Dear WaterTower Theatre Board of Directors:
In the wake of the abrupt and unexpected resignation of Joanie Schultz, members of the North Texas arts community are left with concerns regarding the future of the theater. As the board moves to make consequential decisions regarding next steps for WaterTower Theatre (WTT), we would like to make clear our stances on the progress and future of the theater.
You released a statement, which included the following:
“We as a board have made a commitment to continue building on and protecting the theater’s legacy, established in part by former Producing Artistic Director, Terry Martin.”
The legacy we, as artists from all over the DFW theatre community, are interested in building on is one of transparency, intersectionality, artistic rigor, racial and gender diversity, and inclusive and innovative storytelling. Your statement protects a legacy that has been historically exclusionary to women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Over the last two years, under Joanie Schultz’s direction, WTT featured a higher percentage of women directors, artists of color (actors, directors, and playwrights), and community engagement initiatives (including the Intersections talkback series featured in American Theatre Magazine) than ever before, and was essential in initiating Not In Our House policies in North Texas in response to the national #MeToo movement. These steps forward catapulted WTT into the national theatre conversation for the first time.
On a local level, the mission and vision Schultz crafted brought work, safety, and a home for artists from all backgrounds; WaterTower Theatre became an outstanding example of the world we want to live in and better reflected the community of Addison. Stories from new collaborators and audience members highlighted that it was under Schultz’s tenure that they first felt unapologetically welcomed in the theatre. This is a direct result of Schultz’s thoughtful and intentional leadership, one that valued the artistic process and fostered community. If the role of a regional theatre is to reflect the values of its region, Schultz made a conscious effort to listen to the voices of that community and indeed give them a home at WTT.
In a time when WaterTower Theatre was garnering national attention, Schultz’s departure brings unflattering attention to Addison and North Texas theatre and confuses the arts community at large. Schultz is a well-qualified theatre artist and has strong ties to multiple artistic communities across the nation. Her premature departure reflects directly on our community’s ability and willingness to take our place on the national stage.
We will not stand for steps backward that erase the work and voices Schultz has helped bring into the fold of DFW theatre. We argue that the legacy you’ve stated to protect does not continue the work started in the last two years. This will not be tolerated by the community that fills your casts, backstage crews, creative teams, and audiences.
To demonstrate your commitment and respect to North Texas artists and audiences, and to ensure WTT continues the work that was begun in the past two years, we recommend you adopt the following action items:
First, we ask for transparency from the Board of WaterTower Theatre in their search for a new leader. We define transparent policies as:
*A public statement from the board which identifies the specific qualities you are seeking in a new artistic director and clarifies what you mean by the theater’s “legacy.”
*A complete and publicly accessible list of the members of your search committee for the new artistic director.
We also recommend this search committee reflects the diversity of Addison itself, a policy in line with the importance of a regional theater representing the people which it serves.
Furthermore, we recommend your theater retains the following inclusive policies put in place over the past year and a half:
*That your current mission statement, “to create innovative, diverse theatre that builds community by fostering empathy and dialogue”, will be carried on into future seasons.
*That your season and staffing therein (including but not limited to playwrights, actors, directors, technicians, and designers) continues its recent trend toward reflecting the entire population of Addison, rather than a select group of donors or subscribers.
*That the theater continues its Intersections community engagement programming, which positively reflects your stated goal of “[connecting] the world to Addison and Addison to the world.”
This letter also serves as a call to action for North Texas arts donors, board members, and subscribers who share our concerns about the possibility of losing the innovative and diverse programming developed at WTT over the past two years. Your voice matters. Without your insight and advocacy, the North Texas area cannot become the world class arts community we aspire to be.
Writing this letter is a labor of love intended to demonstrate our passion for elevating the quality and reputation of North Texas theatre, our respect for those striving to make the theater a better place to work and to be entertained, and to ensure that our community works toward making arts institutions safer, more inclusive forums for artists and audiences alike. In devising the best practices requested in this letter, we hope WaterTower Theatre will reciprocate our passion and respect by taking up our call.
