Skylight offers, Theisen nixes
(Updated at 5 p.m. Friday July 10, after a letter from Bill Theisen and Skylight comes out)
In the latest of a long saga that began with a leaky roof and a recession, then exploded with the firing of a beloved Artistic Director and other staff members to save crippling budget costs which resulted in a massive outrage, Skylight Opera’s board fired back with a surprising announcement late Wednesday evening:
“ From the Board of Directors of The Skylight Opera Theatre:
The Board of Directors greatly appreciates the recent public and donor messages of concern and support for The Skylight’s artistic product. We have read, heard, and discussed them all, and thank everyone who has expressed support for The Skylight.
At a full meeting of the Board of Directors last night, it was resolved to establish communications with Bill Theisen regarding the role of Artistic Director at The Skylight. The Board sincerely hopes Bill will agree to return to The Skylight as its Artistic Director for the company’s 50th Anniversary Season. We continue to respect Bill’s artistic ability and his value to The Skylight and to the Milwaukee arts community.
The Board remains committed to strengthening The Skylight’s financial position so that it can continue to serve as a creative force in the Milwaukee community — and as an employer able to showcase a variety of artists for years to come. Our old organizational structure is not fiscally sustainable in these economic times. The Board’s strategic plan emphasizes establishing an overall structure including artistic adminstration that will work for The Skylight now and can be adapted when finances improve.
The Board would like to accept and embrace the many offers it has received for benefit performances, assistance in fundraising, and donations. Anyone interested in helping The Skylight can e-mail the board at email@example.com.
The board continues to support Eric Dillner and the entire staff of The Skylight who have filled in and carried on during this time. They deserve the respect and appreciation of all. “
Details were not forthcoming. There was no word on where the money was coming from to sustain Theisen, whether it was a contracted position, or even if there would be other cuts (like one less show) this season to stay on budget. It was clear that Dillner and the Skylight Board collapsed under pressure from the artistic community. Which made Bill Theisen’s response, sent to Tom Strini at the Journal Sentinel Friday afternoon, all the more interesting. An excerpt:
“…I am sad to say it is not an option for me to return to the Skylight in the capacity of artistic director under the current circumstances. I feel there has been a breach of trust and am quite certain that I would not be able to successfully continue my duties in the position…”
Mr. Theisen goes on to praise Skylight Opera’s organization, especially since he’ll still work there this fall. In a press release from the Skylight to inform of Theisen’s decision, it was revealed in an excerpt that he will still direct four shows:
“…The Board regrets that Bill has decided not to accept this offer but looks forward to him continuing to return to stage direct. Bill will be directing four shows with the Skylight in the 2009-2010 season as previously announced; The Marriage of Figaro, Plaid Tidings, The Barber of Seville, and The Long and Short of It.
The Board will continue to pursue other artistic options that will support Managing Director Eric Dillner with his combined duties.”
And so, the behind-the-curtain drama continues.