepper board and the Canadian public did not. When I asked Sher whether the CBC would have devoted an entire episode of The Fifth Estate to the Schultz story a year ago—before Weinstein—he paused, momentarily lost for words. “Um, hmm, I don’t…know,” he said. Then, after some thought: “Maybe put that question another way. Would the women have come forward a year ago?” He has a point.

After the CBC went big on the Schultz story, they disbanded their dream team. People had to go back to their regular jobs. Sher said they will continue to investigate claims of harassment, but it’s plain that the urgency is gone.

In the weeks following the Schultz scandal, the Canada Council for the Arts rescinded a planned fundraising campaign for Soulpepper. The company later announced that it is forecasting a deficit for 2018 in the face of “extraordinary one-time costs and revenue reductions.” It has also announced plans to carry out a comprehensive review of formal policies regarding codes of conduct, training and whistle-blowing policies. Since January, the company’s patrons have donated $650,000 to a transition campaign intended to smooth the way to a bright new future—one without Albert Schultz and Leslie Lester. It’s possible that’s money the company would have received ­anyway; some $5 million of Soulpepper’s annual budget comes from private donations. The bigger question is whether deep-pocketed patrons will continue to support the theatre without the man who once so thoroughly charmed them.

In early May, after months of legal skirmishing, Albert Schultz, Soulpepper representatives, the four co-claimants and their respective legal teams all met in a downtown office building to commence mediation. The opposing legal teams prodded and bullied each other over the course of two tense 12-hour days. Neither party wanted to go to court. What the actors wanted most was some admission of wrongdoing. This would prove impossible. Schultz was steadfast in his denial of guilt.

At the end of the second day, Alexi Wood asked all four claimants to write down the lowest possible dollar figure they would settle for. They were exhausted and desperate for the whole saga to be over. All sides signed non-disclosure agreements forbidding them from discussing the case publicly, but according to a source close to the case, the settlement covered their legal fees and a small payout “in the low thousands” for each woman. Each intends to donate the full amount to charity.

Once the settlement was reached, the mood was sombre. No one popped champagne or planned a jubilant steak house dinner. Instead, the women said goodbye and went home to see their families. “There was no sense of victory,” says the source. “It was more like, ‘Thank God that’s over.’ ”

Schultz still has one more battle to fight: he’s reportedly grappling with the Soulpepper board over the rights to the name of the company—the name his daughter supposedly dreamed up all those years ago. While reporting this piece, I asked Schultz’s friends and foes whether that story was true or apocryphal. No one seemed to know.


This story originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe, for just $24 a year, click here.

Correction

July 22, 2018

An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Patricia Fagan attended the wedding of Albert Schultz and Leslie Lester.