Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quit smoking

I'm on day 14 with no tobacco. I recommend that anyone who has even a passing desire to quit smoking cigarettes, check out quitsmokingonline.com. Worked for me. That and hypnotherapy.

If someone had told me 3 months ago that quitting smoking was easy and enjoyable, I would have laughed in their face. But it really can be. As I type this, I still wouldn't mind stepping out for a cigarette, but I don't think it's who I am anymore. The subconscious is a powerful thing. If you are a smoker, right now it is confirming your smoker status. It is telling you that you are a smoker and you cannot quit. It's just who you are.

And that's 100% true. But that script is as changeable as your underwear. Well, it requires a little more effort than changing your underwear, but not much. So, teach your subconscious a new lesson, and it will wake up with you in the morning and tell you that you are 100% a non-smoker. It really will. All you have to do is change the script.

Life is a play. A comedy or a drama, or a drama giocoso. And you get to "right" the script. Entirely. That's the lesson to be learned from quitting smoking. Almost makes you wish you had started smoking so you could quit, eh?

Off to "write my play"! Hope you all have a lovely day!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

These fine folks

If you happen to talk to any of these fine folks this week, please let them know the following:

Suzanne Hefty, Howard Miller, Eric Dillner: I am not at all satisfied with your response so far. I will be writing a letter to the Journal Sentinel, to the editor, and to you. If you prefer to call me and answer my questions before I continue to dig deeper, that would be appreciated. 414.573.4666

The Skylight's financial insolvency

Well, Tom Strini has given us another beautiful article.


It's hard not to just sigh really loudly when reading this. When will these forums for discussions begin? I don't understand the whole notion of Skylight having a $700,000 credit line, $400,000 outstanding, and they are looking at a $200,000 deficit next year making them insolvent? Granted, no one wants to carry around that much debt, but if you still have $100,000 in credit available to you, how does that make you insolvent?

I think Miller and Hefty are trying to snow us with numbers. We have been assured that combining the MD and AD job was never in the works, but then how does the idea to do that appear out of no where? Please call Eric Dillner, Suzanne Hefty, and Howard Miller. Ask them who's idea this was in the first place. I think it's important to know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cultural Alliance weighs in

The Gift of The Skylight

By Christine Harris - Posted on 25 June 2009

Hi -

I love how social media combined with amazing passion can spark a conversation that has meaning well beyond the borders of the issue that started the flame! It has been both inspirational and sad to read all of the Twitter, Facebook, press, and other communication around the recent Skylight situation. Inspirational because a community dialogue about the health and wellbeing of our future as an arts and culture sector is welcome at any time. Sad because so much blame, hurt, and deep concern for the health of a beloved organization has been going around and around and around.

I agree with Jonathan West's comments about examining the role of community leadership when 'one of us' hits a rough patch. Do we comment; support; ignore; ridicule; criticize? Do we turn inward or do we turn outward? None of us on the outside (and many on the inside) do not know the facts and issues facing an organization's leadership. Those that have a vested fiduciary and policy oversight interest - board members and donors - should be expressing their thoughts directly to the organization and assisting in whatever manner possible in making sure that their organization is serving its stakeholders and the general public well. And then, setting the stage for appropriate stewardship going forward. Many of these comments do not need to be, nor should they be, public. The policy and fiscal oversight of any non-profit rests fully with its Board of Directors - period. And, it lives with the consequences of any of its actions.

That said, these days our personal and organization lives are increasingly public and available for scruitny. Frankly, we shoulnd't bemoan this situation because we collectively have created what we now have. And, the world is only going to move faster in this direction so we had better be prepared for the ride. This transparency can be very healthy if we learn and improve or it can be destructive if we complain and blame. The Skylight's gift to our sector in all of this is the opportunity to self-examine how each of us is handling our stewardship; how genuinely open and communicative we are; how well we are serving our stakeholders; how trustworthy we are to our public. This is the bigger picture dialogue that is worth having now.

The Alliance did privately communicate very early on to the Skylight what it thought was a helpful observation. Whether or not it was meaningful to them was their decision. I say this because there may have been many other such private communications from within and without and they have made their own choices accordingly - and rightly so. And clearly the public media communication has been very available to them.

Now that they have gone public with their process - see Tom Strini's recent blog and story on Sunday - good stewardship would argue for their letting us know what they are going to be doing to ensure that the Skylight remains a beloved, well-respected and supported large performing arts institution. Clearly, a lot of people care deeply and what a true treasure that is. There's an old saying - something like; it's not that you fell down or made a mistake but it's how you get up that tells you the character of a person. The same is true for nonprofit organizations.


