Correcting, not punishing
Published on October 14, 2020
It has been over a year since One World Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Rajkumar Pudasaini was accused of sexual misconduct, along with two other senior theatre artists in Kathmandu. OWT, a social justice theatre company, took seriously our responsibility to his women accusers, honoring the courage it took for them to come forward, and also to Mr. Pudasaini who fully apologized and took responsibility for his inappropriate interactions.
Since many of our deliberations were kept private, OWT would like to inform its supporters, the media, as well as our audiences, of the consequential actions taken by OWT, hopefully to model and support change within our rehearsal halls and backstage.
Strong measures were taken by OWT towards Mr. Rajkumar Pudasaini: immediate dismissal as OWT Co-Artistic Director and as a director, cast or technical staff member on OWT productions. Artistic Director Deborah Merola made an unscheduled trip back to Nepal for extensive meetings with the OWT Core Team, and discussions with Rajkumar Pudasaini and some women artists. OWT Managing Director and Pudasaini Rajkumar took part in a facilitated session with the women who had come forward. These women, who will remain anonymous but one, specifically stated that they did not want Rajkumar banned from the theatre scene, rather to have Rajkumar become more aware of boundaries and show greater respect towards women.
Following this objective, One World Theatre set up a one-year period of Corrective Probation for Mr. Rajkumar Pudasaini, extended because of COVID-19, with various graduated steps, including:
- Close supervision by OWT Core Team members or Senior Guest Artist as Mr. Rajkumar Pudasaini progressively was allowed to take up technical aspects for production, then acting, but was prohibited from a position of authority as a director or teacher.
- External professional counselling mandated for Mr. Pudasaini, including support for a self-evaluation at the end of the Corrective Probation period. This counseling was also offered to some of the identified women.
All these rehabilitation measures led to a serious evaluation process that showed real progress and better understanding of boundaries by Mr. Rajkumar Pudasaini. To quote but one of these reports on observed or reported behavior, Greg Mitchell, the Lighting and Set Designer for The Flight: “During that time I asked him about the situation, during personal conversations, in hopes of shedding light on a long overdue movement exposing injustices against women worldwide. My perception was that made aware of the way his actions affected others, he was disturbed and immediately sought corrective action in his behavior. To that degree, the raising of the allegations and the press surrounding them was a great favor to Rajkumar because, I believe, it opened his eyes to issues of the communal, and his own treatment of women that he was perhaps oblivious to.”
Although for the foreseeable future, Mr. Pudasaini will not return as Co-Artistic Director and will be joined by a co-director for productions or co-teacher in class settings, One World Theatre does believe that we can again welcome Mr. Pudasaini on the OWT Core Team and as an actor, designer or Production Manager. A sexual harassment policy with an early warning system and protection for whistle blowers, will be referenced in all artist contracts.
More so, One World Theatre hopes to be able to share these tools and lessons learned with the overall Nepali theatre community, contributing to accountability, gender equality and social justice, which remains the core mission of One World Theatre.