People Tom Wopat

Actor Tom Wopat stands during arraignment in August in Waltham, Massachusetts, on indecent assault and battery and drug possession charges. Wopat who played Luke Duke on the 1980s television show, "The Dukes of Hazzard," pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Overture Center for the Arts announced Monday that its popular high school theater program, the Tommy Awards, will sever all ties with its namesake, Lodi native Tom Wopat, following indecent assault charges against the 66-year-old actor.

Overture officials said that they are discussing a name change for the awards program. 

Wopat, best known for playing Luke Duke on the television show "The Dukes of Hazzard," was charged in August with indecent assault and battery and drug possession for allegedly groping a fellow cast member during rehearsals for a production of the musical "42nd Street" outside Boston. In September, he was further charged with indecent assault and battery against another cast member, a 16-year-old girl. 

Wopat pleaded not guilty to the initial set of charges involving the woman. His court appearance this week for the charges involving the 16-year-old girl has been delayed.

The Tommy Awards, which celebrates the best in high school musical theater in Wisconsin, has become a nationally recognized program, and some award recipients have gone on to careers in musical theater. During the 2016-17 school year, 82 Wisconsin schools took part in the program, and over 400 high school students performed at Overture Hall.

“Overture firmly believes the arts provide a safe haven for all to participate and enjoy inspirational experiences without fear or compromise of respect for others,” Ted DeDee, Overture’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We will especially continue to focus on providing a positive environment and influence for participating students and schools.”

When the program began in 2009, Overture Center staff reached out to Wopat to use his name and endorsement of the program, intended to celebrate and develop young musical talent in the state. Wopat agreed, but has never participated in the program nor supported it financially since then, officials said. 

When the arrests were first announced, Overture officials said they removed Wopat's signature from the program and partner website, and all electronic and future print materials connected with the Tommy Awards.  

Last month, the Stoughton Opera House announced that it was cancelling a Dec. 2 holiday show Wopat had scheduled at the venue.

"We have reached a mutual agreement with Mr. Wopat that it is best to cancel the show as he focuses on resolving some personal affairs," the opera house said in a press release. 

Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.