Monday, June 22, 2009

Trouble on the Homefront

I've been following this for a while, but since I'm not in Milwaukee I feel a bit out of the swim blogging about it.

The Skylight Opera Theatre appears to be in a bad way.

Managing director, Eric Dillner, along with board president Suzanne Hefty, have apparently commandeered the skylight's board of directors, and used it's name to fire Artistic Director Bill Theisen, among others. This sudden restructuring of the Skylight was done without consent of the board, and, in some cases, without it's knowledge.

Needless to say, the arts community in Milwaukee is up in arms. The best places to follow the events so far (which are moving quite rapidly, including the firing of resident musical director Jamie Johns, daily protests outside the Skylight's space, and a demand by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Strini for the resignation of Dillner) are on Tuesdays, Artsy Schmartsy, and Jamie John's new blog Delight and Amaze, including Strini's own blog.

I have worked at the Skylight twice in my career, first when I was eight years old, and then again just before I graduated high school. But more than just a means of employment, the skylight is a musical theatre center for Milwaukee, and has created inumerable means of creative outlet for me and so many fellow actors, many of whom are life-long friends. The outcry of support for Theisen, and the Skylight itself, is proof of the Milwaukee institution the Skylight is.

What affect this will have on it's upcoming 50th season remains to be seen. As Strini says, "the company will go into its 50th season with no artistic director and no resident music director. It will face the seething anger of almost everyone who's performed at the Skylight for the last five years. It will operate in the shadow of a familiar and popular [artistic director] who was rudely pushed out the door. Dillner, a relative newcomer and mystery man thrust into the role of Skylight figurehead, will stand directly in that shadow. What should be a big anniversary celebration is starting to look like a pit of poison."

And he concludes with, "Dillner, whatever talent and skills he might possess, is damaged goods and has to go, and soon."

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