A 19-year-old stage technician and actor was arrested Tuesday after admitting he installed a hidden video camera in a coed restroom at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, police said.
“Brigadoon,” scheduled to open Saturday, told the theater’s owner and founder, Gerry Cullity, that he installed the camera behind an air-conditioning vent, said Laura Kerrigan, spokeswoman for Desert Stages.
“Leon admitted to Gerry he put the camera in the vent,” Kerrigan said. “It has been devastating for all of us, especially our parents.”
Kerrigan said she did not know how long the camera was taking images in the restroom, which is used by child and adult performers, employees and staff, but not the public. Cullity said the camera was manually operated, which means someone had to go into the vent, start the camera and let it run until it was out of tape.
The camera was discovered Monday during rehearsal of “Brigadoon” by a 16-year-old actress, Kerrigan said.
“The (actress) looked up and there it was,” Kerrigan said.
The girl immediately callled her parents, who called police.
Cullity, who with his wife, Laurie, started the theater in the mid-1990s, said several videotapes were seized by police.
“We feel terrible,” Cullity said. “A thousand kids a year come here for good reasons. And we feel the good outweighs the bad.”
He said the theater plans to continue rehearsing this week for Saturday's opening, however.
“What else can we do?” Cullity said.
Scottsdale police officer Scott Reed said Noel is the only suspect so far.
“The owners of the theater are not involved, just the one employee so far,” said Reed, who added that the incident is under investigation.
Noel, who joined Desert Stages as an actor when he was 13, was fired after he admitted installing the camera, Cullity said.
Noel was arrested at his Scottsdale home several hours after the camera was discovered, and later released, police said. The Tribune was unable to reach him for comment.
Kerrigan said rehearsals were postponed Tuesday evening in order to meet with parents and theater supporters, including theater supporter Sue Sisley.
“We've been asked not to comment,” Sisley said. “It would be a disservice to the theater.”
She and others contacted by the Tribune referred questions to Kerrigan and Gerry Cullity.
Josh Fesmire, who acted with Noel in several shows, mostly notably in 2002 in ‘‘Fiddler on the Roof,’’ said he didn't see Noel doing anything suspicious.
‘‘I’m sure Leon was someone the Cullitys trusted. I can’t imagine he would do something like that,’’ Fesmire said.
An alumnus of many East Valley youth theaters, Fesmire said he thinks Desert Stages has as much adult supervision as any other youth theater, if not more.
‘‘I know for a fact that there’s a systematic use of parents. There are always two adults in the theater and two adults in the dressing room a couple of office spaces north of the theater,” Fesmire said.