Geffen Playhouse Sued For Age Discrimination & Libel By Its Former Artistic Director

All the world’s a stage — including courtrooms. The Geffen Playhouse is on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed today by its former longtime artistic director that claims age and disability discrimination, fraud, slander and “a succession of lies” The filing lands one day after Game of Thrones helmer Matt Shakman — who is 20 years younger than plaintiff Randall Arney — was named artistic director of the Westwood theater.

In his 27-page complaint filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), Arney who was the theater’s artistic director for 17 years before leaving in February, claims that Geffen Playhouse board co-chairs Pamela Robinson and Martha Henderson “abruptly and without explanation changed the terms of his employment” shortly after he turned 55 in 2012, “presenting him with a contract limiting his employment to two years” with a Geffen option for a third.

“In 2015, the Geffen presented Arney with a new written employment contract,” the suit adds. “Like the previous contract, the term was for two years; this time, however, the Geffen purged from the contract the provision giving it the option to extend for another year. Arney was 58 years old when the Geffen struck the extension option.” It notes that the playhouse won numerous awards for that 2014-15 season but chose not to give Arney “a formal performance evaluation” for that season or the previous one.

“On February 13, 2017,” the suit claims, “Henderson summoned Arney to her Beverly Hills office for a last-minute, unnoticed meeting with her and Robinson. At the meeting, Robinson told Arney the Geffen was concerned about ‘succession’ and therefore would not be renewing Arney’s contract. The meeting adjourned in less than 10 minutes and left Arney stunned and shattered.”

The suit also alleges that a letter sent the next day from Henderson and Robinson to the Geffen board contains false and misleading assertions to the effect that Arney participated in and agreed with the Geffen’s decision not to renew his contract and that he wanted to pursue different professional goals.” It goes on to say that “the Geffen told Arney it would leak the February 14 Letter to the media and on February 14, 2017, several media outlets published the Geffen’s version of how and why Arney was departing. That day and the next, several publications reported that Arney would be leaving as Artistic Director to focus on directing.”

The suit also claims failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation and demands a jury trial. Attorney Sana Swe from the Law Offices of Sana Swe in Los Angeles is representing Arney in the case.

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