Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frustration reigns as Cottonwood exiles Readers' Theater

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 4:42 PM

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Today, the Gazette published a letter from longtime local activists Bill and Genie Durland, who together also run Readers’ Theater. That organization was slated to produce an original play, written by Bill, on May 1 and 2 at the David H. Lord Theater at Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

The play, Tribal Tales of Paternal Gods and Predator Peoples: A Parody on Power, Privilege and Property, asks, “What role do religious legends play in the wars, violence and injustice in today’s world?” Durland, a lawyer and board member for the Colorado Springs chapter of the ACLU, has authored numerous books and plays focusing on political, philosophical and religious topics, such as The Ghosts of America Past: A Satirical Morality Play.

According to the Durlands, who also sent their letter to the Indy, their group was told abruptly that Cottonwood would be canceling the play, and that they weren't to return to the theater. No word was given in advance to audience members who showed up only to find out the show had been canceled.

They write:
To the Editor:

After six months preparation and rehearsals, the Colorado Springs Readers’ Theater Players were excited that our sixth play, Tribal Tales, was about to be presented to the community on Friday, May 1 at the David Lord Theater in the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. Our contract with Cottonwood gave us Friday night, the 1st and Sunday afternoon, the 3rd for two presentations of the play and to split the proceeds. Seven hours before curtain time, an employee of Cottonwood sent us an email stating that they had summarily cancelled our opportunity to present our play, which had been thoroughly publicized for weeks and for which we knew that people were even coming from out of state to attend. People showed up at the Center unawares and were simply told the play was cancelled with no explanation. There was no legal or moral reason for this precipitous and deeply harmful action on the part of Cottonwood management. When the director was asked why by a member of our cast, he replied that he was “under no obligation to explain his actions.” We are shocked and saddened by these events. Not only did our players put their hearts and souls into their parts during many rehearsals, people in the community were eagerly anticipating the production. The Cottonwood Center for the Arts holds itself out to be a community resource and a reputable business and should be accountable for their executive actions to their board and to this community. It seems, in this case, we cannot expect that to happen.


Bill and Genie Durland, Author and Editor of all six of the Readers’ Theater productions enjoyed by this community over the past six years.
Today, Cottonwood executive director Jon Khoury took to Facebook to clear the air:


In a follow-up email with the Indy, the Durlands explain that they had showed Khoury the script to their play, without issue, and had signed a contract with the Lord Theater manager. The contract didn’t stipulate the lights not be modified. As far as what the Durlands can speak to directly, problems between Cottonwood staff and the Readers' Theater members were not confronted before it was too late:
We were given a contract … which ... has no specifics whatsoever about Cottonwood’s protocols and behaviors expected of us. Nothing about their obligations or our obligations. If Jon had concerns “weeks ago” as he said, he should have shared them. We were kept in the dark.

... We were told by Jon that we were rude and hurt staff’s feelings but nobody ever told us that so how could we correct the problem? We told Jon in a letter we wrote him, trying to make clear our position that we felt it was his responsibility as director to convey to us complaints from his staff as they happened. We would have been more than willing and able to make whatever adjustments were necessary. Adequate communication was nonexistent.
Except for an unpaid fee to a graphic designer, there’s no money at issue, as Readers' Theater and Cottonwood planned to split ticket sales 50-50 following the show.

For their part, the Durlands are moving forward. Tribal Tales will now be staged at 7 p.m., May 16, at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church (details here).

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