News & Politics

Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer Out in the Wake of Sexual-Assault Allegations

The co-founder and artistic director has announced his unexpected retirement.

Last weekend, an actor named Thomas Keegan posted an account on social-media of an alleged sexual assault by Eric Schaeffer, the co-founder and artistic director of Arlington’s Signature Theatre. That was followed by similar accusations from another actor. Now comes word that Schaeffer is unexpectedly retiring after 30 years at the theater, according to a press release. The release makes no mention of the assault accusations.

According to the Washington Post, Signature had previously hired a lawyer to investigate the allegations against Schaeffer—who was placed on administrative leave for two months—and found them to be “not credible.”

In a post on Facebook, Keegan accused Schaeffer of “grabbing or fondling my genitals through my pants [at least] three times over the course of a bewildering five minute exchange, including at least twice after I made it clear that I wanted him to stop.” The alleged incident took place at a 2018 awards ceremony at the Anthem.

A previous statement from Signature responded that “recent allegations about this incident asserted on social media are false, misleading and without merit as evidenced by the independent investigation.” Signature managing director Maggie Boland told the Post that Schaeffer is retiring because he “doesn’t want to do any harm to this theater that he built or to this community that he loves.”

Schaeffer leaves his position as of June 30. Under his guidance, Signature has become known for its stagings of Stephen Sondheim musicals, including last summer’s Assassins, which Schaeffer directed. The theater will now begin the search for a new artistic director, keeping in mind, the press release says, its “responsibility to increased diversity and anti-racism.”

Politics and Culture Editor

Rob Brunner grew up in DC and moved back in 2017 to join Washingtonian. Previously, he was an editor and writer at Fast Company and other publications. He lives with his family in Chevy Chase DC.