Civic Theater's casting decision rankles
Talks between the Rochester Civic Theatre and Friends of the RCT, the group of volunteers that remains in an informal boycott against the theater, have already resulted in disagreement between the two.
Soon after holding talks on Monday, the theater's interim director, Teresa Waldof, released a press statement announcing the creation of a seven-member advisory task force. It said the task force would be made up of Waldof, three board members and three Friends of RCT members. The formation of a task force involving both groups seemed to suggest a thawing of relations.
But the announcement came as news to Friends of RCT, who said they were surprised and shocked at the press release. While they saw the talks as a beginning, they didn't see themselves as belonging to a formalized group.
"At best, Teresa's press release was premature," said Deb Fuehrer, a member of Friends whom Waldof listed as a member of the task force. "We had an initial meeting to create talking points."
During an interview this morning. Waldof called the meeting a "great opportunity to build bridges with the volunteers" and expressed surprise at the response from Friends of RCT. She said the press statement was coordinated with other board members but not with Friends of RCT members. Waldof said the meeting lasted an hour and half and that another meeting was planned.
"This is positive news for the theater," Waldof said of the meeting. "They state that they're supportive of the theater and want to move forward, so I"m surprised that they find this in that light. We had an excellent meeting last night, a great sharing of ideas."
Fuehrer said Friends of RCT has been seeking a meeting with Civic Theatre board members since March. She said she was hoping that the two sides could sit down and create a set of talking points that would help resolve differences between the two sides. The sides emphasized different things at the meeting, Fuehrer said. Waldof and the board members were more focused on "how we can help the mission" of the theater.
"I am disappointed and somewhat shocked by this press release, as it's premature by a mile," Tony Drumm, a Friends of RCT member who also was named to the task force in Waldof's statement, said in an electronic message responding to the Post Bulletin.
"It makes me question whether this 'task force' is to be taken seriously or just a PR action," Drumm wrote. "I hope it is serious, but the poor decision-making we have exposed seems to be unabated."
In recent months, the Friends of RCT have aired grievances including the loss of voting rights for theater members, lack of transparency on the part of the board, the elimination of the full-time artistic director position and failure to respond to allegations of sexual harassment against Gregory Stavrou, the former executive director. The group's members have said they will not audition for or participate in upcoming RCT productions.
In the press statement, Waldof said, "The Civic provides many forms of performing arts to our community, and the formation of the Advisory Task Force will allow us to accomplish our goals to educate and enrich the adults and young people of Rochester and southeastern Minnesota."
The statement said the task force included Waldof, board members Chad Campbell, Jerry Kvasnicka and Jeff Haynes. Named representatives of the Friends group included Fuehrer, Drumm and Pam Allan.
"I want us all to come together for the benefit of the Rochester Civic Theatre and we have many talented people with many skills who can help RCT in a variety of ways," Fuehrer said. "I don't want this press release faux pas to throw us back several paces."