Thursday, August 6, 2009

the dissenter

in amongst the skylight opera theatre sighs of relief, hopes for the future, and even the well wishes for the departing eric dillner, there is this among the tuesdaysblog comments:
I hope and pray that none of you get your contracts honored, though doubt that will be the case. I sure hope no management decisions are ever required again without express written consent of the hired help.... This is the end of the Skylight.... It all goes down hill from here.
sound familiar?


  1. Wow. Yes, we can hear the echo of “artists are ‘employees’ and ‘only exist because we chose to pay’ them.”

    The best I can say about that dissenting view is that it sounds like it comes from a smart, hard-headed business person - I’m guessing a successful business owner. He or she has an unsentimental, reality-based view from the experience of managing employees in his or her business.

    But this dissenter doesn’t get the ways that an arts organization (or this one, anyway) is different, in business terms, from other businesses.

    In other businesses, the business, product and brand franchise can thrive even if employees are viewed as a replaceable commodity – in fact it may be required.

    But at the Skylight, the artists are intrinsic to the product and brand franchise. As this dissenter still apparently has not learned (if the two posts are in fact from the same person), replacing core artists is a completely different story, in terms of the fallout on the Skylight's business, product and franchise.

    The executive committee of the Skylight board (and Eric Dillner in going along with them, if that’s how it happened) completely missed that. They were trying to be responsible business people – the “grownups” making the difficult but necessary business leadership choices.

    But instead they made an epically bad business decision for the Skylight. And as a result they were held painfully accountable by constituencies whose power they underestimated, because (again) they thought of an arts organization (or this one) as being like other businesses.

    Just like they would expect business leaders to be held accountable for making a bad decision with this kind of fallout in a business they understand better.

  2. Wishing Eric well??? what a incredibly hollow well wishing to him. Not one of you wants him to do well.... you hate him and blame him for this whole mess. It would be more honest and sincere if you said "we hope the door hits him in the ass on his way out."

    I am still amazed having followed all the good blogs on the issue that not one of you has acknowledged the financial crisis facing the Skylight. Not one of you has ever acknowledged that anything had to be done to address that issue.

    For the record, Dillner and the board didn't intend to replace all of you like "hired help". That became necessary when all of you abandoned your jobs in protest of a relatively small number of firings.

    I suspect that corporate sponsorship will be dropping in direct protest to how this has all shaken out. In the real world, very few companies have managed to escape the necessity of making critical cuts in areas of redundancy in order to keep afloat in these tough times. I doubt they will react well to the Skylight taking a knee to the staff.

    Now that order has been restored to the Skylight.... BIll is returning, The evil one is gone..... I assume you will be hiring the custodian back who after 17 or so years was terminated from the Skylight too, right?? He is important and is part of the "family" right.

    You people care about nothing but your own and I suspect will end up taking this theatre down. Best of luck with that $400K+ budget shortfall that will hit before December.... Maybe you can protest outsided your bank for days on end and get them to take a knee too.... yeah right.

    Am I angry. You bet. There is a business aspect to the arts that simply cannot be ignored despite what any of you seem to think. It is as important as the art iself for not acknowleding it will ultimately kill the arts. I suspect that had Eric approached everyone before hand and laid out the exact nature of the crisis facing the theatre and asked for a huge fund raising effort or concessions in general that none of you would have lifted a finger to help anyway, even if you knew there would be tragic results for inactivity. The fact that he didn't consult you or involve you in the process was the cornerstone of your angst, but the real reason for your anger was that you didn't get what you wanted. Unless you got what you wanted, you would take your ball and go home. Nothing but a bunch of braty kids throught his whole thing who didn't get their way. Like a parent who gives in to an unruly kid in a similar extortion, the Mother Skylight can expect this to happen again at every turn.

    Frustrated, frustrated, frustrated.

  3. Well, mysterious Anon person, there is an ARTISTIC aspect of an opera company that cannot be ignored too. I think if you look with a more objective eye, many of us acknowledged the financial aspect of this, but felt there were wiser, more prudent decisions that should have been made in keeping with the spirit of the Skylight... that spirit which has been a central pillar of the previous 49 years of success.

    I'm sorry if your prize horse is no longer in the race. I apologize if employeed standing up for what they believe in doesn't fit your personal business worldview. I'm sorry I don't understand your selective anger at "the help" and your seemingly utter disregard for the "art" part of running an arts organization.

