June 5th 2017 Statement
“The Rochester Civic Theatre is a volunteer-based, community nonprofit organization that educates and enriches the adults and young people of Rochester and Southeastern Minnesota through the production and presentation of live theatre.”
This mission statement guides us, the primary stakeholders of the Rochester Civic Theatre, to bring our talents, funds, knowledge and expertise to the Civic to create entertaining and educational productions which rival in quality any other theatre in this region and even in the state. We wish to continue to adhere to this model, encouraging diversity and community involvement through volunteer support. Unfortunately, recent events have caused us to question whether or not we can effectively do so through our support of the Civic.
On Monday, June 5th, the Rochester Civic Theatre board of directors eliminated the Artistic Director position and dismissed Greg Miller, the staff Artistic Director of the last 27 years. According to their press release, the board of directors has decided to seek contract staff to direct in-house productions instead. For many of us, Greg was the first face we saw at the Civic, the face we associated with the quality of its productions, and the glue that kept our community together. The significance of his loss cannot be overstated.
However, this is not the only change this board has recently made. Until recently, the Civic was an organization with voting membership. This means that members had the right to vote upon issues which directly impacted their representation at the annual member meeting, including board membership. However, at their last meeting, the board of directors decided to break with over 60 years of tradition and stripped the members of voting rights. We requested more transparency, accountability and an opportunity for our voices to be heard; they reduced transparency and removed membership entirely.
The thousands of volunteer-hours we have given to the theatre foster collaboration within the community and is fiscally responsible. We all freely give our skills, funds, talents, and support to Rochester Civic Theatre and to the community. Unfortunately the Board has removed the voice of members in how we provide that support. We have the courage to believe in the Civic’s mission and provide thousands of volunteer hours to work as ushers, theatre teachers, house managers, building sets, stage crew, props, teaching child protection classes, running sound and light, actors, all the elements to create a quality artistic product. However, we cannot do so if we have no confidence that the leadership of the Civic understands the organization, or shares our interpretation of its mission.
As a community, we have lost our confidence in the vision offered by the current board of directors, who seem content to turn our theatre into the Rochester Civic Rental Space. Their decisions show that they have no regard for the 60 year legacy of our organization, which was founded by a dedicated group of non-professional actors who bonded together in 1951 to put on a show. The Civic grew from that simple vision to create a place which provides unmatched opportunities of creative outlets for artists to do their work.
We are a community of artists united in pursuing and supporting the mission statement of the theatre. We volunteers, donors, artists, and professionals no longer feel welcome at the Civic. Our voices have been silenced - but not for long. Today we speak out.