BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. — An executive involved with Kansas City Renaissance Fest is on leave.
Several other former and current cast members are also being investigated by the organization for inappropriate relationships, many of them involving minors.
FOX4 isn’t naming that director on leave nor any of the actors who have been banned from festival grounds because they have not been criminally charged.
“These poor girls, their stories that I’m receiving. This is someone that was 15, and someone solicited nude pictures of her,” Amber Lee Bartlett said while leafing through messages on her phone.
Bartlett said it started with one fellow Kansas City Renaissance Festival cast member asking her to share her story of sexual harassment and abuse by a fellow performer.
“It was a snowball effect. When one came out, more came out and more came out. And some of these men have now had 15 women say, ‘Yes he also hurt me. He also raped me. He also molested me, and I’m tired of being quiet,'” Bartlett said.
The annual festival held each September in Bonner Springs invites families to a simpler time.
But Bartlett admits some of the acts are sexually charged, and from what she’s been reading, so are some of the actors, grooming and preying on young females.
One woman posted, “I joined the cast at 16. I wanted to belong somewhere so badly that I let it slide when he made me uncomfortable with his advances. When he talked about sexual things. When he slapped my ass and laughed.”
Another shared, “The day he assaulted me was shortly after I turned 17. It was during a cast party. He shoved me in and closed the door, getting handsy and violently kissing me. He kept trying to shove his hands down my pants and I shoved them away.”
“It’s not supposed to be this. You shouldn’t be afraid to have your teenage daughter walking out there, and I believe they are working hard to make it not that way anymore. But up until now unfortunately it has been,” Bartlett said.
Bonner Springs police said they’re continuing to investigate one report of a sexual assault on the grounds during last year’s festival.
Some of these cases are reported to have happened over the last several years and off site, but police are encouraging any of the women who posted and believe they may have been victims of a crime to contact them.
The festival’s current entertainment director, who has worked at the festival as a performer since she was 13, said issues raised to management before her weren’t handled the way she would have.
Brandi Ogier said in a statement sent to FOX4 on Friday:
“In December of 2017, I took over the position of Entertainment Director at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I also assumed EEO responsibilities fielding concerns about workplace mistreatment within the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.
“Let me start by saying it deeply saddens me to read my festival colleagues sharing on social media about mistreatment. Neither the festival nor I want a workplace in which people feel harmed.
“Mistreatment at work is not OK and I personally, in conjunction with the festival more broadly, am working hard to ensure we look into every allegation raised relating to a person affiliated with the Festival and take prompt and appropriate action.
“Most of the issues raised in the recent posts relate to allegations about events taking place approximately 5-10 years ago. Fortunately, most of the people about whom allegations were raised in those posts are not currently affiliated with the Kansas City Festival.
“In the time I have been affiliated with the festival there have been a few bad actors, although, sadly, we live in a world where that is true for almost every workplace. The defining issue for leaders is: what happens to bad actors.
“In retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight, I also acknowledge that some issues raised to my predecessor were not addressed as I would have.
“The Kansas City Renaissance Festival may not have been where I wanted it to be with regard to ensuring a respectful workplace 5 to 10 years ago, but, a lot has changed in these last years. Starting even before I began in my leadership position, there was increased focus by senior festival leadership (above my current position) on avoiding harassment and discrimination at the festival.
“And, since I’ve been in a leadership position at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, I have been extremely diligent in addressing any concerns raised during my tenure as a leader and also ensuring issues that were raised before my time relating to the current cast were promptly addressed, upon me learning of them.
“We have also removed persons who our investigation reveals are not appropriate for participation in the festival.
“The festival’s response to complaints of misconduct, when raised, is to investigate as promptly as possible and address any misconduct that was substantiated in the investigation. For example, when improper conduct in violation of Festival policy is substantiated, the person involved has been banned from festival grounds.
“To our knowledge, no complaint about misconduct ever raised with the Kansas City Renaissance Festival resulted in any kind of legal proceeding — either civil or criminal.
“The festival has a documented history of working hard to prevent misconduct and addressing a failure to comply with its rules. For example, the festival requires contractors to affirm they have no history of harming others (e.g., vulnerable adults or children). And, each contractor is required to promise to comply with the festival’s comprehensive workplace respect policies.
“The festival is committed to continue to take appropriate steps to address misconduct.”