Even though I feel like I've been giving blood for over a week now, I decided to actually give blood today. It's been, like, a decade since I last gave blood. I don't know why. Always too busy, or something. Anyway, I hope I'm never too busy to give blood again.

HOWEVER: I might not bike to and from the donation center in 90 degree heat ever again. I thought I was seeing little dots of light everywhere. It was beautiful, but trippy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Alright, her picture isn't up there, but my MOM is following me. Did I not say in a previous posting that she was hip?

Thanks Mom. Please know that all is well here. Can't wait to see you in 5 days!

After Strini's blog - the $64,000 question.

I would like to remind everyone to keep the focus on the numbers. It is easy to argue that the move to fire Bill has nothing to do with 400,000 dollars, or the 200k the company now says it needs. Firing Bill, after changing the budget to allow for the hiring of other directors, or giving Bill his director fees, saves the company no more than 60k. I'd really like to ask the company about THAT 60k.

Strini's latest blog posting

Here it is...after his meeting with Eric

Officials of the Skylight Opera Theatre came to the Journal Sentinel Wednesday, to comment on the company's financial condition and the hotly controversial firing of artistic director Bill Theisen and other last week.

Much more to come on this, notably in a column coming in print on Sunday, but here are some basics from what managing director Eric Dillner (the special object of scorn of bloggers and social networkers), board president Suzanne Hefty and immediate past president Howard Miller had to say:

  • No one dreamed, when Dillner was hired a little over a year ago, that he would take on the duties of artistic director. This move was an unanticipated response to unanticipated financial pressure.
  • This financial pressures include racking up $460,000 on a bank line of credit with a $700,000 ceiling. Also, the Skylight's building complex, a money-maker for its first 10 years, has become a financial liability as maintenance needs have grown and commercial rents have evaporated.
  • Theisen and Dillner had already worked out a $400,000 cut in the production budget for the coming season when more bad economic new further depressed contributed income. Dillner felt he had no place left to cut but where he did.
  • The board and Dillner continue to hold Theisen in the highest personal and professional esteem and dearly hope that he will return to direct three main stage and two studio theater productions next season.
  • They feel that they did err in executing and announcing the firings the way they did, and and they acknowledge the resulting public relations disaster as damaging to the company.
  • They feel they have no choice but to stay the course and hope that the rancor passes, the economy improves and the Skylight returns to the happy place we know and love.
  • The company has not hired a PR firm and Dillner has not issued a list of talking points to employees.
The end.

I wonder what questions were asked. Clearly, the question asked re: the last comment was a given. No PR firm would handle this this way. Good luck, Eric. It's all yours now. Last time I felt like someone stole something this big from me was Gore v. Bush.

Skylight staff meeting announcement

Just digging thru some old emails and found this one, from Eric Dillner, announcing a mandatory staff meeting.

Hello Skylight Staff:

The next Skylight Full Staff meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 16 at 9:30am in the Skylight Bar.

All staff members are required to attend this meeting. Among the topics will be safety in the Third Ward and how we as a staff and a business can best prevent vandalism, theft, and other destructive occurrences.

Thank you!


So the theft he must have been referring to was his stealing of the company. The vandalism is what he was planning to do to the company's reputation, and the destructive occurrences are all the things he has done so far to mismanage the company. Now that I read the email again, I see that he was very specific, just a bit poetic.

I'm mad as hell...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


A sport I engage in to either provide my 17 followers (I love that this blog sight calls my peeps that..."followers". Mustn't let it go to my head) with much needed updates on my activities (such as my bike ride this morning), or to let out an avalanche of anger.

I didn't blog much today. Wasn't too angry, and didn't do to much. And now I'm blogging about not blogging and telling my followers that I have nothing interesting to report. I call that meta-blogging.


Do you know about strindberg + helium?

I had to watch the cartoons a few times before getting hooked!


Moving On

I intend to keep abreast of the situation, of course. I will not change my facebook profile pic until some time after the summer. But it's time for me to move on, for my mental health. I have begun to feel such loathing for a situation brought about by someone who doesn't care about Milwaukee's arts community, that I am no longer a balanced human being. That sorta implies I was one once. Probably not. I intend to use the heartbreak of this situation to make myself a more balanced human being. I'm gonna start working on what I want to do next with my life. Just as soon as I get back from vacation! I leave Milwaukee from June 27-July 8.

Keep up the fight, those that believe.

