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Kate Paulson and Gloria Vivica Benavides

An Open Letter to the WaterTower Board

Seven theater artists write a letter to the board of directors at Addison's WaterTower Theatre regarding the recent resignation of Joanie Schultz.



published Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Photo: Courtesy
Kate Paulson and Gloria Vivica Benavides

 

Editor's Note: The following letter was crafted by seven local theater artists, and we at TheaterJones are happy to publish it. Editor Mark Lowry has been working on his own essay about the resignation of Schultz from one of our larger-budget professional theaters, and what it means for a theater scene that is trying to look forward.

More to come on TheaterJones.com.

EDIT: The WaterTower board has responded to this letter. You can read it here.

 

 

November 30, 2018

 

Dear WaterTower Theatre Board of Directors,

 

In the wake of the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Joanie Schultz, members of the North Texas arts community are left with concerns regarding the future of the theater. As the board moves to make consequential decisions regarding next steps for WaterTower Theatre (WTT), we would like to make clear our stances on the progress and future of the theater.

You released a statement, which included the following:

“We as a board have made a commitment to continue building on and protecting the theater’s legacy...”

The legacy we, as artists from all over the DFW theatre community, are interested in building on is one of transparency, intersectionality, artistic rigor, racial and gender diversity, and inclusive and innovative storytelling. Your statement protects a legacy that has been historically exclusionary to women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Over the last two years, under Joanie Schultz’s direction, WTT featured a higher percentage of women directors, artists of color (actors, directors, and playwrights), and community engagement initiatives (including the Intersections talkback series featured in American Theatre Magazine) than ever before and was essential in initiating Not In Our House policies in North Texas in response to the national #MeToo movement. These steps forward catapulted WTT into the national theatre conversation for the first time.

On a local level, the mission and vision Schultz crafted brought work, safety, and a home for artists from all backgrounds; WaterTower Theatre became an outstanding example of the world we want to live in and better reflected the community of Addison. Stories from new collaborators and audience members highlighted that it was under Schultz’s tenure that they first felt unapologetically welcomed in the theatre. This is a direct result of Schultz’s thoughtful and intentional leadership, one that valued the artistic process and fostered community. If the role of a regional theatre is to reflect the values of its region, Schultz made a conscious effort to listen to the voices of that community and indeed give them a home at WTT.

In a time when WaterTower Theatre was garnering national attention, Schultz’s departure brings unflattering attention to Addison and North Texas theatre and confuses the arts community at large. Schultz is a well-qualified theatre artist and has strong ties to multiple artistic communities across the nation. Her premature departure reflects directly on our community’s ability and willingness to take our place on the national stage.

We will not stand for steps backward that erase the work and voices Schultz has helped bring into the fold of DFW theatre. We argue that the legacy you’ve stated to protect does not continue the work started in the last two years. This will not be tolerated by the community that fills your casts, backstage crews, creative teams, and audiences.

To demonstrate your commitment and respect to North Texas artists and audiences, and to ensure WTT continues the work that was begun in the past two years, we recommend you adopt the following action items:

First, we ask for transparency from the Board of WaterTower Theatre in their search for a new leader. We define transparent policies as:

  • A public statement from the board which identifies the specific qualities you are seeking in a new artistic director and clarifies what you mean by the theater’s “legacy.”
  • A complete and publicly accessible list of the members of your search committee for the new artistic director.

We also recommend this search committee reflects the diversity of Addison itself, a policy in line with the importance of a regional theater representing the people which it serves.

Furthermore, we recommend your theater retains the following inclusive policies put in place over the past year-and-a-half:

  • That your current mission statement, “to create innovative, diverse theatre that builds community by fostering empathy and dialogue”, will be carried on into future seasons.
  • That your season and staffing therein (including but not limited to playwrights, actors, directors, technicians, and designers) continues its recent trend toward reflecting the entire population of Addison, rather than a select group of donors or subscribers.
  • That the theater continues its Intersections community engagement programming, which positively reflects your stated goal of “[connecting] the world to Addison and Addison to the world”

This letter also serves as a call to action for North Texas arts donors, board members, and subscribers who share our concerns about the possibility of losing the innovative and diverse programming developed at WTT over the past two years. Your voice matters. Without your insight and advocacy, the North Texas area cannot become the world class arts community we aspire to be.

Writing this letter is a labor of love intended to demonstrate our passion for elevating the quality and reputation of North Texas theatre, our respect for those striving to make the theater a better place to work and to be entertained, and to ensure that our community works toward making arts institutions safer, more inclusive forums for artists and audiences alike. In devising the best practices requested in this letter, we hope WaterTower Theatre will reciprocate our passion and respect by taking up our call.

