The Garden Theater has canceled other programs as unrest between staff and the board of nonprofit Winter Garden continues to spill into the public domain and affect the results of the organization.
The comedy film “Clue,” which is part of the theater’s interactive film series, as well as the stage production of “Paper Thin” have been pulled from the schedule, board chairman Allie Braswell confirmed. “Clue” was scheduled to screen Aug. 7, with themed entertainment before the show, and “Paper Thin” would have opened the 2022-23 theatrical season on Oct. 7. This season was already starting late after the previous cancellation of “A Bronx” in August. Tale.”
“The decision has been made to cancel an interactive cinema event due to very low ticket sales, while labor issues have resulted in the cancellation of ‘Paper Thin,'” Braswell wrote in a post. E-mail.
In another blow, this weekend’s performances of the hit musical “On Your Feet” have been canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in production. Ticket holders could receive refunds or receive credit for another garden show, Braswell said — although patrons could wait quite a while.
According to the Garden’s website, the remaining performances of “On Your Feet” have sold out, and the next play currently slated to hit the stage – the kid-friendly musical “Honk” – isn’t expected to open until mid-November.
Theater officials are still deciding whether to add more performances of “On Your Feet” or replace “Paper Thin” with another show. Although Braswell did not specify the nature of the “work problems”, the garden saw the creative staff resign after the resignation in June of artistic director Joseph Walsh and it struggled to launch “A Bronx Tale” before its possible cancellation.
“These are unfortunate disruptions,” Braswell wrote, “but the good news is that the Garden Theater is financially strong and able to weather these events.”
Staff members, however, say the Garden’s finances are taking a hit.
In an email to board members, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, staffers reported that “at this time last year, we had 803 subscribers. This year, in the same time frame, we have 612, as we had to cancel a subscription acquisition letter, emails and social media campaigns due to the news “A Bronx Tale “.
The email, dated July 5 and not signed by an individual employee, goes on to highlight the cost: “So far we have reimbursed $20,077 since 6/24.”
Braswell told the Sentinel that “the board has a fiduciary responsibility to rely on our financial records in terms of in-theatre operations” and said he could not validate the staff’s claims.
In that same July 5 email, the board was asked to answer questions such as how to improve communication, steps taken to hire new leaders and what staff should tell customers. about the situation.
On Monday, staffers went further by publicly criticizing the board in a lengthy statement posted on the garden’s Facebook page; the board had the post terminated a few hours later.
“As staff, we have been pushed into a position of exhaustion, both physically and mentally,” the post read. “Our interactions with the board have resulted in unanswered questions, aggression, retaliatory behavior and toxicity.”
Braswell called the post “unauthorized” and pointed out that the board allowed employees to speak freely on their own social media sites.
“The Board has been patient with the actions that staff have posted over the past few weeks on their own personal channels. We did not ask that they cease their activities,” he wrote. “However, use of the theater platform is a violation of company policy and therefore inappropriate.”
In Facebook’s statement, staff made several requests to the board, including filling the vacancy of the theater’s general manager by the end of August, contacting the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College for board training and reinstate Walsh as artistic director or replacing him with the theater’s artistic direction consultant, Roberta Emerson.
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The tension between staff and board first became public when Walsh resigned in June, saying months of service as artistic director without a general manager to co-run the theater had taken a toll on his health. . The post of chief executive had been vacant since December, when Elisa Spencer-Kaplan stepped down.
In Facebook’s unsigned statement, staff members said Walsh’s departure left them feeling “unprotected,” so they chose to expose the root of their complaints.
“The advice was deliberated in [its] lack of communication, lack of respect for Garden Theater staff members, dismissal of valid questions and concerns, and bullying behavior,” the statement read. “We will not let this continue in silence.”
Emerson did not comment on the situation; Walsh did not return a request for comment on whether he would consider returning to acting.
In an attempt to improve the situation, a “listening session” between staff and board members was held in late June – but the withdrawn Facebook statement said reconciliation was still a long way off.
“Despite an in-person mediation meeting with the board and staff,” the statement said, “the questions and concerns we raised with the board remain unanswered.”
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