Pat Kraft's letter of resignation

The events of the last week are disappointing, unexpected, improperly handled and leave me with no other option but to resign my position as a member of the Board of Directors of the Skylight Theatre. I was honored to have participated at the Board level this past eleven months. However, I totally disagree with the new direction chosen for the future of The Skylight, of which I had no opportunity for input. Having participated on other Boards, I have always experienced group consensus and open communication; especially when there is a major decision that will have a significant impact on so many different stakeholders.
This has been a very troubling turn of events and in all good conscience, I can no longer continue on the Board.
Pat Kraft


It's supposed to be like 100 degrees here today. I'm gonna go for a bike ride now before that isn't an option!

for starters

Spread this around: I did not start this as a hate campaign. I started this looking for answers. Haven't got any. Got attacked. Got fired. And I got a little angry.

somebody explain this

I was informed this morning by Susan Yankee that Eric is a wonderful person and that my hate campaign has only the representation of a handful of people. So why haven't I heard a single person take a public stand in support of Eric?!? And if this is such a great plan, why won't the board/eric explain it?

Monday, June 22, 2009

dear eric

I hope you know that, unlike you, i don't need to pander to the community for a job. I have, and will always have, plenty of work. I hope you find yourself in a similar circumstance some day. Then you won't feel the need to belittle those around you to make sure you are the grand pooh bad. oops. Freudian slip. I hate that shit. I meant grand pooh bah.

thanks for the near miss!

apparently I scared alot of people with my last posting. Do not worry, Eric. I come tomorrow only to seek answers. By myself. No physical threat. You can have as many witnesses there as you like.

tomorrow am

Hello fellow bloggers!

Tomorrow morning, June 23, 2009, at around 8:45am, I will ask Eric for his "talking points" that supposedly will validate the restructuring of the company. I am not doing this to be malicious. I am doing this because the only way forward for Skylight is the company without Eric. And I do, and have, care for the Skylight deeply. It has been my friggin' home for like 10 years now. Eric must go. Skylight must conquer. Eric, if you are reading this, this is the worst day of your idiot life. Please copy this note and send it to Eric. Sage, please copy this note and send it to Eric. ericd@skylightopera.com

Call Eric right now

To my absolute astonishment, Eric has decided to dig in. You must call him tomorrow at 291.7811 x221 (and I hope to re-post his cell phone here, if I can find it...anyone have it?) and demand either his resignation or his so called "talking points" (a document he is handing out to the staff, letting them know what to say to the public), i.e., the answers.

(this is a copy of my facebook status. eric has forced me back into all out warfare approach again. The community has spoken overwhelmingly against him. And still he, his wife, and Suzanne Hefty believe they can pull this off. Unbelievable hubris, but moreover, idiocy. Please forward this content to everyone you know. Have them call me if they have questions. (414.573.4666) Tomorrow, I go TOTALLY viral on his ass. He will not know what hit him.

Hypnotherapy is very cool

It's not what you think. More like deep relaxation with guided meditation. Originally, I thought I'd try it to quit smoking. I also enlisted the aid of quitsmokingonline.com (the best site for this, in my opinion). I'm five full days quit already!

But I find that hypnotherapy, and particularly my lovely hypnotherapist, Denise Keenan, to be so much more useful than just quitting smoking. I feel more connected to joy, awareness, strength, and tranquility than I ever have.

She offers a five session package that she says will guide you through any obstructions that are keeping you from reaching your full potential. I feel like she touched on a lot of that today. It was amazing. I found answers to some questions that I had, and they came from me, not her. And I'm pretty sure they are the right answers.

I'm sold. It's really more of a de-hypnotizing of false beliefs and thoughts that you might have that you don't even know you have. Starts with, why do I__________? (i.e., smoke). If you live in Milkwaukee and are looking for help with a problem, try Denise!


Here's the beautiful Michaela Ristaino's letter to the Board. Love the last line. This is an opportunity for everyone in the community to be a hero in some fashion or another. Thanks Bo! I hope the rest of the Skylight Board decides to be heroic by ousting Suzanne and Eric, and getting Bill back in the door. That'll be the first step. A big hug to Michaela, and here's that letter!

Skylight Board ~

Your Milwaukee Theatre community implores you to, at the very least, offer some sort of explanation for the events of the past week. As more and more information is uncovered surrounding the Skylight axing (and yes, by now it is quite viewed as a witch hunt) the silence of the board is deafening. With the unfounded firing of Jamie Johns and the resignation of one of your own board members, the waters just get murkier and murkier. I can only hope that many of you are as shocked by these events as we all are (including Bo Beal) and that you are just trying to figure out how to best clean up this awful mess.

Clearly, by now you must be aware that this is not just a bunch of kids who are mouthing off because their friend(s) got fired. I must assume you are aware of the national press this debacle is garnering. Including (but not limited to): Playbill, The Arts Journal, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The Clyde Fitch Report, among others.

