Israel Horovitz accused of sexual assault



The wave of sexual misconduct allegations that has been toppling prominent men in politics and the entertainment industry has reached Wakefield.

The Board of Directors of the Gloucester Stage Company and its founder, world renowned playwright and Wakefield native Israel Horovitz, have permanently severed ties amid new allegations of sexual assault made against Horovitz.

On Thursday, Nov. 30, GSC board president Liz Neumeier issued the following statement:
“Earlier this month, the Board of the Gloucester Stage Company received information about an allegation of sexual assault by Israel Horovitz. We cancelled plans to produce a Horovitz play in 2018 and agreed that under no circumstances would he continue to serve on the Board, ex officio, as artistic director emeritus. Mr. Horovitz denied the allegation and requested a meeting, but then resigned.

“We deeply regret that past complaints were mishandled. On behalf of the Board I apologize to the brave women who came forward in 1992 and 1993 but were not heard. We are individually and collectively appalled by the allegations, both old and new. Such behavior cannot be tolerated and our thoughts are with the women who were victimized. We are committed to making sure that GSC is a place where people are safe, free to do their best work, and to speak out without fear of reprisal.”

To those who have followed Horovitz’s career closely, the latest allegations against the 1956 Wakefield High School graduate do not come as a major surprise. As referenced in Neumeier’s statement, a number of women came forward in the early 1990s with claims of sexual assault and misconduct by Horovitz. The then anonymous allegations were covered in detail by the Boston Phoenix. Horovitz vehemently denied those allegations at the time and continued on as Artistic Director at GSC with the support of the then board of directors.

Horovitz, 78, retired as GSC Artistic Director several years ago but had retained the title of “Artistic Director Emeritus.” He continued to be a prolific playwright, often premiering his newest plays at GSC before moving them to New York City, where he resides much of the year, when he’s not directing plays in Paris or London. His latest play, Out of the Mouths of Babes, was produced by GSC earlier this year.

In 2014, Horovitz made his successful debut as a feature film director. My Old Lady, a movie based on his play and starring Maggie Smith and Kevin Kline, was a critical and commercial success.

In her statement, Neumeier further hinted at the scope of the latest allegations against Horovitz.

“The New York Times will shortly publish an article about Israel,” Neumeier wrote, “and have nine women on the record making accusations about his sexual harassment and assaults. [GSC] Managing Director Jeff Zinn and I have responded to the reporter’s questions, but I want you to hear about these recent events directly from me.”

The Times story detailing the accusations against Horovitz was published on Thursday, Nov. 30.

“Inspired by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and others, a total of nine women have come forward publicly for the first time to describe a pattern of sexual abuse and violations of trust by a man they considered a mentor and friend,” the Times said.

“Jocelyn Meinhardt was 19 when she began a summer fellowship in 1989 with Mr. Horovitz at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts, where he was artistic director,” The Times reported. “She knew Mr. Horovitz; one of his sons, Adam Horovitz, who would go on to fame with the Beastie Boys, had been her high school boyfriend. That first night, she said, Mr. Horovitz drove her in his convertible — its license plate read AUTHOR — to the family home. He locked the door, then kissed and fondled her. She began to cry. Mr. Horovitz then led her to his bedroom, where she said he raped her.”

Other accusers include an au pair, who was 16 in 1991 when Horovitz allegedly groped her breasts and put her hand on his penis. Another actress said she was 16 when he pushed her against a wall and forcefully kissed her.

Aspiring playwright Maia Ermansons told the Times that when she went to meet with Horovitz last year, he kissed her and groped her breasts. She was 21 and had known Horovitz since she was a child.

“I felt close to him like a grandfather, but also he was a somewhat famous guy whose time I felt privileged to have,” Ermansons told the Times. “For the man who represented all that, to treat me the way he did, was the ultimate betrayal.”

In the wake of the latest accusations, support for Horovitz appears to be evaporating, not only among his former professional theater colleagues, but among his own family.

“His son Adam Horovitz, also known as Ad-Rock of Beastie Boys fame, has come forward to support the accusers, saying, ‘I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them,’” the Times reported.

Horovitz issued an apology but said that he has “a different memory of some of these events,” the Times story said.

“I apologize with all my heart to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions, and to my family and friends who have put their trust in me,” Horovitz told the New York Times. “To hear that I have caused pain is profoundly upsetting, as is the idea that I might have crossed a line with anyone who considered me a mentor.”

Horovitz was born in Wakefield in 1939 and grew up on Elm Street. He attended the Warren School on Converse Street (now the McCarthy Senior Center) before graduating from Wakefield High School in 1956.

He has written over 70 plays, which have been produced world-wide, including several set in his hometown of Wakefield. Ironically, one of those plays, The Widow’s Blind Date, features a female character who returns home to Wakefield to avenge a brutal rape that occurred years earlier.

As a young New York playwright, Horovitz is credited with helping to jumpstart the careers of actors like Al Pacino, Jill Clayburgh and John Cazale, all of whom appeared in Horovitz’s plays before going on to Hollywood fame.

One of Horovitz’s accusers, actress Elizabeth Dann, told the Times that the two were rehearsing alone one night, at Horovitz’s request, when he suddenly lunged forward, backing her into a wall and forcing his tongue into her mouth.

“I heard a word used recently about people like this — they’re dream crushers,” Dann told the Times. “He took this thing that was such a beautiful thing, this young hope, this sense of promise, and he just ruined it.”

[This story originally appeared in the December 1, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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