Behind the Red Curtain
I am writing in regards to David Templeton's article about the closure of Sonoma County Repertory Theater ("Rep Repose,"
Jan. 19). I served as the scenic director for SCRT for a number of years, having designed and-or fabricated the sets for over 35 productions for many directors, and I was closely involved with the executive director Jim dePriest, artistic director Diane Bailey as well as Scott Phillips and Jennifer King. As a matter of fact, my wife is Diane Bailey of Theatre Anew here in San Francisco, and she directed some of the most popular and profitable productions for the theatre from 1994 to 2002.
I am currently involved with a local, small nonprofit arts organization, and after reading your article, I can draw several parallels. Clearly, all arts organizations are going through some fundamental shifts in how they are organized, as well as how they serve their communities, but one fact remains: the board of directors is solely responsible for seeing that the mission is carried out.
Scott Phillips mentions that "no theater can survive on box office alone," yet artistic director Diane Bailey consistently went before the board with corroborating information from the National Endowment for the Arts attesting to that fact, only to be dismissed and derided. In fact, upon her (and Jim dePriest's) departure, the current management as well as previous board members publicly stated that both Jim and Diane had fiscally mismanaged the organization. It was a 78-seat theater—do the math: (performances) x (seats) = total maximum possible ticket revenue. For some reason, the board could not understand that.
The board at SCRT and all boards of directors have one job: get the money. The board was also responsible for the loss of their 160-seat Santa Rosa facility. Without an appropriate facility in which to present theater, educate new and young audiences, and grow our constituency, the math was against us. Their promises of a new theater space were a constant dangling carrot.
My wife was artistic director for 8 years, headed up the New Drama Works program, directed countless plays and also worked tirelessly on a salary of $14,400 per year! Jim wasn't paid much more, and they accepted that pay in order for the theater to have more money to grow. It was Jim and Diane who raised the artistic and professional profile of that theater.
Once Jim and Diane were essentially forced out, one board member came forward with enough money to pay new people much higher salaries, for a certain time frame. Once that money ran out, the theater was once again in a position to count on box office for its revenues and salaries—and Diane was responsible for allocating actors' services as "in kind" donations for accounting purposes. The board of directors always expected the artists to donate 100 percent of their time and expertise, and were shocked (and even offended) that there would ever be an expectation of payment.
SCRT was a very important part of my life and that of my family. We dedicated time, creativity, personal funds and energy to its growth and success. The members of the board of directors, yet again, have fallen down on their job, with consequences not only to themselves, but to the artists and administrators who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life and bring the arts to our communities.
Be Gone, Electro-Clash
I first read the May 18 Green Zone column about electro-magnetic radiation in the paper and now online ("To Wit," May 18). Thank you so much for helping to get the word out. Smart meters, along with the huge increase in electro-pollution, are killing us and the planet. I pray we will adopt the precautionary principle here, too.
"On the Outside" (The Paper, May 11) by Leilani Clark was the best read of the week. Maybe longer. It was very well-written, and Jeri Becker's story is very moving. I would love to meet her, as I also live along the river. I hope the universe sees fit to connect us somehow. She is inspirational.
Thank you, Jeri, for sharing your story, and thank you to my beloved Bohemian for putting it out there so beautifully.