Thursday, July 23, 2009

moses quits: "my skylight is dead & gone"

groucho has left the building.

if ever there was a skylight star or a milwaukee favorite, it's norman moses. norman has wiped the greasepaint mustache off his lip, ripped off the wire rimmed glasses, put down the cigar and said "whatever it is, i'm against it!"

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me this morning. It was good to be able to look you in the eye and say my piece. I do see how you must be stuck between a rock and a hard place, but until there is some forum to discuss how to resolve the conflict with all the parties involved, I fear the present situation will most likely result in the demise of the Skylight.

With every action the artists and patrons of the community have taken to try and make you all see the great damage you have been doing, the responses coming from out of your office, which seem to be orchestrated by the board, have only fanned the flames of the dissent. We are not going away. And I think you realize that.

As I said, you and many on the board are strangers to me, which has made this all the more difficult to take. But because of your current course of action and the board’s inability to set up a public forum, I am officially declining the offer to play Groucho in the upcoming production of "Day in Hollywood, Night in the Ukraine" this spring.

I do make a promise to you (a promise is not a threat) that I will be at the theater on opening night with my picket sign in hand. I am very confident that many of my wonderful friends, who have been so courageous, and who have demonstrated such loyalty to the theater and to each other throughout this whole mess, will be there with me. I will personally be scheduling picket lines for every performance during the season. Perhaps this will hasten the theater's inevitable demise, but as far as I am concerned, my Skylight is dead and gone, and I'd rather see it closed than to allow it to continue under the present circumstances.

My only regret is that so many of my friends who are still on the staff of the Skylight may end up losing their jobs as well. There will be attempts to try and blame "the mob" for that, but we will all know who will be to blame. And so will all of Milwaukee and the country.


Norman Moses


  1. Yet another example of an irreplaceable asset lost to this insanity.

  2. Wow. I can't feel my toes, or my ears. And heart is racing out of my chest. Norman, I will be there with you at opening, and as often as I can there after.

  3. How can they not see what they have done to this company NOW?

  4. Wow.Just.Wow.

    Bravo Norman...

    Now, excuse me while I go find my paint set and poster board to make my picket sign.

  5. Comment part 2: I know Eric has opera connections and can recast the opera roles extremely, dare I say, extraordinarily well. But he has no knowledge, as he has expressed himself, of musical theatre or musical theatre singers. How would he even begin to recast Norman and Ray or anyone else in Night in Hollywood? This show was chosen because of their RARE gifts, so to think they can be replaced is laughable. One the same count, how can you replace the shows of Leslie and James, Colin and Paula, Becky and Jamie? These are not "replaceable" singers in an opera. This is not a "fach" issue. This is what Eric does not understand. I come from the world of opera, and we are treated as interchangeable there, with difference ironed out as much as possible. I always loved the Skylight because they never shared that opinion. I always felt I was there in those roles because Skylight believed I was the only person that could have played that part in that production. It was my difference, my uniqueness, that was celebrated. Eric missed the point. You can bring in "extraordinarily talented" singers, but they are not the singers these productions were designed around, that inspired them, as it were. These aren't the rented set, rented costume, previous blocking productions he did in Shreveport. Skylight is a living, breathing theatre that prided itself in not just producing shows, but producing new, exciting, different, cohesive, fully-realized worlds. Plug in who you want, it will not be Skylight. It will be cookie-cutter opera seen in any number of well-meaning companies around the country. Where's the passion in that?

  6. What was said in this meeting? I wonder... it is one thing for Norman to show support for his colleagues, and it is something for Norman to feel he can't work with the current regime... But, what was said to make someone not only resign, but promise to come back and protest?

    The mind boggles...

  7. Melanie SchuesslerJuly 23, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    Currently researching the Skylight season schedule to see if I could possibly make it over to Wisconsin to picket with you!

    You are inspiring, Norman--you and everyone else who has taken a stand against this situation. Thank you.

  8. Wow. "Day in Hollywood" without Norman Moses and Ray Jivoff will be like the original Marx Brothers without Groucho and Harpo.

    Tim Frautschi

  9. wow.

    thank you norman, for a well composed, heart-felt and deeply moving statement of your convictions.

  10. This saddens me. Norman is a great guy on and off the stage, and Eric has no idea what he is losing. Nor does he realize that many, many patrons come just as much to see CERTAIN actors as they do to see the show?? I predict many ticket returns. Hopefully Kristen is busy learning the box office system; she sure isn't setting up those PR forums we were promised...

  11. Tamara martinsekJuly 23, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    breathless - truly amazing, Norman!

  12. excuse my English, but "brav-fucking-o"!

  13. Next week, July 27-31 is
    Milwaukee Downtown Employee Appreciation Week
    Oh, that’s right. Skylight is in the Historic Third Ward, not Downtown.

  14. Norman, you continue to amaze me.
    I agree with earlier comments made.... Skylight was doing A Day in Hollywood largely BECAUSE they had Norman and Ray....this is the part Eric will soon realize... I hope.

