Dallas — Michael Jenkins, 74, who has been President and Managing Director at Dallas Summer Musicals since 1994—but whose career with the organization goes back to when he was an usher at the Music Hall at Fair Park at age 14 and then became an assistant to original DSM managing director Charles Meeker at 17—has been fired.
The news was reported in the Dallas Morning News, which tells Jenkins' side of the story. Jenkins has filed an age discrimination suit and alleges that DSM owes him nearly $400,000 from a personal loan.
DSM has released a statement, which you can read below; later in the day they released a second statement, also below, which notes that DSM has suffered losses every season, except for one, since 2008 (the year before AT&T Performing Arts Center opened).
Jenkins, who was only the third head of the organization in 75 years, after Meeker and Tom Hughes, claims that DSM has had a successful season with its shows so far, thanks to such blockbusters as Wicked, which is currently running. But it's no secret there has been some hand-wringing within the organization as AT&T Performing Arts Center has come onto the scene with a competing Broadway series that has been programming more of the newer and edgier tours that Jenkins, who has been adamant about booking only family-friendly fare, wouldn't book (such as the blockbuster The Book of Mormon).
It'll be interesting to see how DSM, which turned 75 years old in 2015, moves forward. Several years ago the organization forged an alliance with Performing Arts Fort Worth, which is the other presenter of Broadway tours in DFW, piggy-backing on tours so that many of them begin at the 90-year-old Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas and then travel to Fort Worth's Bass Performance Hall. That way they share marketing costs, among other benefits. It also launched a successful High School Musical Theater Awards, which just had its fifth ceremony and has become the country's second largest such program.
“I wish Michael the best and I’m hopeful we can continue our co-presenting partnership with Dallas Summer Musicals,” said Dione Kennedy, President & CEO, Performing Arts Fort Worth, Inc., in a statement.
As Jenkins has become more active as an investing producer in Broadway shows, he has won nearly two dozen Tony Awards for him and DSM by association. That also means DSM can book those tours first, such as An American in Paris, which is supposed to be on the 2017 season, which will be announced soon.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: Dallas Summer Musicals has just issued a press release with a plan to "Chart a New Course." Here's the release in its entirety:
(DALLAS, May 2, 2016) – The Dallas Summer Musicals announced today the beginning of “a new generation” of leadership at DSM, the non-profit institution that has delivered Broadway musical theater to North Texas for 76 years. David Hyslop, 73, a distinguished arts expert and administrator who assisted the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in a key transition period, was named Interim Managing Director of DSM. He replaces Michael Jenkins, who has been the President and Managing Director of DSM since 1995. Jenkins’s departure is effective immediately.
Ted Munselle, DSM’s volunteer Chairman, said DSM is fortunate that a seasoned veteran, such as David Hyslop, is available to assist the organization in this transition period.
“David knows Dallas; he knows the arts community very well,” said Munselle. “He immediately recognized the future opportunities for DSM and the Music Hall. Most importantly, he is a bridge builder, someone who wants to help us establish a collaborative partnership with the people who care deeply about Dallas, Fair Park and DSM’s leadership in the arts.”
DSM’s Chair-Elect Randy Wright also praised Hyslop’s appointment saying he expects the new Interim Managing Director to push the Music Hall at Fair Park as an important venue in the competition for meetings and other entertainment events.
“The Music Hall is a fabulous under-used city asset that can buoy the community’s effort to create a revitalized destination at Fair Park,” said Wright. “The Music Hall should be competing with local venues and nearby locations in other states for the best concerts and corporate events,” said Wright. “It has the best sound system in North Texas; that’s what makes the Music Hall the best venue for Broadway productions.”
Hyslop, a respected arts veteran who has led and consulted myriad arts organizations including theaters, has agreed to serve as DSM’s Interim Managing Director while its Board launches a search for a permanent Managing Director.
“I see DSM as a stable and beloved institution,” said Hyslop, “and it is a key anchor at Fair Park, bringing in the most visitors outside the State Fair. Nevertheless, it has huge unrealized potential to have a bigger regional presence for both the entertainment dollars from theater-goers as well as financial support from the community. There’s a lot of work to be done by all stakeholders of the DSM family.”
Hyslop met with DSM staff and key personnel Monday morning.
“Clearly, they want to focus on a turnaround for DSM,” said Hyslop. “We also have the presentation of Wicked right now. I saw a group of people dedicated to the principle that, ‘the show must go on,’ and I am confident this will be a seamless transition for theater-goers.”
Munselle said board members are not in a position to discuss the departure of Michael Jenkins.
“The details are still being worked out,” said Munselle. “When we can discuss this personnel issue further, we will.”
UPDATE 6 p.m.: Dallas Summer Musicals releases a second statement:
(DALLAS, May 2, 2016)--Ted Munselle, the volunteer chairman of Dallas Summer Musicals, today released a further statement regarding leadership changes at the organization. Earlier today, DSM confirmed that Michael Jenkins is no longer the president and managing director of the organization. The executive committee also named arts management veteran David Hyslop, 73, as interim managing director.
“For some,” said Munselle, “this announcement is difficult to accept, but DSM’s Executive Committee believed that it was clear that it’s time for a change.”
Munselle said the Executive Committee (EC), for over a year, has been immersed in an intense assessment of the organization, with special attention on management accountability and professional examinations of DSM’s financial performance including reporting, profitability, expenditures and investments. He said DSM has suffered losses every season, except for one, since 2008.
“Theater is a difficult and competitive business, and the EC was concerned about DSM’s financial losses as well as the quality of its financial reporting,” said Munselle. “We engaged a leading national law firm to lead a team of forensic investigators, including a group of auditors from a Big Four CPA firm, to conduct a forensic examination of the organization’s books and records.”
Their report was delivered to DSM’s Executive Committee last Thursday. After hearing the report, The Executive Committee, in a near unanimous vote, decided that it was time for a change in leadership at DSM.
Munselle said that clearly DSM has a bright future and is looking forward to working closely with David Hyslop as DSM seeks a new direction for the future. DSM has been presenting the Best of Broadway to the North Texas area for 76 years and looks forward to keeping it going for another 76 years and more.
Munselle also added that the 2017 season is almost complete and will be announced soon.