Richard Henrich in 2005 Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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Richard Henrich, Spooky Action Theater’s embattled artistic director, has retired several months after the theater’s board of directors placed him on a leave of absence in response to allegations of a toxic work environment under his leadership. The theater announced Henrich’s departure on its website on Sept. 23, three weeks after Henrich’s retirement went into effect on Sept. 5.

But Henrich will keep his position on the board—as president and treasurer—until his term ends in January 2023. Spooky Action Theater’s board chair Floyd L. Norton told DC Theater Arts on Sept. 23, “Henrich’s term on the board runs through January 24th…He will step off the board at that time. This gives the theater time to transition to new leadership in board oversight as it currently transitions to new leadership in day-to-day operations.”

Henrich, who has been a player in the local theater scene since 1989, founded Spooky Action 18 years ago. In April, a barrage of accusations flooded social media, accusing Henrich of disrespecting women and femme-presenting colleagues, mistreating young people in the industry, and perpetuating racial bias through outdated casting practices. Actors and crew members went public following the board’s failure to sufficiently respond to complaints stemming from a December 2021 production.

Although Henrich was placed on leave of absence on May 31, he remained one of the board’s six members and continued on in the role of treasurer. The fact that Henrich had continued, behind the scenes involvement in Spooky Action left those who came forward with allegations against him feeling disrespected and blatantly lied to. 

The board’s Sept. 23 announcement makes no mention of the accusations and the theater’s turbulent past few months. After thanking Henrick for “his years of leadership and dedication to produce work that deepens the connection between actors and audience,” the announcement goes on to introduce D.C. native Gavin Witt, who will serve as the theater’s “temporary transition consultant,” who will help the company map out its future space in the city’s theatrical realm. 

Witt spent nearly 20 years at Baltimore Center Stage as resident dramaturg and associate artistic director; he has taught at Johns Hopkins University and Towson University and worked across the country as a developmental director and dramaturg.

On Sept. 29, the company’s latest production, Maple and Vine, directed by Stevie Zimmerman, opened to the public. It will run through Oct. 23. Spooky Action has yet to announce the rest of its 2022-23 season, but additional shows and new play development projects are expected at a later date.