The artistic director of the White Rock Players Club has submitted his resignation to the board, following media reports published Thursday that he has a record as a sex offender.
Ryan Mooney, 32 – who has directed numerous shows for the club and his own Vancouver-based theatre company, Fighting Chance Productions – received a one-year conditional sentence in 2009 after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, in an incident that took place in another community in 2006.
White Rock Players Club president Angie Koropatnisky said Friday the board is to have a special meeting Aug. 4 to discuss its position on the issue and plans for its upcoming season, in which Mooney has been deeply involved.
That includes discussion of the upcoming Players Club/Fighting Chance co-production, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged, in which Mooney is a member of the three-man cast.
Koropatnisky, who was elected a year ago, said she was not aware of Mooney’s sentence, although she understands that some board members had known about it.
“I was shocked and surprised, and disappointed I was not told,” she said.
But she rejects the implication of reports that have suggested the club was actively recruiting young people as volunteers while in full knowledge of Mooney’s record.
“There has never been anything that has made me question anyone’s safety, whether adults or children,” she said.
“It’s a family theatre. Safety is important – it always has been.
“We have very strict policies in place; behaviour policies we expect people to abide by. When we do have children involved – which is usually the pantomime, we ask that parents stay with them backstage. That’s not because we’re worried, it’s easier to have adult supervision, because we’re not here to supervise them.”
Koropatnisky and club treasurer Gwenne Farrell said Mooney has not been directly involved in any of the club’s pantomimes.
There have also been reports that Katherine Stadel, vice-president and publicist for the club, has also resigned in the wake of the news story, although she had already been scaling back her participation, as a new mother.
Stadel would not comment on the issue, and Koropatnisky said she had not received her resignation.
But she said she understood that Stadel is upset that her general call for volunteers and encouragement of young people’s involvement had become part of a story on Mooney’s past record.
“She’s very hurt that her words were taken out of context and used to attack somebody,” Koropatnisky said.
Mooney’s sentence, handed down Feb. 16, 2009, by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman, stemmed from an incident that occurred while he was working on a high school play as a choreographer.
The court heard that Mooney, then 24, had developed a friendship with a Grade 11 student that included exchanging emails.
In the incident to which he pleaded guilty, he had taken the girl into the high school’s “green room,” placed his hands on her chest and suggested she perform oral sex on him. According to prosecutor Gail Barnes, the girl resisted Mooney’s advances and left.
Barnes, noting that Mooney had no prior criminal record, said the Crown did not want to impose a curfew that would prevent him from continuing to work on theatrical productions or “deprive him of his livelihood.”
The judge agreed to the prosecutor’s suggestion of imposing a condition that he not have contact with young people under 18, and Mooney’s lawyer said he would not be working with youth theatre again.
Farrell said that while she does not condone the offense, Mooney had been abiding by those conditions in his three years with the club.
“Ryan made sure he was not involved in productions with young people and excluded himself from being in those kinds of situations,” she said.
As a largely volunteer organization, the club does not have the resources to ask for criminal-background checks, Farrell said.
It has also not pursued children’s theatre options, she said, because “there would have to be tons of stuff in place to do that properly.”
As someone who has grown up with the club – this year will mark the 40th anniversary of her first appearance in a pantomime – Farrell said she knows the effectiveness of a network of “backstage mothers” watching out for young people involved in the club’s shows.
She said the most recent call for volunteers was not age-specific.
“We weren’t targeting young people,” she said.
Koropatnisky said Mooney was expected to be at the Aug. 4 meeting and she said she feels it is important for him to have the opportunity to speak directly to the board.
“He has never done anything to make me question his behaviour,” she said.
“As a community organization, it’s important that we look at the whole picture before making decisions and making judgments,” she said.