Saturday, July 11, 2009

an encouraging week for the skylight

two potentially positive things came out of the skylight mess this week, in the form of an invitation and a response.

first the invitation, from the skylight board of directors:
At a full meeting of the Board of Directors last night, it was resolved to establish communications with Bill Theisen regarding the role of Artistic Director at The Skylight. The Board sincerely hopes Bill will agree to return to The Skylight as its Artistic Director for the company’s 50th Anniversary Season.
considering it was only nine days ago that suzanne hefty and howard miller emphatically stated the "heartbreaking and difficult decision [to restructure the skylight business model] will not be reversed," this invitation is a huge, positive step in the right direction. there are obviously board members who don't agree with hefty and miller.

then there's theisen's response:
I am sad to say it is not an option for me to return to the Skylight in the capacity of artistic director under the current circumstances. I feel there has been a breach of trust and am quite certain that I would not be able to successfully continue my duties in the position.
the ongoing online discussion about this response has been mostly financial: where does the skylight get the money to reinstate an artistic director position? while those discussions would undoubtedly be part of the communication the board is interested in establishing, theisen only speaks of "a breach of trust" and "current circumstances."

are those circumstances centered more around structure, logistics, and personnel, and less about salary? on first glance, theisen's response appears to be a flat out "no." but that's not what he said.

by analyzing the "board-speak" contained in the skylight's press release, it seems clear that this board is fractured. if those board members who see a glimmer of hope in theisen's response grab on and run with it, the skylight might just be saved yet.


  1. tony, thanks for pointing out the progress. i am encouraged by the statements you highlight in this post. i see in them potential for more forward movement.

  2. add to that, I'm two-for-two in speedy email responses from Eric. He invited me to meet with him next week.

  3. wow, that's really something...

  4. Becky Spice has announced her 'resignation' from SOT. Others might consider similar action.

    Unless and until the cost of these recent decisions are greater than the cost of "staying the course", the Board will not change its mind.

    One could suggest that artistic talent should not be made available to an administration that treats its artists with the disregard and disdain that has been shown recently by SOT.

    It could be suggested that such a move might clarify the choices available to the Board.

    Start with shows NOT being directed by Bill Theisen, just to further strengthen your point.

    And make sure everybody knows. I'm sure Becky would like the company, and would welcome everyone from chorus to leads who will join her in "taking a bow" out of the 50th Anniv season.

  5. EmpatheticSingerJuly 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM

    Let me start by saying that I, too, am appalled at how this whole situation was handled. I believe Bill T. to be extremely talented. I stand behind those who want to protest. But, boycotting shows? Pulling season tickets? ..."start with shows NOT being directed by Bill Theisen, just to further strengthen your point." Those artist's contracts were earned. Attempts to rally behind a Milwaukee institution such as Theisen shouldn't come at the expense of others.

  6. If this were an AGMA house, the artists would be able to boycott the company and not be replaced by non-AGMA performers. Unfortunately, a non-union house gives us none of that leverage.

  7. How can Bill Theisen go back. He is correct that "a breach of trust" and "current circumstances" makes it impossible. It would be impossible for him to return and not feel that what he nothing he might contribute would be taken seriously. The return would have been for a saving face position for the board and Eric only and have nothing to do with the growth of the Skylight.

  8. I have to agree with empatheticsinger. I hope that most people in this debate want SOT to be a successful and creative place. The performance contracts were earned. Any efforts to disrupt the SOT season would have severe impact on these contacts. We all want a big crowd at our shows. There are many actors, musicians, and other theater professionals that view SOT as the premier Milwaukee venue for musical theater. Many of these professionals would love to work at SOT despite the administrative troubles.

    If SOT is truly in financial trouble, cuts need to be made in order to keep the theater open. Would we want SOT to fail because we felt that certain positions are sacrosanct? I fear that we are walking into a schism between those who work with Skylight and those who choose to boycott. SOT has made the reputations of many Milwaukee artists. Don't deny the next generation of artists the opportunity to succeed at SOT. For many of us in the next generation, SOT is a name maker in Milwaukee musical theater.

    Bottom line: If you want to boycott SOT, that is your right. However, don't ostracize those of us who need the job to further our artistic careers.

  9. Hey, if you need the money, take the job. People gotta eat. Rent's gotta get paid. We said up front; nobody has a problem with that.

    But if you value the artistic integrity of the organization, don't let your labor go to support the undermining of that integrity.

    There are few tools at the disposal of artists save their talent. It it suggested that that talent be withheld in the hopes that such a withdrawal of the means of production will spur a change in management in the immediate term, saving the company from long term failure.

    There will be no new generation of SOT artists if the recent decisions are not reversed or significantly changed. If you agree, suggest a means by which this might be accomplished by your personal action. So far you have suggested....nothing....but the furtherance of your career.

    You're an artist get creative. Suggest a way you can personally make a difference. No BS, we want all ideas on the table here.

  10. still waiting......

  11. I have to agree with everything mnemosyne has suggested. Let's get creative, folks. I wish more people still working at Skylight could speak up, as I'm sure they want to, but I'm also sure Eric is holding their jobs over their heads. How cowardly.


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