    Look, theatre as a rule is not a financially sound business. Based on the tenor of your comments, you'd be happier selling seats in the Cabot Theatre at $150 each to have an audience listen to a CD piped through speakers. Hey, it's not that artistic, but holy crap... look at the profit!

    I know some of the people who participated in this artists uprising. There was no self pity, no self interest in play... no one wanted to "take their ball and go home" as you say. If anything, the artists were the only ones communicating with the public during this crisis. Perhaps you should direct your anger at the Board and Mr. Dillner who decided to remain silent and cede the field of the public relations battle to the artists.

    Bottom line: A business decision was made, and it turned out to be a bad one. You can either get on board with the rebuilding, or get the hell out of the way.

  4. Dear Dick Cheney @8:18,
    Decisions based on faulty logic and behind closed doors may be "the American way" to you, but that philosophy is not embraced by most of the good citizens I know. I was raised to stand up for what I believe in. Maybe your guy will win next time.
    I have given 2 decades of service to make the Skylight great and I will now return and do whatever I can to see her succeed. What will you give?

  5. Hmmm.... There are many inaccuracies in the statements of "anonymous @8:18. Most obvious is your opinion that all the artists were worried about were their jobs, their own hides.

    If you knew any of them (I suspect you don't) then you would understand that their passion was for Skylight, not for their jobs. Skylight doesn't pay that much to any of it's artists. (I know from experience). We work for them in spite of that, and because of the care we are afforded, the joy that is shared, and the unique product that is produced in that rare air of artistic, familial excellence.

    And though Dillner has been the scapegoat here, let me offer 2 points:

    1. He was truly doing his job. He was carrying out the wishes of HIS supervisers, the Executive Board.
    2. He has stated that he did, indeed, feel that eliminating the position of Artistic Director was a mistake, yet he did not say so. So, if his job was to direct the management of the organization and he didn't communicate something he felt was a mistake, then he was NOT doing his job.

    Another point you got wrong: No one was angry because they weren't consulted. That has also been well stated in interviews, letters of protest, etc... I don't think any of us expected that we get a phone call or be involved in a meeting about changes at Skylight. We never have in the past, why would we now? We were outraged that such a decision was made without full board knowlege (as was the board!), and that Theisen WAS NOT approached about making concessions in his position, which he has stated he would have gladly made. The Artistic Dept was eliminated in a poorly thought-through plan. That is what set this off.

    And NO ONE has been ignoring the financial issues at hand. By salvaging the artistic side of Skylight we are trying to ENSURE that ticket sales remain high, that the reputation remains intact so that corporate and private donors will see that Skylight is an entity they can support with confidence.

    You say that this controversy will drive away supporters. Really? Or will it show how beloved Skylight is within the community? How loyal the artists and patrons are to the institution? Perhaps they'll see a chance to connect their names with an institution that fosters good will in Milwaukee.

    And finally, as to your unfortunate, immature name-calling final point, let me just say that we artists are people. We have all the same rights that you have. If we do not like something we have the right to protest (calmly and with dignity, as we did), to campaign (with respect, as we did) and finally to boycott and express ourselves by withholding our commodity (our talents). The patrons have that same right in not buying tickets to a theatre that presents sub-quality product. YOU have that right every time you open your wallet at Walmart or Pick and Save. If we choose to withdraw from an organization in which we have been deeply involved, in protest, then you have no right to call us "braty kids". You have shown yourself to be very uninformed of the situation beyond the black and white numbers side of things. You clearly do not understand arts organizations. They are a business and yet SO muchh more. You lack a broad knowlege of "Show Business" and I would suggest that you take YOUR ball and go home. We don't want to play with children like you.

    PS. It only takes a moment to type your name and stand up for what you have written. It's always so interesting to me that those with the most negative comments are all have the same name: Anonymous

  6. Frustrated, frustrated, frustrated...

    ...and anonymous, anonymous, anonymous.

    One of the most remarkable things about the protest against the firing of Bill and others (including the custodian) is that protesters used not only their names (entirely optional in the internet age, as F.F.F. has shown), many sacrificed jobs - which, to an artist, means not only money but the very thing that makes them live.

    Perhaps F.F.F. has never looked at the coming year and had to wonder, "Will I have enough for rent in August?" Perhaps s/he doesn't understand the passion of the arts, how theatre professionals on or off stage will do most anything, endure most anything, to be a part of the energy and life of creating theatrical art. Perhaps F.F.F. just doesn't understand the arts. Otherwise s/he might recognize how serious a thing it is for an artist to turn down work.

