To the Skylight Board of Directors:
I have been on the Skylight Theatre Board for seven years. I have treasured my involvement with the Skylight for most of those years. The Artists, Artistic Directors, staff, patrons and donors that I have met have enriched the experience immeasurably.
Up until early June, I was a huge fan of the Skylight, Bill Theisen, Eric Dillner, Ray Jivoff, Christine McGee, Sarah Reddin, Heidi Boyd, Mark Turner and the wonderful Portia to mention but a few. I was in four meetings at the Skylight within 4 days of when the news was broken to me by an innocuous e-mail. No one had said a thing. Four days earlier, the Strategic Planning Committee was talking about grandiose plans to buy a parking lot and possibly add on to the Skylight in the future. Every time anyone mentioned the deficits, we were told that possibly a donor could be found to finance this endeavor. Well, why not use funding to generate new audiences and create a sound fiscal policy first?
The excuse given for the “eliminations” of the positions held by Bill Theisen, Diana Carl and others was “due to financial circumstances.” In all, originally 5 positions were eliminated. Besides the lack of vetting of all possible ways to help make up some of the deficit, Eric and the Executive Committee chose to keep the Board of Directors out of the loop and handle it unilaterally for FIVE MONTHS. Eric and the Executive Committee never asked for input, or additional donations from Board Members or donors explaining the situation. Instead, the decision was made to eliminate the very lifeblood of any Theatre community: they decimated the artistic department.
Having served on the Development Committee for 7 years, I can tell you about Dashboards, deficits, pie charts and percentages of funding. The pie charts for the Skylight and all Not For Profit Businesses are basically: 1/3 comes from the audience and ticket sales, the other 2/3rds come from Board Member Donations, major and minor donors, foundations, UPAF, and generally people who feel some attachment to the Skylight.
In the seven weeks since the decimation, we have had very few but very measured messages. But the actual need to meet with artists, donors, patrons, ticket holders and the promise of “Forums” never materialized. At tonight’s meeting, Eric presented three letters from people commending him on his actions. He also had a few friends he has placed in key rolls for the 50th Season. Well, that is NOT the 50th Season that was sold to those who wanted to celebrate the extraordinary quality of the Skylight Theatre and the artists who work for peanuts. The Skylight is not “instant opera”.
This evening we took a vote on whether or not we should retain Eric Dillner who has yet to hold a single public forum (KEY POINT: A forum allows questions, Eric.) Eric said that he has felt threatened. We have been seeking group forums with artists, donors, audience members, anyone who had a question or need. To date these have not been held. SEVEN WEEKS! A prepared statement delivered by Eric Dillner that allows no questions does not constitute a “forum.” An announcement does not constitute an exchange.
A group of members of the Board of Directors went into tonight’s executive session to propose a solution that would replace Eric Dillner and thank him for his wonderful ideas and exuberance. We knew we were up against those who foster the strict business model. Eric had held no meetings, has failed to smooth any ruffled feathers and the damage has been catastrophic. To the Board of Directors’ credit, they did, for the most part listen. Some made suggestions for a model keeping Eric Dillner. The problem is that we have lost our good will with the community, we have lost our artistic community, and we sold out. Our beloved theatre is dying right before our eyes. Now we needed to come up with a drastic measure to rectify the problems, admit mistakes on both sides and try to repair the severed relationships with the artists, donors, audiences, foundations20and community. A vote was taken. The results were 16 in favor of keeping Eric at the helm versus 12 who proposed an alternate plan that would have removed Eric. There would have been a very suitable person to act as the Pro-tem leader.
The case was made as best we could to “Save the Season and Save the Skylight”.
I respect many individuals on the Board of Directors. There are some real stars there. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have had a chance to work with most of you. But the time has come for me to sever all ties with the Skylight. I wish you well. I know you have many people on the Board, by Board standards, too many actually. I thank you for tolerating my passion for the Skylight but now I will use my knowledge of Not for Profit organizations elsewhere.
I truly wish the Skylight Theatre the very best. I hope that the Phoenix can rise from the ashes, but now I will feel free to follow our artists and new artists to other theatre groups and other venues.
I am resigning because the actions of the Board of Directors are not only contrary to the best interests of the Skylight, but endanger its very survival. In seven weeks, the mismanagement by a few and the negligent complacency of many have sullied a 50-year history of excellence. The inexcusable actions that caused this crisis and that exacerbated it have turned the Skylight into a national example of theatrical mismanagement and a lesson of what not to do in public relations.
This is my absolute resignation from the Skylight Board of Directors. Please remove my name from all of your communications immediately.
Elizabeth L. Friedman
Former Skylight Theatre Board Member:
July 2002 resigning July 23, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
skylight board member friedman resigns
elizabeth friedman has resigned from the skylight opera theatre board of directors:
posted at 5:20 PM