I am submitting this letter in response to the recent resignation of six of the 10 members on the board of Los Alamos Little Theatre. Full disclosure, I have worked with every board member in some way over the past decade, and I consider some on both sides of the conflict as friends. Although I am not a current board member, I have served on the board for three terms within the last decade, and have served as a member of the publicity committee, formed this year to explore and implement new ways to increase audiences for productions. This letter reflects solely my own personal opinions and not those of any organization.
The board members’ resignation letter refers repeatedly to toxic behavior and dysfunction of the organization (LALT), and continued resistance to proposed changes. I have not directly witnessed much of the conflict, however I have participated in several meetings and discussions regarding new directions versus the old way of doing things. I have heard valid points on both sides, and I have seen the benefit of implemented changes. (Yes, change has been implemented!) I have seen some compromises and accommodation being made for the seasoned veterans of the organization and their way of doing things. I have also witnessed personal affronts and tactless behavior on both sides. Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the theatre community. Passions run high in passionate people. I personally have always tried to move past it, knowing that we’re all volunteers and we bring our own special talents and abilities to the organization. If I find a person’s behavior particularly “toxic,” I try not to work with that person. More often than not I am surprised that others don’t share my opinion, and I have seen valuable contributions and noteworthy performances from persons I have issues with.
I’m deeply saddened by the resignations, and the continued drama playing out on social media. No matter how you feel about current events, it’s embarrassing, and demeans people who have worked for decades for the benefit of LALT. And those impacted are not just those directly involved now, but everyone associated with LALT. There are scores of dedicated, well-intentioned people who are doing their best to present good theatre to our community, and they’ve just been labeled toxic and dysfunctional by association. Taking a “nuclear option” like mass resignation looks to me like favoring self-interests rather than those of the organization. Was there any thought given to the 100+ members that elected and trusted board members to represent them? Members would no doubt want to be made aware of toxic behavior, preferably when they might be able to do something about it.
There is much talent and energy in the group exiting the theatre, and the option to sever ties and create something new is exciting. However, there’s a lot to be said about the infrastructure of the Performing Arts Center, and the freedom afforded to directors and actors to pursue their creativity without too much interference, and a great deal of technical, financial, and moral support from the organization.
I’ve produced, directed, and acted with most everyone involved, and the experiences have been highly rewarding. As president of the Los Alamos Light Opera board, I also know what’s involved in mounting a production outside of LALT, and it’s much more complicated and expensive. I also am deeply concerned about the close relationship between LALT and LALO, and how it cannot help but be adversely affected by recent developments. Los Alamos is a small town with limited support to go around. How ironic that a committee formed to increase audiences would play a part in dividing the community! I’m reminded of the long battle between Dance Arts Los Alamos and New Mexico Dance Theatre, and all of the needless conflict and drama the rivalry caused. It’s counterproductive to make people choose sides.
I want to encourage interested parties to engage and participate in the upcoming annual LALT membership meeting on June 9. I don’t think it’s too late to air differences and to seek some resolution to problems, and move forward for the benefit of the entire community.