    The protesters who did so risked more than the reputation F.F.F. is protecting for him or her self. They even risked more than financial security, which is no small thing. They risked - they sacrificed - part of their hearts. They didn't do this as "unruly kids" (as if the "hired help" tag wasn't insulting enough), they did so because the decisions that were made cut the very heart out of the Skylight. Whatever the challenges of the financial shortfall - and I'm sure they're quite real - to trash the artistic heart of an arts company is not the solution.

    I've followed this drama quietly - I really had no horse in the race being a) long gone from an acting career and b) never someone the Skylight would have hired in the first place, having a singing voice akin to that of a palsied frog. Still, I was a Milwaukee actor for 7 or 8 years and I know what it's like piecing together a season at this company and that, pouring one's whole self into the creation of an ephemeral piece of art. And I have to applaud the courage of the professionals who were willing to sacrifice that - the money and the passion - because they believed that a wrong had been done and could not associate themselves with that wrong. They lived the courage of their convictions.

    Pity that F.F.F. cannot stand by his/her own words with as much confidence.

  7. I don't feel the need to acknowledge what my mother would refer to as sour grapes from those who chose to remain anonymous. Regardless of what naysayers "suspect", the SOT is on track to receive the full support of the passionate individuals - NOT JUST artists - who have been so vocal in recent weeks. My sleeves are rolled up and my checkbook is out. Put me to work, SOT! (That's what my email will be saying!)

  8. In ready Anons comments, I can speculate that she is a member of the skylight board of directors and a large stake in the success of Mr. Dillner. She is unable to accept the fact that openness and transparency are key to having a highly effective board. Hence the unwillingness to stand behind her opinions. As a person who has had the privledge to serve on several boards, I have been well trained in the ways to do things. I would love to share some resources with Ms. Anon. She can contact me. There is a great book on the subject that I will buy for her.

    I am not an actor, designer, director, costumer, etc. I am a patron of the Skylight and other non-profits throughout the country. And I see that so much good has come from this, it would be wonderful if Ms. Anon. could see that to. Communities are talking, and that discuss will continue. The next generation of Milwaukee artists are more aware of their responsibilities and are also aware that they will have support. I hope this will convince them to return to this great city and share talents with us. I can go on, but I don't know if Ms. Anon. will ever listen.

    I do want to say that based on this forward progress (and it is forward progress, regardless of Ms. Anon's opinion), I will be repurchasing my season subscriptions and make a public pledge of $1000 to help in the recovery.

    And by the way, I would have made this pledge even without an artistic crisis. All you needed to do was ask.

    I am, as I ever was and ever shall be... a committed patron of the Skylight Opera Theatre.

    Dan Schley

  9. So, What's next? Eric Dillner is gone... Some sort of order has been restored to the Skylight... Art has been restored to it's rightful place in the theatre. How do we address the looming fiancial elephant in the room? Payroll concessions for our already somewhat low paid performers, fund raising in a challenging economy, corporate sponsorship from the handful of companies still in existance and making profit?? It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. I undersand F.F.F. to a certain extent... As a person who works on the fringes of a the financial sector, decisions are made for the good of the company. People are somewhat interchangable within reason. Perhaps this is not the case in the art world. Perhaps new artists could have been cast and a successful season had...but alas, we will never know now. As a person who has been forced to make cuts and do unpopular things, I cannot help but empathize with Dillner to a certain extent. It sucks to do it, I doubt he wanted to do it, but ultimately, he had to make some cuts. Whether or not Bill was the right cut....I don't have enough information to make that decision. From a financial aspect...probably. From an arts continuity standpoint..perhaps not. I am sure he is a good guy who has been characterized in a horrible way by people who were and continue to be very passionate about their beliefs. His methodology and silence is someone understandable to me I suppose. There was nothing he could say or do to appease the artists or get them on board to some extent, so why try. He made what I consider a sound business decision when the actors left and proceeded with Plan B which was recast to attempt to salvage the season.

    Could he have done it...guess we will never know now. I give the artists credit for being passionate about their beliefs regarding the direction of the Skylight. I also give Dillner some credit for making what he no doubt believed was a necessary move to preserve the theatre. It seems to me that the parties on both sides failed to consider the other's point-of-view. For the artists, it was all about the family or the art. For the managers, it was all about the business. I suspect there was a happy medium to be found, but once Pandora's box was open, there was no closing it. The time for that partnership and joint effort to address the financial crisis was before any major moves were made.

    I suspect the board will be a bit gun shy going forward when it comes to making management decisions, which concerns me to a certain extent. If they feel as though there hands are tied, they may make decisions that are contrary to the long term survival of the theatre in an effort to avoid uncomfortable situations today. I sure hope not. Might I suggest that the actors from the Skylight as well as the other theatres look in to becoming employee owned. You would then become a stake holder in the company and have a real say in the direction of the theatre as well as the management. Something to consider. In closing, I can see all sides of the issue. I understand FFF's frustration, I do. I understand the artists point of view too. There will be many, many people who feel passionately for each side as the season starts. How do you get around that and put on a good season and somehow address the elephant in the room? If I knew, I would charge dearly for my consulting fees :)

  10. Whom are you referring too? The people who resigned from the show, or someone like me who was brought in not knowing anything about the situation? I am an opera singer who was recently contracted, and I certainly hope I still have a job.

  11. "bratty kids"? anon sounds like the criminal in every Scooby Doo cartoon, "and I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids."

    3 things:

    1) that's your right to comment as "anon". i have no respect for "anon" comments - not in this case. too many people glady identified themselves in this fight.

    2.) don't ever assume i hate Dillner. i DO wish him well in his future endeavors. i would like an apology. email me at

    3) my close actor buddy Todd Peterson was the president of the board of directors for Theater Cedar Rapids, one of the top community theaters in the country, as well as the Phoenix Theater. as President, he is a hard-nosed businessman (as he is in his day job) and he kept the financial aspects of the theater first and foremost while recognizing the artistic side of things. i've always said Todd could turn dog shit into money. managing director or board president, Todd would NEVER have cut the positions of artistic director, company director, music director, among others.


  12. I'm not so sure that sponsors would be hestitant to donate right now. If I was the marketing director for a sponsor company (nagging at my own boss currently), I'd really push for a big ol' novelty check with a bunch of zeros to be handed over. If only for the horribly selfish reason that Skylight has been getting lots of free (albeit unhappy) publicity. If Skylight's marketing director was worth her salt (trying to be positive), she would wrangle investors and push for all the national and local media that covered the story to come back and do a "Now What?" piece - a wonderful way to get the names of sponsors out there in a very public and positive light. There are so many wonderful marketing possibilities in a story like this and people are aching to read about a happy ending. Why not give it to them?

    Tony, thank you so much for all your hard work.

  13. Would it make everyone feel better if I put my "name" up on a post. I'll call myself Bill Johnson or maybe Clark Griswold. Whether or not someone puts their name up is a trivial issue at best.

    I stand by my contention that the overwhelming majority of you people could care less about Dillner's future endevours. I liken it to the Pick-N-Save check out girl who tells me to have a nice day as a matter of routine, not giving a shit whether or not I have a nice day.

    I will apologize to you for mis-interpretting your (what I perceived to be) insincere well wish to Dillner as soon as the people who said some aweful stuff about Susan Yankee early on email her an apology. She was no more responsible for this situation than was than any of your partners were. Guilt by association does not apply here. I doubt anyone will cowboy up and say I am sorry to her, so I wouldn't hold my breath for an apology from me.

  14. Do we need to continue to talk about Dillner? Love him or hate him, he's gone and he ain't coming back. I'd much rather discuss what's next and how we can be of service to Skylight.

    What about that benefit performance or other ideas for raising money?

  15. putting my name on my comments isn't trivial, "roy g. biv". it means i stand behind my comments whole-heartedly, without fear of repercussion.

    i'll take your "i will apologize to you for mis-interpretting your insincere well wish to Dillner..." as a half-apology.

    On to more impportant things. I'm excited for Skylight season to finally begin. Aren't you?

  16. yes I am looking forward to the skylight season, though I cannot afford season tickets this year... will have to buy them show by show

    But, I will kind of miss the blogging and debate..... Lively debate like this is hard to come by. If only our government would try something like nationalizing healthcare, I would have something to be interested in debating again.

  17. Marketing the Skylight will not be more difficult post-firestorm, it will be easier. The name Skylight is out there - take advantage of it. Milwaukee saw artists display passion for their craft and the Skylight - take advantage of that. My only trip to the Skylight was on a UPAF tour. Very cool place. I think it's time for me to make another visit, even though I'm not paricularly a fan of opera or musical theater. I am intrigued by the Skylight. Expect a ticket purchase and/or donation from me.

    Patrick M. McCarthy

  18. All's well that ends - Oh, wait, it is only beginning all over again; nothing ended. I so admire the artists and other supporters who took such brave stands. I am aware of all the things Aaaron O'Rear mentioned earlier (hi, Father!) and I have been in awe of all of you. I cannot begin to understand the bitterness and attitudes of the anonymous blogger, but this might be a good time for everyone to look back to that article that was going around a few years ago talking about unaware boards and potential board actions such as what has happened recently at Skylight, and - to more tragic ends - Madison Rep, a company I gave many years , miles and art to help start. (It was that article that became the basis of a one-person show. I am sure many of you must have a copy or an e-mail address around somewhere. Probably Jonathon West does!)

    I do not have much money, but I am about to buy dear Tony at least one cup of coffee at NYC prices and will give a modest donation to SOT. I am hoping there will be a specific fund for donations made is recognition of the artists who took to the barricades and tied in with the fund-raising performance activities you are already getting started.

    Best wishes to all, especially dear Bill T.

    John Miller

  19. is recognition = in recognition
    in the above post

  20. Well, I'm piping up on this a bit late, I see, since "Roy G. Biv" and most of the other commenters seem to have come to a truce.

    But the suggestion of Roy's that most irked me was that no one who was agitating for the reversal of Eric's decisions wanted to step up and offer other ways to cover Skylight's financial shortfall.

    That just isn't true.

    From the very beginning of this debacle, I've seen - in comments on this blog and elsewhere - eager suggestions of benefit performances and emergency fundraising campaigns. (And such things can work. For just one recent instance, this spring Oregon Ballet Theater raised $900,000 in about a month.)

    But Eric and the Skylight board fired Bill Theisen and others abruptly without attempting (or even considering, it looks like) any benefits or fundraising campaigns, and they refused to consider any such ideas later.

    So of course artists and other stakeholders (to use a favorite arts management term) protested loudly. Duh.

    And now, not 24 hours after Eric resigned and Bill was brought back on board, plans for benefit performances have already started. Well, well.

    As for the idea, from Mr. Biv and any other anonymouses (anonymice), that Skylight's performance and staff are "the help" ...
    Let's try to leave aside the words "art" and "artists" with all of their mystique (who is this man Art and why are we starving for him?) and put it in basic business terms.

    We've all heard, or even made, the perennial complaint that "good help is hard to find." (That's certainly been my experience.) If your business is trading financial instruments or selling real estate or mass-producing widgets, then yes, qualified employees are somewhat interchangeable. (Even there, good ones aren't easy to find.) If your business is selling craft items - hand-woven ponchos, prepared meals (in a restaurant or packaged at Whole Foods), evenings of entertainment - you need skilled craftspeople; otherwise your product quality suffers and your customers drift (or run) away. And good, skilled craftspeople are definitely hard to find. Especially ones who work for pay as low as Skylight's. So you can't treat your craftspeople as if they were widgets if you want your business to stay successful. And that's what a position like Roy's (one held, presumably, by a few Skylight board members) does.

    Sorry to readers if all this is obvious. But maybe not everyone who cares about the Skylight and what's been happening there has thought to frame the issue in just this way.

  21. Just a note to the bitter one, who feels he/she must rage against the "artists" -- please learn how to spell. "Braty" is incorrect -- "bratty" is correct. Why stay anonymous? Fear? Spite? Many of the "artists" have pledged from the beginning of this crisis to help however they could with the financial situation. Perhaps you have not read all the comments on this site. Perhaps you don't care. Perhaps all you wish to do is vent and spew. It's a theater. It needs people on stage and behind the scenes, and a board which can see the forest for the trees. If you don't like it, don't go. Don't give money. But don't excoriate those who feel a positive approach is the way to go.

  22. And speaking of obvious ...

    Many of you posting here, especially the estimable Tony Clements, and some of the journalists covering this mess have been scrupulously fair-minded about Eric Dillner's motivations.

