An Open Letter to the Board of WaterTower Theatre
November 30, 2018

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 Benavides
Actor and Educator

Kate Paulsen
Actor and Producer

Evan Michael Woods
Actor and Photographer

Jonathan Norton
Playwright

Haley Nelson
Dramaturg

Mandy Rausch
Director and Actor

Juan Rodriguez
Actor and Marketer

Camille Monae - Actor
Clay Wheeler - Actor, Director & Educator
Ace Anderson - Actor and Creative Director
Mindamora Rocha - Actor and Educator
Marti Etheridge - Actor
Kathryn Taylor Rose - Actor and Marketer
Jeremy Dumont - Director & Choreographer
Gina Weber - Arts Patron
Quintin Jones - Actor and Choreographer
Justin A Duncan - Actor
Emily P. Faith - Actor and Educator
Alle Mims - Actor and Activist
Cameron Casey - Actor and Director
Chad Withers - Actor and Teacher
Joshua Hahlen - Actor and Designer
Janielle Kastner - Playwright and Actor
Kelsey Buckley - Actor
Jack William Rodgers - Actor and Producer
Christopher Lew - Actor
Taylor Donaldson - Stage Manager and Marketer
Lindsey Humphries - Director and Actor
Jessie Wallace - Actor, Costumer, Company Manager
Madison Calhoun - Actor and Teacher
Natalia Gutierrez - Borja - Actor and Educator
Jennifer Kuenzer
Sienna Riehle - Performer, Director, SM
Kelly Schaaf - Music Director and Actress
Drew Wall - Actor and Producer
Mason Bunkelman - Stage Manager and Student
Kayla Freeman - Drama Therapist and Director
Alexandra Sutherland - Actress
Stacie Cleland - Actor
Rachel MacKnight - Actor
Chris Ramirez - Actor and Educator
Tatiana Lucia Gantt - Actor and Arts Administrator
Rodney Garza - Actor
Sam Henderson - Lecturer of Theatre and Film, Actor, Filmmaker
M. Wilborn - Actor and Photographer
Anonymous - Actor and Producer
Sam Kumpe - Playwright
Cheyenne Raquel Farley - Educator, Playwright, Actor
Allison Elsey - Stitcher
Shawn Gann - Actor, Director, and Producer
Dominic Pecikonis - Performer
Vanessa DeSilvio - Actor
Dayna S. Fries
Angi Burns - Director And Educator
Ryan Matthieu Smith - Director, Producer, Designer
Calvin Scott Roberts - Actor
Bryan Pitts - Actor
Elliot Marvin Sim - Actor
Stormi Demerson - Actor
Vicki Meek - Artist/Cultural Critic/retired South Dallas Cultural Center Manager
Matt Grevan - Stage Manager
Jocelyn Tiner - Actor, Improviser
Matthew Roy Rodriguez - Actor and Educator
Johnny R. Bradford jr. - Actor
Jonathan Hardin - Actor and Director
Kira Rockwell - Playwright
Kristen Kelso - Actor, Director, and Translator
Natalie Hope Johnson - Actor
Lindsay Jenkins- Dramaturg, Educator
Yvonne Nino - Educator and Designer
Evelyn D. Rodriguez - Theater Enthusiast
Ian Mead Moore - Actor, Music Director
Tiffany Navarro - Theatre Patron
Tyler Pietruszewski - Actor
Christina Cranshaw - Actor
Scott Osborne - Designer and Educator
Seth Johnson - Artistic Director and Stage Manager
Brynne Huffman - Actor
Becki McDonald - Director, Actor, Choreographer
Madeleine Morris - Actor & Stage Manager
Laura Saladino - Actor
Krystal Love Price - Former Stage Manager, Current Avid Theatre Supporter
Chelsea M. Warren - Scenic Designer
Lauren LeBlanc - actor + writer
Branden A. Loera - Actor
Jonathan 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

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