Boston's Lyric Stage Dismisses Marketing/Public Relations Director Over Incendiary Facebook Comments

Thursday August 6, 2020

The interior of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston
The interior of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston  (Source:Wikipedia)

"Last evening, one of our employees (on both their personal account and on the Lyric Stage's account) made statements on the Lyric's page that were harmful and unprofessional," reads the post on the Boston theater company's website. What did happen — a toxic string of invective comments — is hard to piece together due to some of them being deleted, including an original one from the company's press rep Henry Lussier, who, the post continues, has been let go from his position.

In the comments, Mr. Lussier is allegedly have called one person a "pig," told another to "STFU," and accused a pair of Black women that they were being too aggressive and "attacking" him.

Asked if the original post had been sanctioned by management and who was responsible for deleting subsequent ones, Matt Chapuran, Executive Director of the Lyric Stage, responded: "The original post, featuring alterations of our box office for physical distancing, was approved. All the subsequent comments on that thread were not. I first learned about them Wednesday morning.

"Shortly after, we discovered that one of the responders to our page had been blocked, which hid all their comments. That individual was unblocked and all comments of which we had control were restored. No posts were deleted. This was also part of our original statement yesterday morning on Facebook."

In the aftermath a Go Fund Me page was created, Compensation for Boston's BIPOC Theatre Folx, to acknowledge "an amazing group of Black women, women of color, and more for "the tireless work that has been happening to help wake Boston Theatre up to the mistreatment, racism, sexism, non-science based nonsense happening in our community - specifically Lyric Stage Company and Gloucester Stage Company." (To learn more about the Gloucester Stage Company issues, follow this link.)The page reached its initial goal of $4,000 in 36 minutes. Subsequently, it doubled its goal and has (as of this writing) surpassed it.

The page also offers readers a way to follow what happened at the Lyric, which they summarize as follows: "Please note that for Lyric you will need to scroll through about 187 comments - but the long story short is that plans for the theatre to re-start operations in October were leaked, and their PR Manager, Henry Lussier, using both the Lyric Stage account and his own personal one, berated and insulted members of the Boston Theatre Community, including using racist language with our very own Tonasia S. Jones. CW for all those who choose to read."

Mr. Lussier's initial post (since deleted) dealt with the theater's reopening in October. When members of the Boston theater community commented on the plan, Mr. Lussier engaged in a late-night, early-morning volley of exchanges (since deleted). Andrew Child, one recipient of a comment, posted his response on Instagram:

A search of Mr. Lussier's social media found a Facebook post from yesterday, a repost that featured a photo of a young Black girl dressed as a Disney princess with the words: "Because you need a black princess in your timeline." There were no posts on Mr. Lussier's Twitter account. He does not have an Instagram account that could be found with a search of his name.

Below is the full statement from Matt Chapuran, Executive Director of the Lyric Stage, and
Courtney O'Connor, the company's Artistic Director:

"Members of our community spoke with passion, respect, and reason. This was not the case in the responses they received. We have begun reaching out to apologize to these community members directly, and will continue to do so.

"We hear your calls for transparency about our plans for both reopening and Anti-racism/EDI work.
We have shared our safety plans with artists, unions, and the city and are in active discussions with the unions and artists. We continue to watch the daily numbers both here in Massachusetts and in the country. And we will continue to evaluate, change, and adjust our plans as the situation continues to evolve. These will be listed on our website soon.

"We accept that while the words spoken may have come from one person, we must look within to find and purge the systems in our organization that allowed this to happen. This will be long and difficult work but we are committed to doing it."

Editor's note: this story has been amended to include a comment from the Lyric Stage.

Comments on Facebook