SAILING THE SHIP OF AMBITION
June 30, 2020
Dear Friends and Family of the Theatre Guild,
As of June 30, 2020 my term as President of your Vero Beach Theatre Guild comes to an end. I have served on the Board of Directors in this capacity since July 1 of 2017 and have many wonderful memories that I will take along with me.
When I set out to run for the board, I branded my tenure with the slogan "We sail the ship of ambition; may we anchor in the harbor of success." At that time, my election platform was to get the Guild's long overdue Articles of Incorporation updated along with getting the By Laws rewritten and our Policies & Procedures Manual current; making our non-profit corporation compliant with our 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status. These were accomplished in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. It was my goal to bring the daily operations of the Guild into the 21st Century. The ship we sailed plowed through rough seas and uncharted territories, but after three short years, although we have not anchored, we indeed see the harbor of success on the horizon.
It is customary for the outgoing President to make his or her "State of the Union" speech at the Annual Membership & Election Meeting in the spring. As you know, due to Covid-19, this process was done through the mails in April. The outgoing Presidents also have the opportunity to make their departure speech at the Annual Genie Awards Banquet at the end of May. Unfortunately, the awards ceremony for the 2019 - 2020 season has been postponed and will be combined with the 2020 - 2021 season next year. So I would like to take this last opportunity to share with you the gratitude I feel thanks to a very hard working group of board members, paid staff and the hundreds of volunteers that made this voyage unforgettable on so many levels.
In the Fall of 2017, we set sail in very turbulent waters; having to make 5 major changes to our scheduled season which began with a late opening due to Hurricane Irma. The confusion we must have caused you! The first Board of Directors' Retreat was established in November where we gathered out west for a weekend learning from past mistakes and implementing ways to tighten up our organizational skills and transitioning into our dreams and goals for the future. The first 5 year plan was implemented at that time and by the end of the year, the seas had calmed down a bit and we turned our ship starboard as we headed into the 2018 - 2019 Season.
2018 brought treacherous winds and rough sea once again when the Board mandated that we were to take stock of our costume, prop and scenery inventory and keep only what could be housed on the 3rd floor of the east wing, which would eliminate nearly $15,000 annually for off-property storage. The elimination of so much that had accumulated over the years was not met with passion and unfortunately we lost many long term Guild volunteers who did not agree with this necessary move. The campus expansion was designed by a previous board who envisioned that the third floor would be storage for costumes and props, the second a rehearsal hall and workshop classroom and the main floor would be the home of the much needed dressing rooms, make-up areas and hair station. The transition from storage to usage was accomplished by dozens of very hard working volunteers and we made the move happen in December. The months of January, February and March were dedicated to sorting, cataloging and storing those irreplaceable items that were chosen to be saved. In the spring, I initiated the Apron Series, presenting 5 fully staged readings over the course of 4 days! The Apron Series continues to give newcomers and veteran performers the opportunity to take part in presenting contemporary and classical works for the theatre that, due to financial restrictions, would normally not be given a full scale production. It has proved to be a great training ground for new directors, stage managers and technical personnel on lights and sound.
The 2018 - 2019 season was an artistic as well as box office winning bonanza. Acclaimed Tony nominee Michael Naffziger was hired to design the entire season of sets and Jeff Hall joined our staff to replace Shawn Webber who departed for new digs in Atlanta. Jeff and his crew turned out some phenomenal sets and the enthusiasm raced through the halls of our campus; uplifting spirits and creating a feeling of excitement around the entire theatre. The atmosphere was charged with the knowledge that bigger and better things were coming in the seasons ahead. Lots of physical improvements began around the property as well. During my presidency, air conditioners were repaired or replaced, the stage floor was resurfaced, dozens of new lighting fixtures were purchased, and our Galaxy of Stars was created along the patio wall recognizing those who so generously contributed to the construction of the east wing.
We full throttled ahead during the 2019 - 2020 season with announcing a 9 play season, expanding our operation year-round! We scheduled 3 big-name, recognizable musicals and 3 of the funniest comedies to hit our stage plus a 3 show Apron Series dedicated to the works by Arthur Miller. The Treasure Coast premiere production of "Cats" directed by Michael Naffziger opened the season in July to major sell-outs and critical acclaim. We felt fortunate to escape our second end-of-summer hurricane season, but suspected the storm clouds were brewing once more and one week into the run of "Jesus Christ Superstar" those clouds opened up with a deluge that dashed all our dreams, hopes and plans against the rocks! Covid-19! It hasn't sunk this ship yet, and we are grateful to you, our generous supporters, who have continued your faith in us and what we offer to a very diverse community here on the Treasure Coast.
During this past year, in part because of this virus caused "down time" we here at the Guild have made many changes. Not just within the framework of our operations, but to the physical campus as well. Jeff and his crew have done an incredible job of getting the auditorium painted, dozens and dozens of new lighting instruments purchased and installed and all new body microphones for our actors were purchased just before Superstar was postponed. As for the building itself, we have made major strides sifting through years of stored paperwork, cataloging a vast inventory of play scripts, painting the halls and new baseboards, remodeling 3 storage rooms into workable administrative offices and resurfacing the terrazzo floors. I'm personally proud of getting the new solid roof over the lobby patio completed with festive carnival lights, ceiling fans and a real bar where we now serve beer and wine under our new licensing. Kudos have to go out to Don Croteau for finally getting our Theatre Guild Marquee designed and installed on 26th Street, through the generosity of the Schuman Foundation. Many of these things were long time in coming, but with patience and perseverance, these projects have been completed.
I simply cannot wait for you to see a lot more of the wonderful surprises we have in store for you when you visit us when we're back up and running again.
And take heart!
We will be back up and running again!. We are forging ahead with the thought that we will combat this virus and reopen "Jesus Christ Superstar" on January 8, 2021. We are also scheduled to present the 3rd and final show of our 2019 - 2020 Apron Series, An Evening with Arthur Miller. His classic "Death of a Salesman" directed by Arthur Pingree will take the stage December 4, 5 & 6, 2020 and should we be allowed to open sooner, we will be bringing back a fully staged version of the hilarious comedy "Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight", directed by Jon Putzke for three weekends in November. Keep an eye on our website for up-to-date happenings around our entire campus. verobeachtheatreguild.com
Tonight at midnight, I will have handed over navigating this ship to your new Guild President, Lisa McNamee. Although Lisa is quite new to the Guild, she comes with the ambition and enthusiasm (not to mention the qualifications) of being an excellent captain in taking over the helm and navigating the Guild forward to an exciting 2020 - 2021 season.
I have so many people to thank for supporting my vision and goals for the Guild's future and I have no doubt the cornerstones have been laid. It would be impossible for me to include all those by name who have helped to make the major changes around this theatre a reality, but you know who you are and please know that I couldn't possibly thank you enough for all you have contributed during these past three years to the making of the all "new" Vero Beach Theatre Guild.
I do have to single out my wife Margaret who wholeheartedly supported the many hundreds and hundreds of hours I have devoted to the Theatre Guild in the past three years. The dinners I've missed, the weekends that just disappeared, the family vacations that were delayed and the moments of frustration and anxiety I carried around with me day to day--she put up with it all like a real First Mate; the best on any ship! And I think it's admirable that she is supporting me once again as your newly Board appointed Interim Artistic Director of the Guild through December 31, 2020. Perhaps by then, this ship will indeed anchor in the harbor of success.
Thanks to each and every one of you for taking this voyage of a lifetime with me.