Orange County

Chapel Hill improv club will close amid sexual assault allegations

Zach Ward
Zach Ward File photo

The DSI Comedy improv theater will end its run later this summer following allegations that its founder sexually harassed and assaulted female performers.

DSI Comedy founder, owner and artistic director Zach Ward issued a short statement Wednesday.

“After many days of thoughtful consideration I have decided to close DSI effective August 28, 2017,” Ward said. “DSI will honor its commitments to campers and students through the end of August. DSI has arranged to have our camps and classes staffed by individuals committed to DSI, its students and campers.”

Former DSI Comedy performer Vinny Valdivia started the conversation July 2 with a Facebook post that said it was time to talk about what was happening at the West Franklin Street theater.

Since then, Ward has been accused of coercing some performers into relationships and retaliating against them when they moved on. Others said Ward’s management style created a “toxic environment” in which some performers were favored over others, that took advantage of workers, and that discouraged performers from taking jobs with other clubs and theaters.

The allegations inspired one Triangle improv performer to launch The Better Improv Communities Project to give improv performers a forum for support and sharing, and to take their concerns to improv club owners and the wider community.

Ward, while admitting he has made mistakes over the years, has maintained his innocence against the allegations. He said Wednesday that instructors who have taken on the summer camps and classes have been subjected to similar attacks.

“While I have lost the business I loved due to these attacks, it is completely unfair to subject DSI’s instructors to the same personal attacks and public shaming simply for being loyal to the commitments they have made to their students,” Ward said.

He directed further inquires about the business to

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb