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From Raves to Shock: Flagler Playhouse’s Artistic Director and President Both Resign

| February 22, 2011

The house that John Sbordone built. (© FlaglerLive)

It happened last week, not 24 hours after the end of the Flagler Playhouse’s 12-performance run of “Hairspray,” the Playhouse’s most successful show in the theater’s 32-year history: John Sbordone, a member of the board, the theater’s artistic director for the last six and a half years, and the director of 28 of the last 29 shows at the Playhouse—and by all accounts the man chiefly responsible for the theater’s success—angrily walked out. So did Diane Ellertsen, the board president and choreographer at the Playhouse since 2006.

The pretext was wine. Sbordone and Ellertsen are volunteers, as are all cast and most crew members on Playhouse productions. The pair would log long hours in preparation for every show in addition to their board responsibilities. They’d have a glass of wine during the evening, as did many patrons: wine is sold at intermission. Before every show they greeted everyone coming in, and shook their hands on the way out, like ministers at the church door—literally, in the Playhouse’s case: it used to be a church. “We have a very convivial, a very friendly atmosphere, that’s how we built those audiences, that’s how we made it happen,” Sbordone said this week. “And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t—well, this was about something else.”

A Matter of Wine

Some board members wanted to adopt a procedure banning wine consumption by anyone not a patron. Sbordone took it as a menial slight. At that particular board meeting on Feb. 7, nothing was said about the success of the show. Rather, as Sbordone described it in a subsequent letter to the board, “insults rang out. ‘The theater is dirty.’ ‘You are a volunteer just like the ushers and shouldn’t be treated differently.’” The “harangue,” Sbordone wrote, “was incessant and unrelenting.” The wine matter, though it had been discussed at previous meetings, was too much. “The insults were hard-felt. We are not just volunteers like any other.” So he walked out.

The following day Sbordone and Ellertsen sent in their resignation. So did a third board member, Jack Bigelow. The board did not stop them or ask them to return to the table, though several board members called Sbordone to make other overtures. To Sbordone, it was a pre-mediated “coup” led by three members of the board: Patricia Love, Kathy McArdle and Michelle Orlowski. “I believe that it was a concerted effort to take over,” Sbordone said. “We don’t know why.”

Love and McArdle adamantly deny anything of the sort was planned. (Orlowski did not return a call.) “We neither asked for the resignations or encouraged the resignations,” Rick Bowman, the board’s treasurer, said. “They just decided they would resign on the own.” And by voice vote in an emergency meeting a day after Sbordone tendered the resignation, a majority of the remaining board members—including Rick Bowman, and Kathy Thompson—accepted the resignations. One (Karen Phillips) was absent.

“I don’t know if it was inevitable,” Nancy Howell, the longest serving Playhouse Theater board member, said. “I’ve been with them since the beginning and watched the Playhouse become the Playhouse throughout its changes. John sees the artistic side as the most important side, and I must admit so do I, and I guess other people feel there are policies and procedures that have to be followed. But I think everybody overreacted, and everybody overreacted very quickly, and we were out there and couldn’t think of a way back. Last week was probably one of the worst weeks that I’ve spent in a long, long time. I felt I was in the middle.”

Howell was in rehearsals for “Waiting in the Wings,” the Playhouse’s show opening next week, when the board met that Monday evening. She wasn’t told about the meeting’s developments. The email she wrote the board afterward suggests board members knew that they were treading in quicksand: “I told you at the last meeting that the ‘wine’ issue was one that you had better think about carefully and be prepared for the consequences,” Howell wrote. If you did and if you are, please fill me in! How do we get to the point that we are willing to lose our president and artistic director over a glass of wine, or a bottle of wine, or a case of wine??? We have just had our most successful show ever. Do you think that would have happened without John and Diane? For heaven’s sake, we wouldn’t have a theater without them.”

An Offer Taken as an Ultimatum

John Sbordone (© FlaglerLive)

Sbordone, several board members say, left them no choice as he followed up with demands they would not meet. They offered to bring him back to direct and finish out the season, and reapply later should he still want to be a board member. Sbordone took that offer as another snub. He was willing to return as director as long as he was reinstated as artistic director with full control of the theater’s artistic direction and budgeting for the plays, and Ellertsen’s service was acknowledged formally. The board didn’t go for that, and was turned off by Sbordone’s two-page counter-proposal, in which he included sever criticism of the board’s focus on minor procedures at the expense of the theater’s larger purpose.

“We have been lucky to have him, he’s a tireless worker,” McArdle said. “We will miss him, there’s no question about it, but again I keep coming back to the point that he resigned, and he had probably along the way, probably had three or four different opportunities to handle things differently than he chose to do.”

McArdle added: “I think there were board members who were leaning in his direction in wanting to find a way to bring him back in until they read that memo.” To Love, “it certainly did not make it easy for us to reconsider.”

Despite the overtures on both sides, there’s been no backtracking, and by the end of last week a core group on the 10-member board had, as had Sbordone and Ellertsen, hardened their positions. Harsh words were exchanged, prides and feelings hurt, making a less drastic resolution seem unlikely even though Sbordone says he is willing to direct again, “but only on my terms, I wouldn’t do it on theirs. But I don’t know that I would do it without her, because she’s been a vital part of every show that we’ve done.” And Ellertsen is adamant:  “I can’t look at those people and know how they feel about me and be able to work,” Ellertsen said.

“I am Volatile”

Sbordone is volatile. That’s nobody’s secret. Volatile is his own description for himself. He can be intimidating with actors, too, and inflexible. In that sense, walking out and resigning, especially after feeling demeaned a day after his most rousing stage success, was not entirely surprising: he was in character. What remains surprising and contradictory, considering the season’s tenor and the praise Sbordone commands even from his critics on the board, at least publicly, is the speed with which the board formalized the break-up, though several members said they had to, given that the rest of the season was ahead. “It would have also been a simple matter not to resign,” Love said. “Believe me, if you know John even a little bit, you can’t talk John into anything.” And the board had to move forward: “We lost a president and an artistic director in the matter of a moment. Time is of the essence, we’re in the middle of a season,” Love said.

Actors who’ve worked with Sbordone and Ellertsen, and even members of the board and people in the arts community at large have been shocked and dismayed, and are questioning whether the Playhouse can sustain what Sbordone built, or return to its more moribund days as The Little Theater, when its actors wandered homeless  from stage to stage like characters out of Pirandello.

Diane Ellertsen (© FlaglerLive)

Laniece Wilson and Josh Fagundes, who had leading roles in “Hairspray” and have worked with Sbordone for several years, doubt they’ll return to the Playhouse stage if he’s not the director. They both experienced his volatility. They credit it for their growth as actors. “He may be the most intense director that I’ve ever worked with but he’s made me such a better performer because of it,” Wilson, who was in the first play staged at the Playhouse in Bunnell, said. “A lot of people may be disagree with him being as aggressive as he is, but I for one appreciate it, because he doesn’t do it in a malicious way at all, it’s not to attack you, it’s not to make you feel bad, it’s only to make you better.”

Asked if he plans on returning to the Playhouse, Fagundes said: “I can’t say no outright, just because I don’t know what my future holds, but all things considered it’s not likely, and I know it’s not just me. A lot of people associate the Playhouse with John and Diane.”

The Flagler Playhouse’s Evolution

Sbordone’s arrival led to two essential changes in the organization: the Little Theater found a permanent home at a former church in Bunnell, becoming the Flagler Playhouse, and seasons were established with a set number of plays. Shows started selling out and broadening the Playhouse’s appeal to audiences and actors. “Hairspray”’s cast of 45 was the largest, including several actors from the county’s two high schools. Sbordone also is a consultant for Matanzas High School’s drama program.

Love, the new board president, says the theater will move on and keep building on its recent success, which was making it a serious player in the local art scene. “We need to be able to feel that this theater belongs to the community and will continue to grow and prosper not based on one individual but based on the whole community that’s willing to support us, and again with full knowledge of what John has accomplished,” Love said, stressing that the Playhouse would look toward cutting edge plays and tap into younger audiences—something Sbordone liked to do, but not without resistance from the board. “Without a doubt we are not old and stuck in the past,” Love said.

At the same time, the Playhouse has to pay its bills. It doesn’t have a mortgage. The building is paid for. But it has about $5,000 a month in overhead, more than a third of it in insurance costs. It helps to do popular shows. Sbordone tried to combine the popular with the edgy. Hence “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hairspray.”

As often happens on boards of artistic organizations, there’s a business-minded, conservative wing, and a more liberal-minded, creative, artistic wing. Recall a similar rift recently at the Flagler County Art League. The Flagler Playhouse board was in that mold.

“It should be a healthy friction that exists between the business side and the artistic side,” McArdle, one of the board members, who was brought in for her business background, said. “I guess I think the struggle seems to come down to—there doesn’t seem to be any flexibility on the artistic side with John. There’s probably people who would say well, in something like this the artistic side should win out every time. I don’t necessarily feel that way. The artistic vote is probably worth more than the business vote, and it probably should be in something like that, but this didn’t have anything to do with the artistic side, it had to do with getting our house in order.”

Three of the remaining board members—Love, McArdle and Bowman—aren’t worried that the Playhouse would return to its little days as the Little Theater. They consider the base of talent in Flagler County broad enough to rely on for future actors and directors, and to maintain the Playhouse’s standing as a serious performing arts organization.

A Future Between Optimism and Doubt

Howell, the longest-serving board member, isn’t as optimistic. “I’m not sure they completely understand how great a commitment that is. I can’t believe they don’t, but you’re not going to find too many directors” willing to invest the time Sbordone did, Howell said. “Unless they know something I don’t know, I don’t know anybody locally committed to our theater. We’re going to have to borrow directors.” And pay them.

The Playhouse is paying Bruce Heighley of the Daytona Playhouse to direct “Waiting in the Wings,” which opens March 4, and “The Me Nobody Knows,” which opens April 29. He was going to volunteer for “Waiting in the Wings.” The board decided to pay him, however, when he agreed to also direct the next show. Rehearsals for “The Me Nobody Knows” are on Wednesday at the Playhouse, at 6 p.m. But the Playhouse has paid directors on occasion in the past, and pays some of its technical crew.

Since last week and the fallout from the original meeting and conversations since, Sbordone has explored several possibilities to keep directing, locally and elsewhere. One of those is to create a new troupe that would combine the talents from Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School. Another is to possibly stage plays at City Market Place, site of two art galleries and two dance studios and a nascent hub for the arts. He’s also maintained a healthy dose of anger over the way he was treated.

“With only 10 people you’d think that things would be easier to communicate. We’ve been watching them write procedure after procedure after procedure, and it’s not that they didn’t run the procedures through everybody, but you’ve got to care about that stuff, too, and maybe my sensibility should have been sharper toward that stuff,” Sbordone said. “I’m sure there needs to be some kind of guidelines. But I’m old school. I want to do things with a handshake. I want to look someone in the eye and know I can trust them.”

Maxine Kronick, a veteran of the performing arts who ran Flagler’s Theaterrific, Flagler’s children’s theater, for many years, and has been a long-time friend and colleague of John’s—and his confidante this past week—wasn’t into mincing words.  “He was royally screwed. Absolutely. Absolutely. They wanted him out. He was railroaded,” she said. ““He gave all of that time, day and night, and that’s the thanks he got. I’m very disappointed. But I’ll say this: I’m not surprised. It was only a matter of time. You can’t fly like an eagle when you work with turkeys. They don’t get it. They just don’t get it.”

Kronick added: “This is not the first time that some members of a non-profit board, who know nothing about theater, make a determination and have no conception of what it takes to produce a successful work. They are numbers people, and have little respect for creativity even if it is hugely successful. John and Diane have given their all to make this theater special. In all my years of the entertainment business, I have never known an artistic director to not take a salary. John never took any kind of compensation, to my knowledge. He is an amazing visionary that has great talent and this board has made a major error, in my opinion. As for the future of the theater without Diane and John, it will close its doors.”

The Flagler Playhouse on East Moody Boulevard in Bunnell. (© FlaglerLive)

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32 Responses for “From Raves to Shock: Flagler Playhouse’s Artistic Director and President Both Resign”

  1. Dionysus is choking on celestial wine over this… As I said in person, to John Sbordone – thanks for all you did for the kids here (and Diane), by giving them a place to be them on and off stage, and letting us in at curtain time. We’re here if you need us.
    Board are what they are, sadly – red tapers that would be perfectly at home in an Orwellian nightmare than even a suburban stage.

  2. J.J. Graham says:

    What a shame! John is a true Artist, and I had no idea that he donated his time until recently. That was an amateur move by some silly little power tripping people who think they have the right to punish success. I really hope something better is in store for John and Diane, otherwise this is just a terrible waste. – Hairspray was great ,my 3 year old son sat through the whole thing. We’ve been robbed by some teetoatling amateurs.

  3. K says:

    Pathetic. The Playhouse was just making it’s mark and the jealous and talentless egos couldn’t handle not having total control.

    I hope John’s talents continue to grace Flagler County. I would rather go watch a play in which he is involved in a vacant lot than sit at the Flagler Playhouse and support an organization that did this to two people who gave so much of their time, their hearts, their souls.

  4. JPaige says:

    I find it interesting that 3 of the take over board members are new to the board; kathy McArdle, Rick Bowen and kathy Thompson. Everyone thinks they can do something better. It’s a shame the community theater has suffer. It doesn’t take a genius to realize the theater was successful due to John and Diane’s labor of love.

    Pat Love is on a controlling ego trip and banned the others together to oust John & Diane. How sad. I wish Diane and John the best and we will follow them where ever they go.
    Is Howell and the others not involved staying on the board?

  5. palm coaster says:

    Since I been a resident in 1990, these new board members against John Sbordone and Diane Ellersten look just as the new Tea Parties favorites elected in our government. As soon as they take power are out to destroy all the goodness achieved with hard labor and for no pay, in many years.
    Play House is as successful now as never before. So then these board members should show some respect and recognition for their founders, with wine or without it. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Have become very undermining these egos satisfaction in our current society. The new kids in the block want to change it all like was done in the Humane Society against its original founder. When thru very hard labor of over 12 years she achieved the completion of the current shelter construction and then our Humane Society finally was as successful as never before, some new arrivals Hammock Dunes elite in the board, made her environment unsustainable pressing for a new director and she resigned. With Amy gone we sure lost not only the best shelter manager, but also an animal lover in our community.

  6. Jenn Kuiper says:

    I was soooo sorry to hear this! I’ve had several students work with John and Diane and I know they respected them and valued their experiences working with them. I hope they stay here in Flagler and continue to work with our kids, maybe even especially younger kids.

  7. flagler1 says:

    Why do people always try to fix things that are not broken?

  8. Cindy D. says:

    What a shame! We have been to several shows at the Playhouse and they are unbelievably fantastic! What talent in our community. Can’t we all just get along?

  9. New2PC says:

    Everyone is trying to reduce bullying in our schools. Maybe the adults (new board members), should act like adults, and not adolescent bullies!

  10. B Stone says:

    What a shame! We have thoroughly enjoyed the plays we have seen at the Playhouse, and after seeing Hairspray the last week it was on, we had decided to schedule to see the rest of the season. I think we will now wait and see what is going to happen first. I also believe the success of the Playhouse is due to the untiring work of Sbordone and Ellertsen. The board is going to have to prove itself worthy now, in order to continue receiving the community support it has enjoyed with Sbordone and Ellertsen at the helm.

  11. frank says:

    i’ve worked with john and diane many times since he’s been at the playhouse. i’ve been in joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, jesus christ superstar, hairspray, and plan to follow him where ever he goes to support him. they are truly magnificent people and have made me not only a better actor, dancer, singer, but they helped me come into my own as a performer and a person. i don’t know where i would be without them. they have my gratitude for all they’ve done not only for me but for everything they have accomplished. and i know that the most of the ‘talent” that they were talking about that they could count on in our community will most likey follow both of them to where ever they decide to set up shop.

  12. Nanci says:

    This is just incredible! What in the world is that board thinking. John and Diane have done what no one else could have – or would have. All the hours that they donated to the theater….then to be treated like this. This is just amazingly wrong.

  13. Jenn Lightsy says:

    I say good riddance to the little tyrant. Let him stomp around, drink and yell somewhere else. Maybe now Flagler Playhouse will get directors with some civility!

  14. Judie Dziak says:

    I can not believe this!!! We have been to all but 1 of the shows at the Flagler Playhouse. Are you people CRAZY!!!!!!!! John and Diane ARE the PLAYHOUSE!!! Do these people not get it??? I wil not set my foot in there again, and will be sure to tell all my friends (been here 23 years) not to also, Thanks for messing up one of the best thkings we have here in Flagler County!!!

  15. John Denson says:

    John and Diane resigned. They were not kicked out. They quit because they could no longer drink booze during rehearsals. They were drinking when in charge of many minor cast members!

    Would you really want your 11-13 year old children in the care of people drinking alcohol every night?

  16. Harrison Ott says:

    [Comment removed pending verification.]

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Harrison, five of the remaining seven board members were interviewed on the record, four of them at great length, and were asked repeatedly if there were issues other than the wine matter that led to this, as there usually are. Nothing you speak of was mentioned, hinted at, alluded to. Only John’s demeanor was euphemistically referred to as his “passion,” though even that didn’t seem to bother anyone, as the board members took a John-is-John approach. You’re obviously adding interesting wrinkles to the story, if in fact those wrinkles are accurate. I’m sure others will have their say on these matters, which are as mundane and common and gossipy as any I’ve heard in any performing arts company: Arturo Toscanini was one hell of a son-of-a-bitch too, his baton not being the only thing he raised at his performers, though that didn’t make him any less of a sought-after artist. The point being that temperaments don’t seem to be the issue here, even with the board. Your charge of one-sidedness is misplaced.

      Update: “Harrison,” I sent you an email while your comment was under moderation to ask you to put a name to your comment. You have. Now I’ve been informed that there’s never been a Harrison Ott connected with the theater. If you’re unable to verify your identity with me, by email or by phone (586-0257) your comment will be taken down by 6 p.m. You may well be who you say you are. If not, I don’t appreciate the manipulation or the dishonesty at this site’s credibility’s expense. The people involved in this story are not politicians and are barely public figures. Different thresholds apply. If you are making direct claims or allegations about them, and you’re not willing to back up your claims with your own name, verifiable name, your comments will not appear, or will be taken down. Thanks for your cooperation.

  17. Patricia Malecki says:

    Now, how about giving equal time to all of the patrons, volunteers & actors who vowed never to return after being insulted, humiliated embarrassed or screamed at by these “fallen heros”? Two people DID NOT BUILD the playhouse- MANY did. Two people were NOT the only cogs in the wheel-MANY MANY were. Two people, however, DID decide, long before now, that things would be done THEIR WAY or no way…..Unless you have been on the other side of “the curtain”, you have no idea. Being greeted, entertained, delighted and awed by a terrific show are just the pretty wrappings, as should be, that the public sees.

  18. Joshua Fagundes says:

    I don’t know who this Harrison is, but I will be honest in saying that information is grossly inaccurate and tinged with some sort of resentment.

    John is not the worlds most perfect man. Far from it. ANYONE can tell you that. Heck, I’ve gone out for dinner with the man after rehearsals and he’s taught me much about acting, and I STILL would be the first one to say he isn’t perfect. That said, he is not, in any way, a villain in this scenario. He is not some tyrant stomping about, as has been said, letting his will be known. He is a passionate man who loves his craft and does what he has to for it. He will yell at you, yes. But he is not, at ALL, being malicious towards your character. He tries to bring out the best in you and see you achieve what he knows you can. Heck, at this point, when he yells at me, I get angry at myself. Why? Because I know he yells only when I’m truly not there and I need to focus. It’s there to remind me that I need to be in the moment. But he really doesn’t HAVE to anymore. Why? Because his being intense in the first place is what ever brought out my ability to focus as I do now.

    As for the alcoholic allegations, that is actually quite unfounded. I have seen John have more than one drink over a several hour period very few times. He is not an alcoholic, or a lush, it’s just that a drink there for him is sort of the equivalent of a glass of wine with dinner. He has it out of habit and enjoyment, not to get drunk. Moreover, this decision is, fiscally, quite unthinkable. The issue is that they should not get free wine… yet you are paying directors far, far more to fill in? I don’t get it.

    Also, John would *never* get drunk or leveled his wrath or any such at children. That is an outright mistruth. He has always kept a division between adults and children in his mannerisms. Getting frustrated with them is understandable when you’re trying to work and they won’t listen, but even then he doesn’t take any anger out on them. He tries to get them to focus. But he is EXCEEDINGLY professional in that regard, especially given all of this was done on a VOLUNTEER basis. The amount of time, effort and energy John has put into the shows at that theater, and the theater itself, is ungodly, and he asks for no fiduciary recompense.

    Also, several other claims are exaggerated at best. Screamed at the cast? I’ll be the first to make a joke during an intermission or pre-show of “Whew, I’m ready to act NOW!” when he comes back stage and tells us we’re slacking, but I also know he’s always RIGHT about that. My joke is more to break the ice than anything and get people to laugh and loosen up, but when you’re bombing and you KNOW you can do well, you don’t encourage a person to put in the same level of energy, you encourage them to reach that level you know they can. And casting before shows is not quite true. Does he envision people in roles who he knows will be there? Yes. But then, what director doesn’t? Any major director will. That said, I have seen and know I will see him choose based on talent, or on the situation. Many times you can complain about people who are cast, but then, you have to look at those available and whether others who could do it were in other roles. Really, when you look at the overall flow of his shows, you’d be quite hard pressed to argue other people in various roles without weakening the shows.

    Also, the times when people were yelled at for missing rehearsals, if at all, were times he did not know about. The moment anyone noted they did let him know, even if he had forgotten, he would recede for knowing he was incorrect. He doesn’t yell wantonly and for the heck of it. As for the favorites allegation, that accusation could be leveled any number of ways and holds no ground. Some will say I’m a favorite for not getting yelled at much, but it’s because I focus when in a scene. That said, I also don’t make fun of people or anything of the sort. Several issues were brought up during this show, but they were almost all, if not all, misunderstandings and miscommunication, and often did not need to be blown out of proportion as they were.

    John is not a bully, or a despot, or a lush, or anything of the sort. John is John. John is passionate, intense, overbearing and downright hard… But he needs to be. You can say whatever you like about when John intensified, it got things done, and got them done well. I will follow and support John wherever he goes, without question, because I know the caliber of performance he puts on, and have no doubt others will as well.

  19. Bettina Ray says:

    Please read the entire article, and read it with an open mind. John and Diane resigned in protest against the enforcement of business policies that are standard everywhere, whether your workforce is paid or volunteer. These policies singled out no individual; I repeat, they are standard. In my opinion, they didn’t go far enough. The lack of professional standards with regard to auditions and backstage behavior is shocking in this professional theatre. I might venture to say that these lapses have been due to the leniency that the board till now has been loath to rein in, in view of the sell-out successes under John’s direction. However, no one is indispensable, and there’s a lot of talent out there. Flagler Playhouse will not only survive but be better and stronger than ever.

  20. Joshua Fagundes says:

    Also, NO ONE is degrading or refusing to agree that the others who work at the Playhouse beyond the scenes should be appreciated. Quite the opposite, in fact, and I’m sure John and Diane would be the FIRST to say that. Heck, during Hairspray, we had a grand total, counting lights and sound, of 6 people behind the scenes, and a total of *2* to run a *40* person cast. Thats absolute madness. Jim and Evelyn Lynam put in more time for that show than any cast member, period, and did so much work that it isn’t even funny. And no one is taking anything away from them. This goes for ANYONE who has helped in lights, sound or stagecraft elements on any show, those are just the two most recent and glaring examples.

    That said, there is a hierarchy. A director doesn’t come after the actor who missed his cue, he comes after the stage manager who did not make sure they were ready. He doesn’t yell at the actor who had no prop, he yells at the stage hand for not making sure the prop was in place. Is it always their fault? God no. Any number of times it can be the actors fault. But that is the hierarchy, and it is followed in just about ANY theater or production. That said, he would never outright degrade a person or say other helpers are not necessary. But then, many volunteers come in during the weekends of the shows, greet/seat people, serve them, and thats about it. They may help in other ways, decorating, donating and the like, but it is nowhere near the monumental amount of time John or Diane put in. Thats why saying they should get different privileges is not in any way a slight, because it is not insulting you so much as saying that THAT much initiative and work doesn’t need to be tossed aside or ignored. It’s not a question of whether stagehands should be credited, or whether John and Diane were the ONLY ones involved, but they WERE the captain of the ship, without a doubt, and things from an artistic sense SHOULD go there way. Go to ANY theater and you’ll see the director-in-residence has control. It’s just how things are. Or at least, how they should be.

  21. Jenn Lightsy says:

    Who called him an alchoholic, Joshua? Saying he drinks wine and calling him an alcoholic are two totally different things. The only post using that word was your post. If I missed it in the other posts, I apologize.

  22. Joshua Fagundes says:

    Yours wasn’t the one in question. It was one leveled at him drinking amounts of wine around children, and drinking all the time, and so on.

  23. W.Ryan says:

    Seems I waited to long to put my tidbits in. This is quite a departure from the first few posts. I was hoping to work with John and Diane before my situation with FCAL came to a conclusion. Its a shame that creative people cannot create in a productive manner. The history of visionaries being thwarted by jealousy and oppression seem to be a human trait. The commitment that both John and Diane demonstrated should not have been rewarded in this manner. if you are a creative entity the less creative personnel should back off and not bite the hand that feed them. Seeing how successful Flagler Playhouse has been and seeing how high John and Diane has raised the bar, these board members should be ashamed at what they have done and step down. They don’t belong on a Board of Directors. Seeing how the arts is on the rise in this county I know I will have the honor to work with both John and Diane in the future.

  24. Barry Delano says:

    Well, I am happy. I might actually let my child audition for a show at this theatre now. After the horror stories I heard from other parents about the environment at the Flagler Playhouse, I was always wary to let her audition…

  25. J.J. Graham says:

    Hey John If your reading this, come by and have A(1) glass of wine with me sometime, I just heard on the news it prevents heart desease. As for the board, don’t bother, I hear it doesn’t help the heartless.

  26. W.Ryan says:

    Barry, I’ve heard differently. If hard work at a production is a horror story and the expectation of working hard is too traumatic then maybe this is the best thing for you. Countless kids I know has worked at the Playhouse. They had loved the commitment to perfection and have been a part in multiple productions with John and Diane. This is a loss of great talent. Maybe staying home and baking cookies is the best bet if you’re so protective of your daughter and want to sniffle her potential with falsehoods!

  27. LivingInReality says:

    If the playhouse had a policy in place about alcohol consumption in place then I don’t see the problem with them being called out on it. If you are a volunteer anywhere and you drink while volunteering the you would either be asked the leave or fired. Having a glass of wine or 2 at the end of the performance while the cast is celebrating is one but if they were drinking during rehearsals and the performance then they should be out. I know that they have don’t great work for the Playhouse and its a shame that the arts are suffering so much but what do people expect in a community that is trapped between the “Jersey Shore” and the “Dukes of Hazzard” and the “Golden Girls”. Again I’m sorry to see the arts are dying a slow painful death in Flagler county.