  15. Tom Strini is reporting that the board is currently in a special "Emergency Session." (see url below).
    if we only knew where....

  16. They are in emergency session at Quarles and Brady. I think they're afraid to meet at the Skylight. Norman might show up with a sign or something crazy! BRAVO NORMAN!!!!

  17. Wow, well said, Norman. That show won't be the same without you and Ray and Eric better realize that quickly or the season is gone. Actually it probably is anyway. I've got my poster board ready.

  18. Welcome to the club my friend.

  19. Eric Dillner has proven in his words and deeds that he is neither competent nor reasonable.

    So If you're hoping he's going to come to the aforementioned, sensible realizations, don't hold your breath.

    The only thing Eric needs to realize is that he needs to start house hunting back in his beloved Shreveport, that the 4 shows a season (6 nights of performances TOTAL) that he oversaw at the Shreveport Opera was probably the most responsibility he is capable of handling.

    The damage he has inflicted on the organization is severe. It is damage that cannot be undone by it's perpetrator.
    I hope the board realizes this tonight.

  20. I know this is Norman's thread, but I feel I must respond to the self-effacing post of operalica above. You, operalicia, are not "AN Opera Singer". You are no mere "Fach". You are a uniquely - let me repeat louder - UNIQUELY gifted singing actress blessed with an astoundingly communicative operatic soprano voice. The place that hired you to sing Susanna is called the Skylight Opera THEATRE. You are what the Skylight is all about. You are a fearless risk-taker possessing the power to thrill audiences. Milwaukee has been fortunate to experience your gifts.

    As for Norman, I've simply never seen a better actor. I've seen actors "as good".... Julie Harris comes to mind. But Norman would be hilarious and heartbreaking in a production of the Phone Book.

    Mr. Dillner has even alienated Milwaukee's next generation of potential Skylight artists. Where is the next group of thrilling singing actors going to come from?

    Can Mr. Dillner recast all of the roles that have thus far been vacated? (By that, I include directors, conductors, designers, et al.) Well, probably, sure. Can he ever replace what has been lost? Never. WE are the Skylight. HE has the building.

  21. I am wondering if the rest of the board has any power, or is actively involved in any of these decisions? All we've heard about is the board president. Do any other votes count? It appears the silent and mysterious board is either powerless to affect change, or that there are enough of them on the "artists can be replaced" bandwagon they haven't chosen to - in which case, more than just Dillner and Hefty would have to go to bring back the company. Does anyone have an inkling of whether the rest of the board is actually capable or interested in making a change - or are they figureheads?

  22. Thank you, all of you, for your passion and eloquence and for caring so much. I am on the inside of the info loop just now and cannot say more, however much I would like to -- things are coming to a head and people are fighting for various things, and we are not certain yet of the outcome. But it is being worked on as I write this. May the right prevail.

  23. Perhaps you will all have a pleasant surprise at your morning meeting tomorrow. I hope so!

  24. The rock is getting bigger and the hard place harder...

  25. un-flippin' believable. i don't get it... i do not understand how dillner thinks he could possibly survive. his demise is inevitable.

  26. Oh, Anonymous 10:10, I am shivering. Blessings on you and keep on keeping on. Thank you for standing your ground on the inside.

    Amy Horst

  27. As someone who used to work in the arts and has since become more of a spectator knowing what's going on in the arts community, I have to say that if the Skylight can correct itself and right the so many wrongs that have been going on over the last month, I would be simply inspired to spend my money there.

    The Skylight has always had it's own personality and reputation, but right now there is an incredible opportunity at hand. Having been keeping up with the news on this and being nothing short of inspired by the way the artists in the community have banded together over this, if the Skylight could change what has happened the last month, I would be so much more motivated to actually go out and BUY theater tickets. Because of all of this publicity and and buzz around it, knowing what's going on and all the controversy around it, if they corrected themselves, by buying a ticket and patronizing the theater again I would feel like I'm part of something bigger, that my patronization of the theater is contributing to a greater good. Not only do I get to go and see great performances by talented artists, I also would feel like I'm contributing to something that so many else have taken such risks for, for something they believe in so much.

    THAT'S how you turn this around. That's how the Skylight needs to salvage what's left. Embrace the risk takers, the group that's banded together, right the wrongs, and inspire the bystanders such as myself to re-engage with the artistic community. We're not all performers and artists, but the audience is just as important to the artistic community as the artists themselves. I think the artistic side understands that better than the business side, because they're creating something that connects with people. While the business side is trying to cut corners to accommodate budget, they're not only angering their artistic staff, but the patrons such as myself that are paying attention too. Previous audiences have been engaged and know what's going on. Unless Dillner and the board is ready to build a whole new audience from scratch, I suggest they change their course of action.

  28. Just so you all know, CC is on his way and will do everything he can to rescue the Skylight. He is absolutely incensed at the board's refusal to fire ED. He will do all he humanly can.


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