In 2016, FairPlay MN received notice about a performer named Blake Hogue who would be returning to his hometown of Rochester, MN. Blake had been asked to leave the communities he was part of in Los Angeles because of a series of allegations made against him from women in the performance community. These allegations have been detailed in a number of articles, facebook posts, and blogs available to the public. Women who came into contact with Blake over the course of his time teaching and performing improv and theater in LA have offered explicit accounts of his poor behavior, which illuminate a pattern of sexual harassment and stalking to their communities, as well as formal complaints to the theaters in which he was connected to.
The allegations made demonstrate a profound history of verbal and digital harassment of women, abuse of power, and direct manipulations of women in order to get them to perform sexual acts. None of these cases have been brought to a formal court and many of them were reported anonymously. However, Blake himself has substantiated these claims on his personal website and admitted to his poor behavior.
Some theaters in Minnesota — specifically, Yellow Tree Theater in Osseo, MN and Rochester Repertory Theater in Rochester, MN — have chosen to cast Blake in their shows. On top of performing, he was also hired as a teacher at the Repertory Theater, the exact position he held in LA when he allegedly contacted his students and abused his power to coerce them into having sex. When women in Minnesota contacted these theaters about their concerns, they were either shut down or completely ignored. Additionally, moderators for the Twin Cities Theater People Facebook group, which held members from all theater communities across Minneapolis and St. Paul, shut down conversations regarding Blake and his history of harassment. The group has since disbanded and been archived as a result of the conversations surrounding Blake.
FairPlay MN is an organization dedicated to building equitable spaces for women-trans-femme improvisers in the Twin Cities. In order to fulfill that mission, we must ensure that our performance spaces are free of individuals who have demonstrated dangerous and predatory behaviors in the past, particularly when that person has been removed from other theaters for this behavior. Claims from theaters he is currently working at have concluded that there is “no lawful evidence” of his behavior. One of our highest values in FairPlay is to believe the stories of survivors and do whatever is in our power to protect them. Whether or not an incident has made it to court and been verified (an outcome we all know is almost impossible to achieve), FairPlay believes these survivors stories and will act in defense of them.
Our primary goal as an organization has always been education and prevention. “Naming names” is not something we have actively participated in in the past, particularly because these situations can be difficult to handle. However, this situation demands our attention, and it demands we speak loudly and clearly. We have been advised that Blake now intends to move to Minneapolis from Rochester, MN, and we want to make ourselves perfectly clear: Blake Hogue is not welcome in our improv community, and we will actively vocalize our objections to his presence there. We urge the greater theater community to do the same. We urge those in power at these theaters to refrain from granting him positions of power when his track record demonstrates that he has used those positions of authority as a way to manipulate and hurt others.
This is not a witch hunt. A witch hunt is when women were falsely accused of impossible fallacies and then burned at the stake without a chance for redemption. Blake Hogue has been accused of harassment that he himself admitted to, and we no longer welcome him to be in the very same spaces where he committed those acts.
Something we have been asked in the past is “when is a person able to move past their mistakes?” or “when is someone considered forgiven for harassment?” And frankly, we don’t have an answer to that. There is a precedent in this country of harassers offering quick and insincere written apology statements as a way to remedy years of poor behavior, and then continuing to act the way they always have. There is no precedent for what it looks like to actually make radical change and repair the damages you have caused in your own community. If Blake wants to be the person to set this precedent, he is welcome to do so, but as it stands we are not convinced.
Every step we take as an organization is to better our improv community and change the way we understand our relationships with one another. Part of bettering our community is protecting it from those who have the ability to damage its members. Blake Hogue not only has the ability to harm, he has the track record to prove it.
The FairPlay Leadership Team