  28. JPaige says:

    There was no drinking policy in place prior to the one the board made following the Hairspray performance. John and Diane did not drink during rehersals and when working with adult cast and children. During the actual performance they had been known to sip a glass or two of wine while mingling with the patrons. I and my family have been involved with the playhouse for years and never saw John or Diane “tipsy” from too much wine. We try to volunteer as much time as we can and have been impressed with the professionalism.
    This wine thing was brought up by the board because of a couple of volunteers that showed up tipsy. Also, the board was notified before the vote that if they passed this no wine thing , Diane and John would resign.The board knew full well what would happen and instead of making the ruling different they used this to oust John and Diane.They also insulted them by saying the other volunterers including some board members put in as much volunteer hours as John and Diane, and we certainly know this isn’t true.
    The rumor mill has started and time will tell what happens.
    It’s unfortunate because my children no longer want to be involved in plays there.

  29. Mr. Cunningham says:

    First off, thank you for publishing Nancy Howell’s comments. I respect her immensely, and I share her grief. My heart goes out to her, as I know this must be an ugly week. I am still dumbfounded and deeply saddened.

    Secondly, I’m an elementary school teacher, and have been involved in five productions in the past two years at the Playhouse, most of them involving children. From what I’ve seen, comments about John or Diane drinking around minors are silly. The crew that puts on each show, as Josh pointed out, includes a host of adult supervision, and the quantity of wine I have seen being consumed is modest and on show nights.

    As a teacher, the Playhouse has allowed me a golden opportunity to learn and grow, not just in areas relating to theater or production, but I have been able to commute experience at the Playhouse to my classroom. Teaching is a performance art, and becoming a better performer has made me a better teacher. John has inspired me to think about presenting material to students with the illusion and passion of it being the first time doing so, just as performers do for different audiences each night. The training I received at the Playhouse is invaluable, and much of that came from watching John create and build a show, and grow his actors in idiosyncratic ways. Though John has yelled at a cast a time or two, I honestly think that since Rocky Horror Show, produced last fall, in 2009, his directing demeanor has been tempered greatly, not that I mind a good show of frustration from a mentor to push you forward. In 2009’s Miracle at the Crossroads, 2010’s Annie Jr., for which I was Musical Director, 2010’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and this year’s Hairspray, I noticed a lot of restraint coming from John and Diane when dealing with cast members.

    For a long time, I could not believe that John and Diane worked so hard without pay. It’s true that they put their passions into the shows, and that’s what made them so exceptional. I don’t think that a democratic approach to theater would have produced similar results. It was their vision, and it was ours to communicate. I never gave my opinion about something unless it was asked for, because it wasn’t my station to do so. I understand that many of the emotions felt toward John and Diane come from a personal place and are subjective. I have been a fixture there for two seasons, and I have never had my feelings hurt, and I was never yelled at once. I approached John and Diane as I hope my pupils approach me: with humanity and understanding that at the end of the day I am there to help, to show, and to offer a chance to become better than myself.

    I am sure the Playhouse will move on, as I certainly hope they do because there are countless others out there who can learn from its stage things they can’t learn elsewhere. It will go on, but it will be greatly diminished.

  30. LivingInReality says:

    If John and Diane can’t do their volunteer work with our having a drink then they shouldn’t be there. It’s a shame that they decided to act like children and go home pouting. I think it also sets a bad example for the playhouse. When you are representing an organization you need to put your best face forward. Seeing the show’s directors with a drink would just give people ammunition to use against the play house and based whats happening to the arts in flagler county the need to be more careful. Save it for the wrap party if they have one not during the show. I think everybody needs to grow up and stop acting like spoiled brats.

  31. dawn says:

    im very shocked at some of about high school clicks. saying only these two people made the playhouse….in all actuallity its the cast the stage manger,the lights,the sound,and you are all giving these two people all this credit and all should be ashamed of yourselves.we all try to teach our children the right thing to do ,so how is it “ok” to drink wine in the presence of minors even if it was one drink.Now when your at work are u aloud to have a glass of wine?this was his work or say job.with all this energy you should all prase the actual people that do the your community that is rewarding.these two people wouldnt care if you were living in the street they wouldnt take u in,but your comunity is there for you just show …..should i say ……love

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