Signed, Gloria Vivica BenavidesActor and Educator
Kate PaulsenActor and Producer Evan Michael WoodsActor and Photographer Jonathan NortonPlaywright
Haley NelsonDramaturg Mandy RauschDirector and Actor
Juan RodriguezActor and Marketer
Camille Monae - ActorClay Wheeler - Actor, Director & EducatorAce Anderson - Actor and Creative DirectorMindamora Rocha - Actor and EducatorMarti Etheridge - ActorKathryn Taylor Rose - Actor and MarketerJeremy Dumont - Director & ChoreographerGina Weber - Arts PatronQuintin Jones - Actor and ChoreographerJustin A Duncan - ActorEmily P. Faith - Actor and EducatorAlle Mims - Actor and ActivistCameron Casey - Actor and DirectorChad Withers - Actor and TeacherJoshua Hahlen - Actor and DesignerJanielle Kastner - Playwright and ActorKelsey Buckley - ActorJack William Rodgers - Actor and ProducerChristopher Lew - ActorTaylor Donaldson - Stage Manager and MarketerLindsey Humphries - Director and ActorJessie Wallace - Actor, Costumer, Company ManagerMadison Calhoun - Actor and TeacherNatalia Gutierrez - Borja - Actor and EducatorJennifer KuenzerSienna Riehle - Performer, Director, SMKelly Schaaf - Music Director and ActressDrew Wall - Actor and ProducerMason Bunkelman - Stage Manager and StudentKayla Freeman - Drama Therapist and DirectorAlexandra Sutherland - ActressStacie Cleland - ActorRachel MacKnight - ActorChris Ramirez - Actor and EducatorTatiana Lucia Gantt - Actor and Arts AdministratorRodney Garza - ActorSam Henderson - Lecturer of Theatre and Film, Actor, FilmmakerM. Wilborn - Actor and PhotographerAnonymous - Actor and ProducerSam Kumpe - PlaywrightCheyenne Raquel Farley - Educator, Playwright, ActorAllison Elsey - StitcherShawn Gann - Actor, Director, and ProducerDominic Pecikonis - PerformerVanessa DeSilvio - ActorDayna S. FriesAngi Burns - Director And EducatorRyan Matthieu Smith - Director, Producer, DesignerCalvin Scott Roberts - ActorBryan Pitts - ActorElliot Marvin Sim - ActorStormi Demerson - ActorVicki Meek - Artist/Cultural Critic/retired South Dallas Cultural Center ManagerMatt Grevan - Stage ManagerJocelyn Tiner - Actor, ImproviserMatthew Roy Rodriguez - Actor and EducatorJohnny R. Bradford jr. - ActorJonathan Hardin - Actor and DirectorKira Rockwell - PlaywrightKristen Kelso - Actor, Director, and TranslatorNatalie Hope Johnson - ActorLindsay Jenkins- Dramaturg, EducatorYvonne Nino - Educator and DesignerEvelyn D. Rodriguez - Theater EnthusiastIan Mead Moore - Actor, Music DirectorTiffany Navarro - Theatre PatronTyler Pietruszewski - ActorChristina Cranshaw - ActorScott Osborne - Designer and EducatorSeth Johnson - Artistic Director and Stage ManagerBrynne Huffman - ActorBecki McDonald - Director, Actor, ChoreographerMadeleine Morris - Actor & Stage ManagerLaura Saladino - ActorKrystal Love Price - Former Stage Manager, Current Avid Theatre SupporterChelsea M. Warren - Scenic DesignerLauren LeBlanc - actor + writerBranden A. Loera - ActorJonathan McInnis - Actor and Photographer Wendy Searcy-Woode - Scenic Designer + Builder + Actor Logan McGraw - Actor and Educator Kenneisha Thompson - Actor, Educator, Theatre Patron Sky Williams - Actor Tamera Hurdle - Theatre Patron Amanda Carson Green - Actor and Director Courtney Mentzel - Actor Matt Stepan - Actor & Director Derick Longoria - Theatre Technician, Designer Ardis Campbell - Theatre patron Jeremiah Johnson - Actor, Variety Artist, Therapeutic Clown Ashley Johnson - Writer Lauren Wheat - Designer Shannon McGrann - Actor Alissa Klusky - Theater Patron Emily Bragg - Actor and Teacher Grace Keller Scotch - Actor Jeremy Schwartz ~ Actor Tyrees Allen - Actor William Acker - Actor, Dancer William (Bill) Earl Ray - Director/Actor Sarah Greenman - playwright, actor, and Director of Operations at StateraArts Fabian Rodriguez - Actor Tiffany Nichole Greene - Director, Actor, Creator Ashley Rountree - Actor, Producer, and Director Karen Bower Robinson - choreographer, director, patron Byron L. Holder - Director/Actor Andy Long - Director, Actor, Chair of Theatre - Richland College Michael Rathbun - Actor, lighting/sound designer Josh Bangle - Actor Tashina Richardson - Director, Actor, Designer Charlotte Taylor - Director and Teacher Andrew Bullard - Actor/Educator/Director Gary E. Payne - Actor & Prior Theatre Administrator Christopher Eric Deleon - Musician and Theater Patron Jason Hensel - Playwright, Actor, Photographer Candace Clarke - Educator, Designer, Choreographer Ian Bjorklund - Director, Producer, Performer, WTT Patron Jon Felt - Designer Hannah Martinez - actor Chris Sykes - Actor Priscilla Rice - Actor Beth Lipton - Performer, Choreographer, Creator, and WTT Patron Dennis Raveneau - Actor, Director Renee Dessommes - AEA Stage Manager Andra Hunter - Playwright, Director, Producer, Actor Thomas Riccio - Professor, UTD; Director, Dead White Zombies Laura C.Cutler - Actor, Performer, Teacher, Volunteer & Avid Audience Member