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Israel Horovitz, playwright with Tampa ties, accused of sexual misconduct by 9 women

Famed playwright Israel Horovitz has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women, according to a New York Times story published Thursday.

Horovitz has ties to Tampa, after forging a close relationship with Jobsite Theater, the resident theater company of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. He has written more than 70 plays and created films starring Maggie Smith and Al Pacino. Horovitz was scheduled to come back to Tampa to produce Man in Snow in March.

On Thursday, Jobsite leaders decided to cancel that play. The theater will spend the next few weeks finding an alternative production.

The New York Times report has accounts from nine women who accuse Horovitz of offenses ranging from groping to unwanted kissing and fondling to rape. The women described a pattern in which Horovitz had been a mentor and a friend in the theater, but also preyed on them. They were inspired to come forward by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and others.

Horovitz, who split time among New York, Massachusetts and Paris, came to Florida seeking warmth, he told the Tampa Bay Times in a 2015 interview. In 2010, he brought his play Sins of the Mother to Florida Stage in Manalapan.

He sent an email to Jobsite's producing artistic director, David Jenkins, and started a relationship with the professional theater. Jobsite produced a staged reading of Sins of the Mother in 2015. Horovitz spent a week in residence with Jobsite, and did a Q & A and book signing. It led to future collaborations.

Jenkins bonded with Horovitz, talking to him on the phone nearly every week. The playwright has given invaluable advice about running a theater company, working with boards, even offering feedback on Jenkins' own acting and directing.

On Thursday, Jenkins had been teaching an epistemology class at the University of South Florida when his phone started vibrating with alerts from friends about the story.

"This is clearly horrifying news," Jenkins said shortly after learning about the report. "I'm reacting the way anyone would be reacting to hearing this news a half-hour ago about a hero. I'm disturbed. It's crushing."

Horovitz's five children include Adam Horovitz, or Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, and Rachael Horovitz, the film producer behind Moneyball. His wife, Gillian Adams-Horovitz, is a long-distance runner and former English National Marathon champion.

According to the New York Times, Horovitz, 78, said that while he has "a different memory of some of these events, I apologize with all my heart to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions, and to my family and friends who have put their trust in me. To hear that I have caused pain is profoundly upsetting, as is the idea that I might have crossed a line with anyone who considered me a mentor."

Adam Horovitz told the New York Times in a statement: "I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them."

Israel Horovitz had a major impact on Jobsite Theater, which he also visited for a rehearsal of his play Lebensraum in 2016.

For its current season, Jobsite had selected Man in Snow, Horovitz's play set in Alaska about a grieving father who must act as a tour guide.

"My heart is broken right now," Jenkins said in a statement released later Thursday. "I am absolutely gutted. Israel has become like a father to me over the past few years, and I have learned more from him than I can possibly put into words right now. To say I feel betrayed would be a gross understatement, and my heart goes out to the victims who have lived with this for so many years and the pain they must be experiencing all over again."

Jenkins said he never had an inkling Horovitz had a dark, secret side. Neither had Katrina Stevenson, an artistic associate at Jobsite and a former board member. Stevenson had been an admirer of Horovitz since her college days nearly 25 years ago, when the theater student performed in his play The Widow's Blind Date. The play is about a woman's sustained trauma from being gang-raped.

"I was captivated by the raw vulnerability and power that he writes with," Stevenson said.

Stevenson also performed in Jobsite's production Lebensraum. Learning of the allegations against Horovitz, she said, was "a blow to the gut. As much as I would like to go, 'Oh, but look at all the work he has given us, all of the people he has helped on their way' — or, 'But people make mistakes … ' — you cannot give him a pass. Sexual assault is sexual assault. And that is especially true when you are in the position of mentor or director. That is the ultimate betrayal."

It is unclear whether Jobsite is through with Horovitz's work for good.

"The timing right now is simply not right to produce Man in Snow," Jenkins said. "It would be entirely insensitive to the nine women who came forward and who have been ignored for almost three decades. I don't believe in erasing an artist or their work. If anything, we should take the opportunities like that to have conversations about hard things, but wounds have to heal first for that to even be possible."

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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