leslie's message to all those standing against the recent restructuring: "I just want everyone to know that I am standing, and have stood, squarely with them."
Dear Mr. Dillner and members of the Skylight Opera Theatre Board of Directors,
I am very saddened to find it necessary to write this letter, but I must add my name to the growing list of artists, former staff, and Board members who have withdrawn their support from Skylight Opera Theatre.
I have avoided expressing an opinion until now because I didn’t want to add to an already painful situation or harm an organization about which I care deeply. Having stepped down as the Skylight’s Development Director three years ago, I did not feel it was my place to weigh in on the decision to eliminate the positions that set off this unfortunate chain of events. I didn’t know all of the circumstances that led to the decision, nor should I. What’s more, I still have friends who work at the theatre, and I wanted to support their efforts to try to make the best of the very difficult situation in which they found themselves. I also still respect and admire many of the board members with whom I was privileged to work. But your combined actions over the past month, and especially the past two days, have forced me to reconsider.
In an arts organization, the staff’s role is to provide and protect an environment where artists can effectively practice their craft. The Board of Directors’ role is to ensure that the organization has the resources and leadership it needs to allow both the staff and the artists to be successful. In the current situation, neither the Managing Director nor the Board of Directors is fulfilling its solemn responsibility to the Skylight. As a result, the organization so many of us love is on the brink of destruction and I cannot in good conscience support it any longer. I am withdrawing my financial support effective immediately.
As the former Development Director, no one knows better than I how important charitable donations are to the theatre. When I left, contributions represented well over half of the Skylight’s annual operating budget and that figure was growing every year. Ticket sales were (and apparently continue to be) strong. But with that blessing also comes the curse of not being able to significantly increase earned revenue without dramatically increasing ticket prices. That option wasn’t viable three years ago, and it certainly isn’t viable during a recession. Donations must “fill the gap” between what it costs to operate the organization and what’s sold at the box office.
So I understand that the theatre needs donations now more than ever. But I also understand that it is artists, and in this case the Skylight’s artists, who inspire donors to give to arts organizations. Yes, it’s the Board and staff that usually do the asking, but there would be nothing to ask for if it weren’t for the artists. They are the reason patrons come to the theatre. They are the ones who touch our emotions. They are the ones who “help us remember some things, forget others, and refresh the dry places in our spirits”. It’s not the Development Director, the Managing Director, or the Board of Directors.
It’s heartbreaking to see that those who believe that a strict business model can be applied to an arts organization have overtaken the leadership of the Skylight. Your blatant disregard for the artists and the donors who care so deeply about the Skylight demonstrates that you do not understand the basic, beautiful nature of what you’ve promised to protect and preserve.
In my opinion, there is only one way out of this sad situation: Mr. Dillner must step down, and the Board must accept Colin Cabot’s incredibly gracious offer to serve as the interim Managing Director. Any board member who cannot endorse these actions should step down, as well. Then and only then can Colin and the remaining Board members undertake the enormous task of reengaging all of the stakeholders that have been disenfranchised during this debacle and re-claim the Skylight’s rightful place among our community’s most vibrant and treasured cultural institutions. To do otherwise is to willingly destroy Skylight Opera Theatre. Should these actions be taken, I would be willing to dedicate considerable time, talent and resources to the effort to save the Skylight.
Arts organizations – by their very nature – are living organisms. They can flourish or perish overnight. I fear your actions have wrought the latter. Please reconsider before it is too late.