Pittsfield Players Board Meeting
October Minutes - Oct. 18, 2004
7:00 pm Scenic Theatre


President TJ Rand called the meeting to order at 7:03 pm. Board members present at the meeting were Maye Hart, Meggin Dail, Mo Demers, TJ Rand, Ernie Bass, and Jan Pinard. Guests included Lorraine LePage, Vicki Skoog, Jenna Van Valen King, Irene Hall, Maria Bauer, and Dee Dee Pitcher.
Reports: The Secretary's Report, which is published online, was reviewed and a motion to accept the report was voted unanimously. The Treasurer's Report was reviewed and also accepted unanimously.
In Old Business, TJ reported that 1776 was coming along well and that the costume nightmare was looking better. Meggin reported that the Christmas show, Not On This Night, could not be cast in Pittsfield and so it has been cast with students from Phillips Exeter Academy. Peggi McCarthy, the director, has asked us to reschedule the show for December 4, with a matinee and an evening performance. The Board agreed to that change. Maye reported that PYW would like to schedule their annual Fiddler's Contest for Friday, December 10, and the board agreed to do so. Ernie Bass volunteered to open the house and run the lights for the PYW show. Mo reported that there was not much progress with Competition 2005. She has had scripts proposed from John Scanlon and John Tousignant, but neither is interested in directing. Maye talked about ordering the showkit for The King and I for the Children's Workshop, and TJ said he would look into ordering them as soon as possible. Mo stated that she will schedule auditions for The Abduction on Sunday, December 5 and Monday, December 6. She hopes to have rehearsals on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Her performance dates are scheduled for March 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19. Mo and Maye briefly discussed sharing the stage and scheduling rehearsals as both The Abduction and The King and I will be running simultaneously and they will coordinate as necessary. There was no report on Private Lives or on Annie.
In New Business, the Board discussed Rotary dinners and how to better staff them. It was decided that we would start a phone tree in addition to the email that Irene sends out. Meggin will get a membership list with phone numbers from Mo and she will call people the night before Rotary to recruit people to help.
The Board then scheduled November Box Office assignments for 1776, with Mo scheduled for Friday, November 12; Meggin for Saturday, November 13, Maye for Sunday, November 14, Meggin for Thursday, November 18, Jan for Friday, November 19, and Irene Hall for Saturday, November 20.
The Board then discussed pre-purchasing tickets for the annual NHTA Award at $29.50 per ticket and how to distribute the tickets within the membership. It was decided that Mo would buy a block of 12 tickets and that we would sort out who got them after the nominations come out.
TJ gave an update on the progress for the building, and announced that Frank LeMay, who represents a design/contractor firm who is working on the Epsom Library, will meet with him at 1:30 pm. on Wednesday, October 27. Maye said she would join that meeting.
Jenna Van Valen King came to the meeting to thank everyone for all their emails and cards during Dave's ordeal. Then she left to go take care of him at home.
Vicki Skoog presented a written proposal for I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Her proposal was for a performance for a couple of weekends at the Scenic, and she mentioned that it could be used as and Encore-type show if the Board preferred, but she said that she would double cast the if it was going to have a long run. She reported that costumes are regular clothes and that the set and props are very minimal. She said that one skit is R rated, so we wouldn't use it if we were performing in a family venue. Mo asked Vicki if the show could be cut for competition, and Vicki said she didn't think so. Vicki suggested that the Board listen to the music, and said the show's cast could be expanded, but it's more fun if there are just four people. She said she has fallen in love with it and wants to direct it. Mo asked Vicki if she might consider directing the Competition show, and Vicki agreed to look at the scripts Mo had with her. Then she left to watch the Red Sox game.
The Board then switched to the topic of a review of Encore 2004. TJ stated that the review was necessary at this time, due to the fact that the Board had received another proposal for Encore. Dee Dee Pitcher, the director of Encore, began by submitting the final week's income of $780, and a final expense list. Mo asked if the expenses were the same as what she had on her final accounting of the year, and it was clarified that those were the same expenses that Irene Hall had submitted to Mo. Dee Dee then said that there were many problems with Encore both this year and last year. She stated that she loves doing Encore, directing Encore, and mentioned her 20 years of experience with the Players. She said she accepted the directorship of Encore because it is a show she likes to do, a show she loves. She said it's been a difficult task because of tension and dissention between the director and others in the show. She said that she knows that the director is ultimately responsible for everything in the show, but as the director, she's been faced with situations where things were done that she didn't want done, and, when she confronted those people, she faced resistance. She stated she had problems with the cast, problems with the stage manager, and problems with the crew. She felt that this year's Encore was a good show, but there were some things that happened during the season that both she and members of the cast were disturbed about. She mentioned that the cast was particularly upset when Mo came to the show and took notes all during the performance. Dee Dee was disturbed at the way the contract with the accompanist was handled and said that, while said she understood that the Board might feel the need for a contract with the piano player, the contract itself came in very late and should have been negotiated before the season started. She said that she and the piano player had a gentlemen's agreement that they worked out when the season began, and that the pianist said she wouldn't sign the contract, because she felt it came in late. Dee Dee suggested that the Board have a standard contract for accompanists, if they demand a contract, with fill-in blanks, and that the contract be signed right away at the time the agreement is reached. Dee Dee also listed other difficulties this season, such as losing a stage hand right away, and houses that were not what they expected. She said that Larry Mossbrucker felt the audience numbers were not up to snuff, either, but he felt it was just a down season in the region. Larry did more press releases to increase the numbers, and the audience seemed to pick up a bit. The cast also did their part, getting friends and relatives up to Steele Hill. Dee Dee said that every show has its struggles, trials and tribulations, but they made it through. She stated that she wants copies of the DVD and asked TJ how to make copies onto VCR, and TJ said he could help her make the VCR copies. She also said she had had screaming matches between cast members and that she had handled them.
TJ then said that, in his opinion, one of the problems with the Players right now is their talent pool, and that the quality of the talent trying out for shows is not as strong as it used to be, and he wanted Dee Dee's assessment of the talent pool. Dee Dee stated that she disagreed and thought that the talent pool has changed, not gone down. She talked about the singers and matching the song with the person to get the right song for the singer.
TJ then offered time for one question from each Board member. Mo began by apologizing to Encore cast members for taking notes during the show, and added that it wasn't tactful. She did say that only one of things she wrote down had anything to do with the cast, and it was about hemming sleeves on a costume. But, she apologized again for the incident. Mo then asked why she hadn't received the final $780 until now. Dee Dee stated that she's been very busy and couldn't get the money to Mo. Meggin agreed with Dee Dee that our talent pool has changed, not dwindled. Ernie asked for a clarification on the contract situation. Dee explained that the contract showed up in the middle of the season. Dee Dee and the pianist agreed that it was too late to sign a contract, when they had already ironed everything out between them. Ernie asked if there was anything in the contract that was different than what they had agreed upon, and Dee said that there were a couple of things that were different, and that was why they didn't sign the contract. Maye stated that she knew from experience how hard it was to direct and be in the Encore show, and she stated that she had had help - Dee Dee was her choreographer. Maye didn't have to do all three jobs and Dee Dee does. Maye then asked if being a director, actor, choreographer was too much. Did she need help? Dee Dee said that that was why she had a producer, and a stage manager. Dee said that her producer, Irene Hall, was missing for the first couple of months doing a show elsewhere with Mo. Then she talked about problems with the programs, which Irene had said she would do, and then next thing Dee Dee knew Mo was doing them. Dee Dee felt that if Irene couldn't handle the job, she should have given it back to her, not to Mo who had nothing to do with the show. Mo disagreed and said that a producer's job is to just get it done, including delegating the job to someone else if he or she can't do it. There was a short discussion about responsibilities between Dee Dee and Mo. Jan waived her question and had no comment at this time. Lorraine LePage, when asked for comment by TJ, said she was just there to listen. Irene Hall talked about problems that this year's show faced and how she and Dee Dee worked them out with good solutions. She described problems with the stage manager quitting early in the season. She mentioned a difference of opinion about where Erica was to sit during the show. Maye asked who's job it was to decide where Erica was to sit. Irene said it was between Erica and Dee Dee. Dee Dee explained how she asked Erica to move, because she was in the way of the cast entrance, but that Erica kept moving back to that spot. She said that no matter what she said and what she asked it wasn't done.
TJ then said that, when Encore first began rehearsals, TJ stopped by and talked to the cast to make it clear that the buck stopped with De Dee, and he thought people understood and agreed. TJ then asked Dee Dee where it fell apart. Dee said the cast was great, but it was her support people that were the problem. She said that if she had it to do over again, she would have changed her support people during the season. Meggin said that we seemed to have an epidemic of support problems this year. Mo then asked about content, a half question and a half comment, and asked why Encore is exempt from having all the songs and the script material up front, before the show even rehearses, as our other musicals do. She said some music wasn't received by the cast until two weeks before the show, and she said that the mediocre pieces in this year's show were the ones that were received in the last two weeks. Mo felt that there were things being learned way too late. Maye said that that was often the case in Encore. Dee Dee said you had to hold some music back because you didn't know how long the show would be until you sang the songs. Mo said it says right on the sheet music how long the songs are. TJ jumped in at this point and said that this discussion was a difference of opinion, and that any two directors could approach a show differently. He said he thinks what the Board has to wrestle with is that we have Encore off by itself, so it's not given the support and treatment of all the other shows. He suggested that, by making it a main stage type show, it could help with staffing and preparation. Irene then said that she knows she wasn't what Dee Dee wanted in a producer. But she said she had cast members, four at least, calling her and saying that they wanted to quit the show. She said she never turned her back on the show. She said the pianist came to her and said she wasn't sure about getting paid. Dee Dee then said that the pianist said something different to her. Meggin then asked where the contract came from and Mo admitted that she created the contract. She said that she threw it together.
Dee Dee then asked what the proposal for Encore was. TJ handed the copy of it to Dee Dee to read. Dee Dee said she was looking at directing Encore next year until this meeting, but now she's not too sure. She asked for a summary of the proposal. Mo stated that the proposal was basically an outline about how she would do Encore if it became available. Dee Dee said that last year at a Board meeting, she expressed some concerns about the Board's support of her. She wanted to know how long she could direct Encore, and at that time the Board told her that she could have the show for as long as she wanted. She said if we don't want her to do it now then she won't drag the show down. She also said that the director of Encore shouldn't change on a yearly basis because you have to deal with Larry Mossbrucker and he has to have a steady contact with the Players, not someone new every year. She also said that the person who directs the show should be a member of the show for at least two years. She also feels that the director must be able to read music, to select the music, and she said that, even with a musical director, someone who could not read music would be losing some control over the show. Dee Dee also stressed cast camaraderie, and how important it is to the show. Dee Dee said that she doesn't have a problem with giving Encore up. She said that some people in the cast and crew didn't get along, but for obvious reasons, and there was some bickering and tiffs.
TJ then assured Dee Dee that the Board will not renege on our offer, made to her last year, that Encore was hers to direct. He also said the Board chose her to direct for a reason, and those reasons are still extant; however, he asked, if we bring Encore in as a more "main stage" show, what can we as a Board do to make sure that we have a good crew? Dee Dee replied that the crew is the very important, and that good back stage people are most important. She said the stage manager should be someone who can solve crises, someone with a driver's license. The lighting person needs to be able to set the lights and run them, and to understand how the system works. She said that the music has to be good and mentioned that Heather did an awesome job, but that she was pregnant, so they had some moments because of that fact. TJ asked if we have those people who can do all these things for Encore 2005. He said he realizes it's early, so Dee Dee may not have given it any thought yet. Dee Dee replied that as yet, there is no keyboardist for next year, and no lighting person who is qualified, except Ernie. Dee Dee said that you need a very strong person for the producer. TJ asked what Dee Dee's prognosis was casting wise, and she stated that she does not see the whole cast returning, in fact that many probably will not return. She stated that the cast was very discouraged with things because of the Board. Jan then asked for Dee Dee's connection between the cast being discouraged and the Board. Dee Dee said that it all started back when Board members were scrutinizing the cast, so much so that they felt they were constantly under the magnifying glass. TJ asked Dee Dee what the Board did that gave that impression. She said that there were some members of the Board who "popped in", and the note taking episode with Mo, previously discussed. Dee Dee said the Board never used to pop in on shows in rehearsal. Meggin responded that all along Board members have been required to drop in at all rehearsals to show our support for the work that people are doing. Jan asked Dee Dee what she would have the Board do to support her and the