 

Clockwise from top left: Juan Rodriguez, Mandy Rausch, Haley Nelson, Evan Michael Woods, and Jonathan Norton

Signed,

 

Gloria Vivica Benavides

Actor and Educator

 

Kate Paulsen

Actor and Producer

 

Evan Michael Woods

Actor and Photographer

 

Jonathan Norton

Playwright

 

Haley Nelson

Dramaturg

 

Mandy Rausch

Director and Actor

 

Juan Rodriguez

Actor and Marketer

 

Co-signed:

Elliot Marvin Sims - Actor

Stormi Demerson - Actor

Camille Monae - Actor

Clay Wheeler - Actor, Director & Educator

Ace Anderson - Actor and Creative Director

Mindamora Rocha - Actor and Educator

Marti Etheridge - Actor

Vicki Meek - Artist/Cultural Critic/retired South Dallas Cultural Center Manager  

Bryan Pitts - Actor

Kathryn Taylor Rose - Actor and Marketer

Jeremy Dumont - Director & Choreographer

Gina Weber - Arts Patron

Quintin Jones - Actor and Choreographer

Calvin Scott Roberts - Actor

Justin A Duncan - Actor and Director

Emily P. Faith - Actor and Educator

Alle Mims - Actor and Activist

Cameron Casey - Actor and Director

Chad Withers - Actor and Teacher

Joshua Hahlen - Actor and Designer

Janielle Kastner - Playwright and Actor

Kelsey Buckley - Actor

Jack William Rodgers - Actor and Producer

Christopher Lew - Actor

Taylor Donaldson - Stage Manager and Marketer

Lindsey Humphries - Director and Actor

Jessie Wallace - Actor, Costumer, Company Manager

Madison Calhoun - Actor and Teacher

Natalia Gutierrez-Borja - Actor and Educator

Jennifer Kuenzer - Actor

Sienna Riehle - Performer, Director, SM

Kelly Schaaf - Music Director and Actress

Drew Wall - Actor and Producer

Mason Bunkelman - Stage Manager and Student

Kayla Freeman - Drama Therapist and Director

Alexandra Sutherland - Actress

Stacie Cleland - Actor

Rachel MacKnight - Actor

Chris Ramirez - Actor and Educator

Tatiana Lucia Gantt - Actor and Arts Administrator

Rodney Garza - Actor

Sam Henderson - Lecturer of Theatre and Film, Actor, Filmmaker

M. Wilborn - Actor and Photographer

Anonymous - Actor and Producer

Sam Kumpe - Playwright

Cheyenne Raquel Farley - Educator, Playwright, Actor

Allison Elsey - Stitcher

Shawn Gann - Actor, Director, and Producer

Dominic Pecikonis - Performer

Vanessa DeSilvio - Actor

Dayna S. Fries - Actor

Angi Burns - Director And Educator

Ryan Matthieu Smith - Director, Producer, Designer

Matt Grevan - Stage Manager

Jocelyn Tiner - Actor, Improviser

Matthew Roy Rodriguez - Actor and Educator

Johnny R. Bradford, Jr. - Actor

Jonathan Hardin - Actor and Director

Kira Rockwell - Playwright

Kristen Kelso - Actor, Director, and Translator

Natalie Hope Johnson - Actor

Lindsay Jenkins - Dramaturg, Educator

Yvonne Nino - Educator and Designer

Evelyn D. Rodriguez - Theater Enthusiast

Ian Mead Moore - Actor, Music Director

Tiffany Navarro - Theatre Patron

Tyler Pietruszewski - Actor

Christina Cranshaw - Actor

Scott Osborne - Designer and Educator

Seth Johnson - Artistic Director and Stage Manager

Brynne Huffman - Actor

Becki McDonald - Director, Actor, Choreographer

Madeleine Morris - Actor & Stage Manager

Laura Saladino - Actor

Krystal Love Price - Former Stage Manager, Current Avid Theatre Supporter

Chelsea M. Warren - Scenic Designer

Lauren LeBlanc - actor + writer

Branden A. Loera - Actor

Jonathan McInnis - Actor and Photographer           

Wendy Searcy-Woode - Scenic Designer + Builder + Actor              

Logan McGraw - Actor and Educator            

Kenneisha Thompson - Actor, Educator, Theatre Patron                

Sky Williams - Actor              

Tamera Hurdle - Theatre Patron                   

Amanda Carson Green - Actor and Director             

Courtney Mentzel - Actor                 

Matt Stepan - Actor & Director                     

Derick Longoria - Theatre Technician, Designer                   

Ardis Campbell - Theatre patron                  

Jeremiah Johnson - Actor, Variety Artist, Therapeutic Clown                      

Ashley Johnson - Writer                    

Lauren Wheat - Designer                  

Shannon McGrann - Actor                

Alissa Klusky - Theater Patron                      

Emily Bragg - Actor and Teacher                   

Grace Keller Scotch - Actor               

Jeremy Schwartz - Actor                   

Tyrees Allen - Actor               

William Acker - Actor, Dancer                      

William (Bill) Earl Ray - Director/Actor                     

Sarah Greenman - playwright, actor, and Director of Operations at StateraArts                

Fabian Rodriguez - Actor                   

Tiffany Nichole Greene - Director, Actor, Creator

 

 

» If you would like to sign the letter, you can do so here, and we'll periodically update the names on this TheaterJones letter. Thanks For Reading





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An Open Letter to the WaterTower Board
Seven theater artists write a letter to the board of directors at Addison's WaterTower Theatre regarding the recent resignation of Joanie Schultz.
by Gloria Vivica Benavides, Kate Paulsen, Haley Nelson, Jonathan Norton, Mandy Rausch, Juan Rodriguez, and Evan Michael Woods

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Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie Theatre Three Dallas Theatre Center Watertower Granville Titus Artsong Noel Marley CCBT The Nutcracker Shimmer and Shine Garland Symphony Orchestra MCL Grand The Ten Tenors Cliburn Holiday Concert Package Black Nativity Undermain Theatre Uptown Players MCL Grand Dallas Symphony Riders in the Sky KD Studios White Christmas UNT College of Music Open Classicial Melinda Massie
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