LOS ANGELES (CN) – The former artistic director of Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles sued the company Tuesday on age discrimination and libel claims, saying it circulated a “false narrative” in the media that he had agreed to step down and then replaced him with a younger man.
Randall Arney says in a complaint filed in LA Superior Court that he spent 17 years as artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse when the board told him in February that it was not going to renew his contract. He says the board’s co-chair Martha Robinson broke the news to him during a 10-minute meeting.
Arney, 61, says the meeting left him “stunned and shattered” and says Geffen revealed its “discriminatory motive” for letting him go when a letter to the board stated his contract would not be renewed “to position the theater for future.”
In a letter leaked to the media, Arney says Geffen made it sound like he had agreed to step down so that he could focus on directing. He says the Los Angeles Times published a Feb. 14 article that continued the “false narrative” that he had agreed to step down.
On Monday, Geffen announced that theater, film and television director Matt Shakman would take on the role. He is 41 years old – 20 years younger than Arney.
“Geffen stripped an award-winning and esteemed artistic director of control of the final decades of his career by refusing to renew his contract because of discrimination, and defaming him in the process,” Arney says in his lawsuit.
Arney directed several Geffen Playhouse productions, including “Outside Mullingar,” “The Night Alive,” “American Buffalo” and “Reasons to Be Pretty.”
Seeking statutory, general, special and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, Arney is represented by Sana Swe.
Geffen Playhouse spokeswoman Ashley Bodul said the company could not comment on pending litigation.