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Eliza Dushku

Eliza Dushku - "Dog Sees God" Play - A female producer accused of sex harassement

Paul Harris

Sunday 19 February 2006, by Webmaster

Turning tables on the casting couch

A top female producer is accused of sexually harassing her cast

The casting couch of the sexually predatory producer is a dirty secret that has been part of Hollywood and Broadway since the first actors trod the boards. But, like any great headlining play, the newest sex scandal to hit America’s acting profession has a fresh twist: the top producer accused of sexually harassing the cast of a Broadway play is a woman.

Her alleged victims are also far from being wide-eyed starlets. Instead they are some of the top names on Broadway, including Irish actor Gabriel Byrne.

Dede Harris, one of the most famous producers in New York, has been landed with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit after half the cast of her latest play walked out.

Harris, the award-winning producer of such previous hits as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hairspray, has been sued for $5m by the partners of her venture Dog Sees God, a satire on the Charlie Brown comic strip Peanuts. Legal papers filed with a Manhattan court claim her conduct has resulted in cast members leaving the show.

The lawsuit claims Harris is ’sexually obsessive and compulsive and is unable to refrain from sexually harassing cast members of productions with which she is affiliated’. It alleges that Harris asked one female cast member to ’feel her up’, groped another’s breast in a bar and made sexual advances on several other men and women. It describes a game of ’truth of dare’ played with the cast in which Harris asked some of the male actors to touch her.

The scandal over Harris’s alleged behaviour certainly marks a new shift in a profession notorious for the the sexual abuse of young actresses - usually it is ageing male directors who are accused of promising parts in return for sexual favours to young starlets.

Harris is one of the biggest production names on Broadway and famed throughout the industry. She won Tonys, the Broadway version of an Oscar, in 2001, 2002 and 2003 for works as disparate as the musical Hairspray and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The lawsuit does not say which actors have left Dog Meets God because of Harris’s alleged attentions. But four have departed in recent weeks, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Eliza Dushku and America Ferrera, who was the lead role in the hit film Real Women Have Curves

The lawsuit also claims Harris has a history of making unwelcome sexual advances on the stars of previous shows in which she has been involved. It says she ’sexually harassed’ Irish actor Gabriel Byrne when he was starring in The Exonerated, a hit play about wrongly convicted prisoners. Other stars in the play who received unwanted attentions included Aidan Quinn and Esai Morales, the lawsuit claims. It also says she sexually harassed Joey McIntyre when he was in her play Tick, Tick... Boom

However, Harris has strongly denied the allegations in the lawsuit. In an interview with the New York Post, she said the charges were false and part of a bid by disgruntled investors to recoup lost cash. ’Every single accusation is 100 per cent false,’ she said. Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead has been playing to mixed reviews since it opened at the end of last year and has been struggling to stay open. It is a knowing satire on the Peanuts cartoon characters created by Charles M Schulz. It is set 10 years in the future, once Charlie Brown and his gang have grown up, and begins with the death of Snoopy.

In the play, which is unauthorised and so cannot use the real names of Charles Schulz’s creations, the Charlie Brown character is reflecting on the life paths his old friends have taken. Linus is now a stoned drug user, Lucy is in psychiatric care, and Peppermint Patty and Marcy are alcoholic cheerleaders.

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