cast. Dee Dee stated that she's not sure she even wants to direct it next year. And she said that she doesn't know what can be done for support. She reported that her cast felt that they were volunteering because they love the show and they love the theater, and then they do all of this work and they felt that the Board harshly scrutinized them. Jan asked was there anything specific Dee Dee could point to in order to illustrate her point. Meggin jumped in and said that the Board has the feeling that we can't go anywhere, can't do anything, without this criticism. Dee Dee then said that she felt the Board needed a softer side. She said we need to be softer, not less authoritative, but softer, and offer more positive reinforcement. She said she feels that at least six to eight people she knows feel that things are harsher than they used to be. She said she feels that the Players are losing that family feeling that they always had before. Mo asked whether we were looking at a chicken and egg situation, and asked is the Board becoming harsher because of the lack of response or is the lack of response due to the harshness. Dee Dee said she couldn't say, but that it just doesn't feel the same. She said she loves what she's doing with TJ and the choreography for 1776, but she's feeling like the more you do - the more you do. She said everything is "hard". She couldn't tell the Board how to fix it; she could just report that the feeling exists. TJ asked her whether she felt it was the membership against the Board or a group of the membership against the Board. Dee Dee said that in an election people vote for you because they want you to work for them, and they don't feel that the Board is working for them. There are people that will constantly put in their time, and get little credit for it, and many of those people are still here. Dee Dee said she's still here. TJ thanked Dee Dee for her comments, and said that they are helpful. He said we have to make Encore it better, and that there shouldn't be all these problems. He said we need to make Encore better and we need to make it more lucrative, especially since we're looking at a staircase and/or an addition to the building. Dee Dee said that there are huge things that need to be addressed for the future of the Players. She said she's afraid that if something isn't done to repair what has happened, it could mean the end of the Players. Meggin then asked Dee Dee if she could help the Board to fix the problem. Meggin would like her to spread the word that when things come up, members need to go to a meeting to express their views, or call a member of the Board up and voice your concerns. Dee Dee said she'd do her part to pass the word to the members, and then said that she had asked people from the cast to be here tonight and Lorraine was the only one who showed up. Dee Dee said she invited many of the cast to come and talk Encore and their concerns, but only one has showed up. Dee Dee said that TJ's welcoming the cast to the first rehearsal went over very big with the cast. Mo stated that part of the difficulty of being on the Board requires us to do so much background work that we're not able to be in as many shows, or involved in a lot of shows, and so the only way we can be involved socially is to drop in to the show. Meggin explained how she came in early to the theatre to do some notes for 12 Angry Men because she needed to get out of the house, and 5 people thought she was taking notes on Encore while she sat in the back of the theater working on something else. TJ then asked Dee Dee if she thinks there is an Encore paranoia. She replied that we can start to get rid of those feelings by including Encore as a regular show. Meggin suggested that we make it a main stage type of show and make Encore follow all the rules of a regular show, and Dee Dee replied that, if we're going to do it that way, we need to let her know. She mentioned that Encore should be considered as a regular show for the Dame Awards, and how some didn't like being in a separate category, and were disgruntled because they got a cup and not a trophy. TJ said that sounded like Encore paranoia again, and reminded everyone that last year only he and Bernie Cameron worked on the committee, and no one else came forward to complain or participate and change that status for Encore. He said that if people would come to the meetings, we could get by some of this.
At that point, TJ closed the discussion on Encore and thanked everyone who came to discuss the show. Irene Hall reminded everyone that Rotary dinners are a good time to socialize and meet people. Irene Hall, Maria Bauer, Dee Dee Pitcher and Larraine LePage then left the meeting.
Meggin suggested that we should invite Dee Dee back for more discussion because nothing was resolved and when she left she didn't know whether she was going to direct, and we didn't know whether she wanted to. The Board also decided to do continue discussion with her in less formal circumstances. Mo noted that Dee Dee had left with a copy of her proposal for Encore, setting a possible precedent for directors seeing other director's proposals.
In Other Business, it was brought up that the paper products need to be restocked. It was also noted that the water in the handicapped bath room did not seem to work. TJ reported that Bea Pszonowsky and a crew would be cleaning the attic this coming weekend. Meggin brought up the sale of season tickets for the upcoming year and it was agreed to produce them and to raise the price of the tickets to $45. These tickets will be available for Christmas sales.
The next meeting date is scheduled for Sunday, November 28 at 3 pm at the Scenic Theatre.
The meeting adjourned at 9:38pm.