You are also, by now, well aware that this outpouring *protest* from the community is not born from maliciousness, but rather born of passion for a Skylight that we all desperately love.

I have faith that you all, as members of the Skylight Board, also have great love for the Skylight...which is why we implore you to not sit idly by while our beloved Skylight is destroyed. There are other options here. Options that simply MUST be explored and acted upon. You all have the opportunity to be the heroes here. Please, please embrace that opportunity.

Michaela Ristaino
- Skylight Patron & Artist

Good Morning, Milkwaukee

I hope today is an exciting day. After I jot this note, I'm on my way to hypnotherapy to continue my "I am not a smoker" training. After that, another long day of slogging through bureaucracy, but this time with unemployment and COBRA. Wish me luck.

Hoping to maybe go out and have a drink someplace tonight. Anyone wanna meet up? Maybe at Charlie's, the new establishment down by Skylight?

Love to Milwaukee! Viva Milwaukee Arts!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

One last thought

I'm hoping this is the last blog of the night, and that I'll now go enjoy some dinner with my lovely D. So, one last thought: Every morning I have awoken these last 6 days, it was with an energy of needing to know what was going on, and what I could do to help whatever was good about it. I hope I never get out of bed any other way again.

I think there are many things, many many things that we can do to make this all work out just right. Look forward next fall to the Grand Re-Opening of The Skylight Musical Theater (my suggestion for a title, I'll tell you why another time).


So, DD says I should reveal the facts behind the name of my blog. While the events of the last week have definitely amazed, they have not delighted. So what gives? I asked Sage if my blog name should be something specific, like PLEASE RESIGN ERIC DILLNER, and he, in his infinite wisdom, said, "No, you may want to blog about other things when this is over." I never question Sage's advice, especially in the world of computers and the internet, and so without even thinking, my blog name just popped into my head. It's something Bill says at least once during the rehearsal process, sometimes more than once, while blocking. Sorry, Bill, it's probably a paraphrase. I do that all the time. Even though I've heard Bill say it easily no less than 50 times, it always makes me laugh and a bit giddy.

And that's why you never name your blog after a specific crisis you are in.

Eric Dillner 414.291.7811 x221

Have you called Eric yet today to remind him to call Joel Kopischke tomorrow? He told Joel he would, so I don't doubt it in the least. Really, I don't. But just call and remind him in case he forgot.


Copy of Robert's resignation

Dear Suzanne,
I am writing with sadness to tender my resignation from the board of the Skylight effective immediately. Admittedly my resignation is symbolic because I had announced several months ago that I had decided to resign at the time of this year's Annual Meeting after two terms on the board, but I wanted to send a message at this juncture that I cannot and do not agree with the recent decision to terminate Bill Theisen. Incidentally, my wife Polly who served for 16 years on the board is 100% supportive of my decision.
I am well aware of a board member's fiduciary and social responsibility and I am saddened that the decision to fire Bill was made in the manner in which it was done...solely by the Executive Committee. Last month at a full board meeting it was announced that because of the economic downturn some cuts would probably have to be made. It was not even hinted that Bill might be one of the people affected. If that had been the case I'm sure it would have prompted a great deal of discussion. I'm not sure that I would have had the wisdom or foresight to predict the amazing reaction from patrons and artists alike, but I certainly would have been one of the ones too stand up and ask if this would be the best route to take. Hindsight is always easy, but to incur the wrath of the community to such a degree does not bode well for the Skylight for I fear that we will be losing subscribers and donors to the extent that budget impacts could be disastrous.
One of the unique characteristics of the Skylight is that it has always been "family" and, as in all families, there always disagreements; however, in solid families these disagreements are worked out and the family moves forward. My fervent wish is that you are able to steer the Skylight boat through these troubled waters and I do hope that you will reach out to Jamie and others who have been so vocal to at least open up the lines of communication. All of the actors, musicians, artists, patrons etc who have been bombarding the board with their emails are the life blood of the Skylight and without them we would be would be in very tough shape. Please take heed!
Robert L. Beal

Board resignation

Robert Beal, whose wife, Polly, was on the Skylight board for 16 years, just resigned from the Skylight board. Soon I, or someone, will be posting her letter to read. Goodbye, Eric.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

the last word (from me) til tomorrow at 3:00

Ask me to stop, and I will think about it and try. I don't want the skylab to fail. But, when you know, you know. I guess this is what it must be like to be a Christian. I know, on faith alone (though there are proofs a plenty), that Eric is bad for the Skylight.

Good night, and good luck.

