Tom Strini

Skylight Reinstates Theisen

By - Oct 14th, 2009 12:18 pm
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Bill Theisen, reinstated as artistic director through June, 2011.

Bill Theisen, reinstated as artistic director through June, 2011.

Bill Theisen, fired in June as artistic director of the Skylight Opera Theatre, is back. The Skylight announced a new agreement with Theisen that would retain him as artistic director through June 30, 2011.

Diane Bacha, interim communications director, said that Theisen has agreed to accept the title with no pay beyond his fees for directing four shows this season. His salary for next season, when he again assumes full duties as artistic director, will be negotiatied. According to the non-profit’s public tax records, his salary as artistic director previously was about $75,000.

The company has also reinstated Diana Alioto, who was also fired in June, as director of artistic operations. Ray Jivoff, a mainstay among Skylight performers and long-time education director, has taken on the added title of assistant artistic director. Bacha said that Jivoff will fill in for Theisen while Theisen directs shows out of town. Theisen committed to at least two shows elsewhere when he thought he would have no work at the Skylight.

Thus ends a period of craziness and controversy with this company that would have been unimaginable before June 16. That’s when the Skylight fired Theisen and sought to alleviate a financial crisis by consolidating business and artistic management under Eric Dillner.

Performers and a good many board members and donors revolted. Colin Cabot, a former managing director and major donor and fund-raiser, returned to Milwaukee from New Hampshire to help save the main stage theater that bears his family name. Dillner resigned. Joan Lounsbery came out of retirement to run the business side temporarily. Cabot took over as interim artistic director. Theisen agreed to save the season by directing four shows. Cabot and Lounsbery recruited Amy Jensen to take over as managing director on Nov. 13, so Lounsbery could return to California.

Amy Jensen, the Skylight's new managing director

Amy Jensen, the Skylight’s new managing director

Theisen has his title back. Cabot has been busily raising money, and there are signs that he and other donors are bringing the Skylight back from the brink. And the first show of the current season, “The Barber of Seville,” was a big hit. Theisen has been consulting with Cabot on the 2010-2011 season, and their proposal is now being considered by a board committee.

The Skylight still has money to raise to get out of its financial hole, but now everyone seems to be working together to solve the problems. And Theisen is a popular, stabilizing and very competent figure. It’s starting to look as if a happy ending for the endlessly charming little company in Milwaukee’s Third Ward is likely.

0 thoughts on “Skylight Reinstates Theisen”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great news — thanks for the report

  2. Anonymous says:

    thanks as always Tom, for keeping us updated!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness! The Skylight is one of Milwaukee’s gems, a company which has a rich history and one which we want to see lasting a very long time. I’m so happy it has been saved!

  4. Anonymous says:

    And all’s well that ends well! Wonderful news.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Best possible news imaginable – next to an anonymous contribution of $1MM or so to the Skylight, I guess. (Hey, if such a check does show up, remember I predicted it here!)

    I’m glad Diana’s back as well.

    Tom, that was the best succinct description of the Skylight saga that I’ve seen – thanks as always for reporting so well on all things arts-related.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can’t stop smiling! Thanks for the update Tom.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you!

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is great news! Glad I was able to read about it from a conference in Pittsburgh.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, everyone, for commenting. We want to hear from our readers, and every comment raises the ThirdCoast profile with search engines. When you take the time to write a note, it helps us. Thanks again. — Tom

  10. Anonymous says:

    Kudos, too, to Ray Jivoff, a man whose many talents might be easy to underestimate because he does everything with such ease.

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