Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Year of Figaro remains intact

As most of you know by now, the news came in yesterday afternoon about Eric Dillner resigning as General Director at Skylight.  Former managing directors Joan Lounsbury and Colin Cabot will take over leadership of the company, with Bill Theisen returning as stage director and artistic consultant.  My first inclination was to run to my computer and vomit out six weeks' worth of bloggy goodness, but instead I opened up a bottle of wine, enjoyed the company of some of my Ashlawn cast, and caught up with good friends on the phone.  There were to many disparate thoughts and emotions swimming around in my head to write down.  As it is, this blog entry might be a bit nebulous.  

My year of Figaro is back on! 

Skylight is still going to have a lot of challenges ahead, figuring out a business model that will lead them into the future.  But I think that they have a team of people that can absolutely meet that challenge.  Colin, Joan, and Bill have the good will of the community, the context of the history of the company, and the smarts to pull this off.  This is how to do a 50th Anniversary season.

I know this doesn't automatically fix all of SOT's problems, but what a victory for the company, the artists, the community!  I saw a picture on Tuesdays Blog of a bunch of SOT folk raising a glass in Catalano Square (ground zero for a lot of the protest/forum activity) and my heart went out to my friends.  How I wished I could have been there to celebrate.  The love and the care they have shown are extraordinary.  

I sort of can't believe that it actually turned out this way.  When people backed out of their contracts, it was to show support for Bill and to send a message to the board.  Who ever would have expected it to actually work?  Of course we were all hoping it would, but I had resigned myself to the fact that my year of Figaro would be a half-year of Figaro, not knowing if I'd ever sing Figaro again, that the end of the world, art, and music were at hand (I'm paraphrasing my brilliant manager, who has been watching this story like a hawk and was thrilled when the news broke).  And then a true deus ex machina (in the form of Joan and Colin) happens, and the entire debacle is turned around and the season is restored.  I hope someone is writing an opera about this.  It couldn't be more perfect.  I want to play the part of Jamie Johns.  

I have only been on the periphery of this story.  I don't live in Milwaukee, and I wasn't there to see this unfold first hand.  SOT has always welcomed me as one of their own, however, and through the blessing and curse that is social media, I felt like I was there.  From my vantage point, there are some true heroes in this story (they should each get an aria in the opera version of this)-

Jamie Johns, who was the most vocal opponent at the beginning, helped get the word out on Facebook, and rallied SOT supporters to make their voices heard, only to get fired in the process.  

Jonathan West, Tony Clements, along with Tom Strini, who reported each new bizarre chapter of this twisted tale, gave us the facts behind the rumors, and provided sound, level-headed commentary on what was going on.

The Skylight staff, who soldiered on in what must have been one of the most uncomfortable working environments ever.

Colin Cabot, who dropped everything to save this company.

I want to say a sincere thank you to Eric Dillner.  I don't think that he is Darth Vader, and I believe he had good intentions for SOT.  This was a catastrophe, though, and he made the right decision by stepping down so that the company could try to heal and move forward.  I'm sure it was not an easy decision, as it wasn't an easy decision for any of us who stepped down, but it was the right one.  Thanks Eric.  

I hope arts organizations all over the country are following this story and being encouraged by it.  Yes, I think it is encouraging for arts organizations.  Hell, I think it is encouraging for democracy.  You can make your voice heard and you can make a difference.  I think it is a victory for Milwaukee, but also a victory for the arts.  Every arts group is trying to find their way through this mess of an economy.  I think the path through it is BEING AN ARTS ORGANIZATION- sticking to your guns, and not running your opera company like a for-profit corporation.  Yesterday was a victory for artistic vision and leadership.  

I hope that people never forget this chapter in Skylight's history.  When people cared so much for a little company that they couldn't watch it slip away and through songs, tears, heartbreak, anger, laughter, and hard work, they saved it.  

I can't wait to walk into 158 N Broadway for the first day of Barber rehearsal.  

The End (?)


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