Starlight Dinner Theatre to have controversial director this season

Former Purple Rose artistic director quit amid allegations of abuse, bullying and discrimination


WEDNESDAY, July 10 —- Lansing’s Starlight Dinner Theatre has signed controversial director Guy Sanville, former artistic director of the Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, to direct two shows this season.

Sanville and other Purple Rose management members were targets of complaints by actors and stage managers that alleged manipulation, emotional abuse, bullying, discriminatory hiring practices, unsafe working conditions, homophobia and racism.

Publicity about those complaints led Sanville to resign as artistic director in November 2021. He’d served in that post since 1995.

In his resignation, he told the board of directors he was resigning “so as not to distract from the mission of the Purple Rose,” reported at the time. The outlet had published a series on the alleged abuses occurring at the company.

Reached by Facebook today, Sanville declined to comment.

“No thank you,” he wrote. “I will always treasure my time with the Rose and am looking forward to the next chapter. I am proud of the work we did and the way we did it.”

Linda Granger, artistic director for Starlight, declined to comment on the allegations against Sanville from his time at Purple Rose. She noted she's known him for "51 years" and he has served the theater in an advisory role. 

"I am very excited to work with him and know he will bring vast knowledge to our theater," she said via Facebook Messenger this evening. 

Sanville will direct the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in December and show “Willow Run” in May 2024.

In 2020, Purple Rose Theater Co., a professional theater founded by actor Jeff Daniels in 1991, became the target of complaints about discrimination and a toxic, hostile work environment. Former interns and employees told their stories on Instagram as “Purple Stories,” reported in November 2021.

Then came a 22-page letter to the company board outlining 20 years of abuse allegations that was signed by 60 actors and former employees. Another 10 people added their names to the letter after it was sent. Thirteen people signed the letter anonymously because, they said, they feared retribution from Sanville and others in the company.

“For many years, the Purple Rose has operated with an increasingly toxic internal culture; one that ultimately privileges and protects a few key individuals — most notably the Artistic Director (Sanville),” part of the letter read, “while providing inconsistent or no protection for those who have experienced an unsafe work environment at the hands of these same individuals.”

A grievance was filed in 2020 with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents live stage performers and stage managers, representing 10 artists. Actors’ Equity sent a settlement request to the company on Dec. 8, 2020. Under the proposed settlement, to avoid going to arbitration, Purple Rose would agree to pay $14,601.24 for violations of the union contract including discrimination, retaliation for union activity, equal opportunity and non-traditional casting and complaints related to safe and sanitary performance spaces. That was rejected, and in 2021 an arbitrator dismissed the majority of the complaints because the activity occurred more than 30 days before the complaint was filed. The arbitrator did find Purple Rose Theater had retaliated against one complainant for participating and cooperating in a union investigation.

In August 2020, Purple Rose reached a settlement with 10 former apprentices over wage concerns. The settlement and complaint remain confidential.


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