Real-life drama

By Eric Gallippo

Thatcher’s release questioned by theater community

Kristine Thatcher hadn’t even accepted an award at Monday night’s City Pulse Pulsar Awards dinner before she received her first standing ovation. The applause was triggered by actor Doak Bloss who shared an anecdote about a performance by a young “Kristy Thatcher” he saw at the BoarsHead Theater that inspired him to take up acting. Later, he said, he got a chance to star in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which Thatcher directed. During a rehearsal, Bloss said Thatcher stopped and singled him out to say, “That’s acting.” “Believe me, that can sustain you for years,” Bloss said.

A sustained applause followed.

A few presentations later, a visibly emotional Thatcher, who was informed on May 28 that BoarsHead would not renew her contract as the theater’s artistic director at the end of August, was at the podium accepting a trophy for Best Director of a Play. “You people are freakin’ amazing,” she exclaimed.

She was back at the podium minutes later with “Permanent Collection” stars Alan Bomar Jones and Michael Joseph Mitchell, who came from out of town for the event, to accept the award for Best Play. “I don’t do this by myself. I do this with the help of a lot of people. I’d like those people to stand up and for you to applaud,” Thatcher told the audience at Houlihan’s, before calling the names of her comrades at BoarsHead Theater’s table. Mitchell said it was no hyperbole to call Thatcher the most “soulful director I’ve ever worked with.”

Hyperbole or not, BoarsHead’s board of directors has decided the theater, facing a budget crunch, can no longer afford two full-time executives. Thatcher was salaried at $54,135 for 2007 and for $59,135 for fiscal year 2008-’09 (which does not account for additional benefits).

John Dale Smith, who has served as the theater’s executive director since October 2007 and will stay employed with the theater, is budgeted for a salary of $59,923 for fiscal year 2008’09.

While President Larry Meyer and other board members have held that the decision was purely based on finances, members of the local theater community and public have expressed disappointment and even outrage with the board’s decision. Some have questioned whether the board’s decision was unanimous.

While board secretary Zoe Slagle said the board’s proceedings were confidential, she offered assurances that the decision was made for financial reasons. “The board is totally independent, and the board has worked so hard over the last several years to keep [the theater] going. It’s very independent of administration.”

But one source, who asked not to be named, said some problems could have been solved with more discussion beforehand. “I think there is an agenda going on, and no one is willing to say what the agenda is,” the source said.

Another unnamed source said many subscribers had contacted BoarsHead, asking for the addresses of board members.

BoarsHead co-founder John Peakes, who stepped down as artistic director in 2003 to move to Philadelphia, said he warned Thatcher when Smith was hired. “I thought he would probably maneuver to try and get the job away from [Thatcher], and I told her so, and she said she thought he was really on board as a team player,” Peakes said. Smith declined to comment on Peakes remarks.

Peakes is scheduled to return to the theater in September to star in “Beau Jest” with Carmen Decker, but he questioned whether he still wants to do the show because of Thatcher’s dismissal. “I’m sad about what’s happening, and I’m not sure I want to be involved with the BoarsHead that seems to be emerging,” Peakes said.

For his part, Smith said he has no intention of becoming artistic director. He said he has avoided Internet message boards where some have implied he is angling for Thatchers job.

“My task right now is to ignore all the stuff going on out there in the blogs and keep the theater open,” he said.