DSI Comedy Theater in Chapel Hill will close August 28, its founder announced this morning.
The news comes after Zach Ward, who started the theater in 2001, faced accusations on social media
of sexual harassment, discrimination in giving stage time to women performers, and unfair pay. Ward has said a sexual encounter with a patron detailed in a Facebook post did not occur as described and denied allegations that he created a toxic environment at DSI and took advantage of performers' free labor.
Ward, who also founded the N.C. Comedy Arts Festival, said in a statement this morning that the theater will close in August after previously scheduled camps and classes. Here's the full statement.
After many days of thoughtful consideration I have decided to close DSI effective August 28, 2017. DSI will honor its commitments to campers and students through the end of August. DSI has arranged to have our camps and classes staffed by individuals committed to DSI, its students and campers.
The individuals who have been willing to help DSI honor its commitments have come under the same attacks that I have from some of the same individuals. While I have lost the business I loved due to these attacks, it is completely unfair to subject DSI’s instructors to the same personal attacks and public shaming simply for being loyal to the commitments they have made to their students.
Ward did not respond to an email seeking more details on the attacks mentioned in his statement.
The revelations have prompted a hashtag, #YesAndWeBelieveYou, subverting the improv principle of "yes and" and the name of an organizational development business Ward heads called YesAndLife to support those speaking out.