    So I - speaking as a completely disinterested observer, one who has never met anyone involved with Skylight, one who has never seen a Skylight show, one who has never even been to Milwaukee, but as someone in New York who has for 20 years known of Skylight as a small but good opera company doing important work and who kept a close eye on this affair - will say what appears obvious.

    Eric Dillner was, to all appearances, using Skylight's economic troubles as an opportunity to take over the artistic side of the company. He wanted to be the Skylight's Peter Gelb or David Gockley.

    This next part isn't so obvious, but watching the goings-on, I couldn't help but wonder if Eric wanted to deliberately wreck the Skylight's regular program and sell the Board on a different business plan: doing a few main-stage shows but concentrating on being a producer of children's opera. (For which one can get fees from school districts for performances and other services as well as grants from government bodies and foundations for educational work.) That way, he could concentrate on (and get a platform for) the one project he appeared to really, really care about: his wife's piece Herman the Horse: A Healthy Tail/Tale (whichever).

    Obviously there's a lot of speculation in that last paragraph. But, watching the story unfold from a distance, that scenario was the only one I could see in which Eric's actions (including the many impromptu little ass-covering lies) made any sense.

    Anyway, with Bill back on board and Colin and Joan returning to help stabilizing the company, Skylight does seem on the road to recovery. And the national exposure all this has gotten, with the visible evidence of the passion the company's supporters have for it, is golden. Congratulations to everyone.

  23. Now, now, "don't be snarky," ragging on other people's misspellings is bad netiquette, no?

    Otherwise, I'd constantly be kvetching that it's and you're should be used like he's and she's ["~ going to the store"] and not like hi's or he'r. (At least half the time that mistake is the result of fast typing and muscle memory in the fingers, not of ignorance.)

    And petty little kvetches like that tend to detract from one's larger point.

  24. oh yeah, one more thingAugust 6, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    Just so all know: roy g biv is an mnemonic for the colors in the rainbow...

  25. oh yeah, one more thingAugust 6, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    Want to be sure not to be hypocritical: my comment should have read: "a mnemonic", not "an mnemonic"...

  26. the word "hypocritical" jogged a word i used in my first play...“Pecksniffian”. look it up.

  27. I aint dum, I know lots., tank yuo bery mich........

    Now that this is all behind us, I will allow my passion to subside and my blood pressure to drop. I am nothing if not opinionated and do enjoy the debate even though some times I get my a** handed to me. Not all the time, but often enough to keep me humble. I look forward to seeing what happens next. Will the SOT succeed, will it fail?? It's exciting to watch and wait for the climax one way or the other. I certainly hope that it succeeds and that a balance between sound business practices and devotion to the art is found. I think right now, that balance is as skewed to the art side as it was to the business side 24 hours ago. With the new management crew coming on board, I think harmony and hopefully some balance will be restored.

    Any publicty is generally good publicity in the theatre world, or so I have been told. Hopefully the marketing person can somehow capitalize on this recent press and make hay. I fear, due to the times, that season tickets and even ala carte ticket sales may be a struggle.

    Best of luck on your fund raising efforts. The budget problem is simply a matter of payables versus receivables. You either have to reduce payables or increase receivables. Reducing payables was not all that popular to say the least. Obviously increasing receivables is the palatable option.... work hard and good things will hopefully happen.

  28. ok, I apologize for being a snark myselfAugust 6, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    My snarkiness about spelling is my own little foible, and I apologize if I seem harsh; I am a spelling nut who feels the language rules should be respected. Call me antiquated...

    And thank you, rainbow roy g biv, for your generous good wishes. I know Colin Cabot will do all that he can to raise money and encourage peace between all the factions. He gave the best intermission pitch speeches I have ever witnessed...

  29. When you resign, you resign. You don't wait until you have the boss you want and then return to your job, at the expense of the person who was hired in your stead.

    If the Skylight doesn't honor the contracts of the replacement artists, they are just as guilty as the man they have ousted. The Skylight Family claims to be about the artform and the artists...what about the artists that are now out of a job because you have decided that it is okay to return?

    I think this situations of Bill's firing and the other staff members'firings werehandled horribly and I understand the decision by some people to walk away from the company...but I object to the idea that it had ANYTHING to do with artistry. Work atmosphere, perhaps, a feeling of safety too, things that impact the ability to create art...but not the ability of that art to be created.

