Monday, July 20, 2009

spice quits: "typing through tears"

(with apologies to ms. spice, this piece is running about a week late.)

on july 11th, milwaukee actress and singer becky spice tendered her resignation to the skylight opera theatre:
Dear Skylight Board of Directors,

After 23 years and 30-some performances at the Skylight, I would like to tender my resignation as a freelance artist. Some of you may not know me (or care what I have to say), but I know that many of you do. I have sung in your homes--for your anniversaries and your birthday parties. You have hugged me at fundraisers and after performances, and you have told me I was one of your "Skylight favorites." Skylight means so much to me. I am typing this through tears.

I started out right out of college, on Jefferson Street, where I was a Kit Kat Girl, Dancing Bellhop and a Jet Chick. I moved to the big building and grew into roles like Eliza in MY FAIR LADY and Reno in ANYTHING GOES. Maybe you saw me in MAN OF LA MANCHA, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, ALL NIGHT STRUT, TINTYPES or SPITFIRE GRILL. Maybe you saw one of the half dozen cabaret shows I have done in the bar with Jamie Johns. (I was scheduled to do another this season, but I won't be.) I have been around while the majority of staff, board members and administrators have come and gone.

After reading the letter from the former board member--that was forwarded to the entire board by Eric Dillner--I can no longer associate myself with this company. The letter was vile, but it was Eric's decision to use it in his defense (complete with individual artist names) that has made me realize I could never work for this man under any circumstances--with or without Bill Theisen on staff. I don't know Eric personally, but his poor judgment has created a horrible situation that may be the beginning of the end for our beloved Skylight.

This is not about supporting Bill, this is about being valued as something more than the "hired help." I like to think that what I do is a gift. I know that during my time at the Skylight I have made people laugh and moved them to tears. I have personal letters from strangers to prove it. Maybe a few people even bought tickets because I was in a show. With that said, I also know that you can replace me in a heartbeat, and my resignation is fairly insignificant. But I hope this is one of many such letters you will receive from the artists of this community and artists from across the country who have graced our stage.

The most recent press release gave Eric Dillner the board's "full support."

Good luck with that.

Most Sincerely,
Becky Spice


  1. Vile is correct. If you haven't read the letter, it's down a little bit in Tony's Tuesday. "Artists Exist Because We Choose to Pay Them." Listed thereafter with over 30 interesting comments from a VARIETY of individuals. Not necessarily "bottom-dwellers."

  2. I performed at Skylight long ago. The house I knew was a Milwaukee treasure. It was a place that welcomed and nurtured new talent as it challenged it's stable of "house favorites." In more recent years my husband has played in several productions. In our performing experiences at Skylight, we have both delighted in the strong artistic community that each show became, due to the talent and leadership of people like Richard, Leslie, Becky, Bill and others. This series of events is devastating. To see this wonderful cadre of artists torn asunder is heartbreaking. To see this high quality performing venue shattered is an artistic travesty. My heart goes out to all of you. Lynne Carlstein


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