Sad but true


I will admit that I only see 4-5 other productions a year than the Skylight's . Maybe you don't even think I care about theater. I am making this about me, so it doesn't have to be about me. Milwaukee theater, grow a pair. Skylight opera, I shed many tears every time I type the word Sky.

Why won't anyone join in on this dialogue? What are you hiding from us, Eric Dillner?

All it would take

A 30 minute phone call from Eric and and 45 minute phone call from Suzanne Hefty and I will shut up. Otherwise, I will proceed. Eric, please apologize to the community and make this stop!

Angela rocks

Eric throws Bill under the bus.

Unbelievable Angela.




Does this come out. Thank you ANGELA!!!

Herman the Horse, a healthy tail

I hope you clicked on this hoping for a funny comment. But I just like the title. Herman (not Harry!) the Horse.

Herman will rescue the Skylight.

What should I do next?

People keep saying that I have no proposal for what happens when Eric leaves.

There's a lot of opportunity there, and it takes very little imagination to figure it out.

Even if Bill won't come back, we find an interim managing director (Christine would be perfect), beg Bill to direct the entire season, including Paula's show and An Evening with Gilbert and Sullivan (both of which I assume are being chopped from next season's 50th anniversary), and we hold a summit with the board. Truth and reconciliation. No one who is working at Skylight now would lose their job, and all cuts would be reinstated. If we truly need to find $200,000, I'm quite convinced that the community is ready to put that (and so much more) up. Instead the Skylight continues to bleed money as donors pull out and outrage sponsors and patrons cut off their support.

Please remember, many important people have already pledged to pull their support from the Skylight. And they have lost Bill. The place is going to totally suck when Eric is out front shaking hands, every third show or so. Hello? The rest of you honestly believe Skylight is going to be worth supporting after this. HA!


From the get-go, I have had people advising me about my language. My mom said,"I saw you on the tube (she's hipper than us, I kid you not) and you seemed very angry. That's okay, but don't swear. You said "g.d. questions". You know, kids are in that building."

Love my mom.

I was told by someone I adore that the very first letter I wrote to the Board needed to be re-framed to help speak their language. Sadly, I had already sent it, when I asked her to proof it. But you know what? If I rewrote the letter and sent it 12 hours later, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. I would have received no response or a polite response, or possibly, radically, a "let's talk about that"...a meeting Norman Moses assures me would end in bewilderment, hypnotized bybusiness-ease.

Some people are beginning to hate me. But, all I did was use my first amendment rights. Not only can you get fired for that in this country, it'll cost you friends and respect.

C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

Any visual artists out there?

An image of Eric Dillner throwing Bill Theisen under a bus whose sign reads "Skylight." The rest of us are waving at the station. Please draw that picture.

The sign might also say: Stopping at: The spirit of Colin Cabot, The spirit of Claire Richardson, The Spirit of Richard Carsey. The spirit of Francesca Zambello.

That is exactly what has happened this week. Farewell, Skylight. I will miss you.

The end is near

The tide, if it ever was going out, is now heading back in. This was a campaign about faith. Faith that our persistence could cause people that don't speak our language to listen and react. Every actor knows that good acting is reacting. And the board doesn't even know how to act like it cares.

I know a couple 100 people and a few $100,000. doesn't mean much to these people, which is what it appears they have lost in this PR debacle so far, but the cause of this debacle was based on only one person, Eric, and his huge ego, and $200,000. So WTF.

I think I learned today that it's rare to beat city hall.

Words from Norman

All I want from the board at this point is some conversation about why this was handled in the shoddy way it was. We all want heads to roll because we all feel insulted that this could be handled in the way it was. Shameful. We deserve better. But I feel I don't know enough about what has transpired over there since Eric's arrival and why the board decided this was the best way to handle the projected budget shortfall. It clearly has backfired on them.

The Restructuring

I know a lot has been said about this, but consider:

Some people actually believe Eric can do both of those mammoth jobs.

No one I talk to believes that a company can have a marketing director who is also the box office manager. One person of authority on these issues said that the box office manager is the most important employee. The face of the company for 80% of the audience.

So, bottom line, this restructuring is untenable.

Sadly, I doubt the Board will read my blogs. But you can send them to Eric!

Well, that's the cart before the horse. So, I have a blog. The world is ending. I created this blog because I still have a lot to say about the Skylight situation, but it has become clear that I should say it someplace where people who want to read about it can read about it. After this is all over, and Eric is gone :), I'll probably stop blogging. But Sage said I won't. So we'll see.


Are you aware that in Mr. Dillner's previous position with the Shreveport Opera, he hired his wife to be the company's new artistic director? Do these actions seem suspect to you in the context of this week's events?