    Perhaps Eric Dillner had no new artistic vision for the company. But what was the artistic vision before any of this happened? Since the creation of the Cabot Theater the vision has been decidedly different than what was being produced in the old space on Cathedral Square, understandably so, because of the financial obligations that came along with the new theater. There was no more baroque opera, or very little, and many more musicals, and a completely different managing team. But what exactly was the artistic vision before Eric? And what will it be now?

    I have felt for the last few years that the Skylight has put on wonderful musicals, and so/so operas, and generally with the same singers and actors over and over. Yes, a "family". Sometimes brilliantly cast and sometimes dreadfully miscast. I want to know--what is the new artistic vision now? I don't care who is in charge, either way, I want an answer to that question. I want to know what the artistic goal is and how it will be implemented. If Eric should have been expected to give a clear answer to that question--and I believe he should have been, so should the returning artists and Eric's successors.

  30. Anyone hired as a last-minute replacement by Dillner should have known what they were getting into. By agreeing to take a job amidst all this turmoil, they were also taking a considerable risk. Any number of things could have happened.

    I feel bad for the replacements that their agreements aren't coming to fruition, but unfortunately, that is the risk they took. It certainly shouldn't come as a surprise.

  31. FormerSOTEmployeeAugust 7, 2009 at 2:28 AM

    Although I have been gone from SOT for some years, I have been hearing about this turmoil for a few days. While reading this blog and it's posts, some things became very clear to me.

    First, making firing decisions is difficult. Having to actually DO the firing is more difficult. I'm sure nobody WANTED Bill fired, but the economy is what it is. And it wasn't as if they were barring him from work. He still had work at the Skylight on a show by show basis.

    Second, I know the threats that were made on Dillner and his family. Those who did so should be ashamed. And, while they're at it, they should grow up, be adults, and stop acting like petulant children.

    Third, although so many consider Skylight a "family", it really isn't. It has become a club, a fraternity, a sorority, a clique, a closed society. If you don't fit from day one, you never will. And the "family" will not let you forget it.

    Finally, the proof of the previous statement is in the list that Tony posted and the actions of those on the list. I know every name on the list of those who quit since they are the same bunch that have occupied a position of privilege in previous administrations. It's sad (and rather horrid) when a group of actors can have the power to do the destruction they are doing. Fortunately, I notice that there are some names missing from that list, names of others I know in the area. Good for them for steering clear.

    In my experience, Skylight was the coldest and most unfriendly place I have ever worked. I couldn't get far enough away from the closed attitude. In spite of my personal feelings, I wish for the Skylight to succeed. But success will be hollow and short-lived unless the "family" decides to accept new talent, new faces and new ideas. Until that happens, Skylight will continue to grow more stale by the year.

  32. out of state artistAugust 7, 2009 at 4:24 PM

    I disagree that the replacement artists should have known what they were getting into. It may have been a choice of Mr. Dillner to not divulge the full extent of circumstances surrounding the Skylight fiasco, perhaps they may have been in another part of the country busy with other rehearsals and performances, too busy to keep up with the day to day bloggings and reports. The possibility exists that any replacement artist not from Milwaukee and not associated with Skylight may not have known the extent of the problems occurring within the company. Either way, when most people come in and sign a contract 'at the last minute' they usually assume that they are there for the duration. Usually when someone is hired at that point, the company is in a pinch, and the person is hired as a relief to the situation. If someone in California or Detroit, or wherever offered me a job that starts in 3 weeks with a company I'm not familiar with, and my schedule happens to be free for the required time period, I'd take the contract. Despite signing 3 weeks in advance or 3 months in advance, I would expect that contract to be honored or bought out of it if they chose to use someone else after I'd signed on.

    I too, am curious as to the artistic vision of Skylight - I know the mission statement, but what is the artistic vision and where is it going?

    And I must agree with formerSOTemployee - some of the productions have been superbly cast while other decisions leave me puzzled, particularly in the age-appropriateness of some of the casting...

  33. i worked at the skylight and unfortunately had the same experience...i was not in "the club" and it was made rather clear to me that i never would be. since i sing a lot of other places, i have gotten over it...but i had always hoped to be a part of more productions there.

    it is really a closed group at times, which i find such a pity. but i enjoy seeing the shows there, every now and then there is a real gem.

    a familial feeling is great. but not a feeling of entitlement or exclusiveness,,,that, although it exists everywhere to some extent, hinders a true creative process, in my opinion.

    sorry for remaining anonymous, but i still hope to sing at the skylight one of these days :).


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