Growth, Transparency & Authentic Communication for Theatre Historical Society of America

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OPEN LETTER TO THS PRESIDENT & BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

We, the undersigned members and supporters of Theatre Historical Society of America (THS), have significant and substantial concerns regarding the current leadership and management of the organization.

Recent decisions call into question whether the Directors and Management are operating in the best interest of the Society and its Members with responsible stewardship of its finances, holdings of unique artifacts and entrusted collections.

This organization, founded in 1969 by Time-Life editor and theatre historian Ben Hall, has a rich history in its collection and its activities. We have a history of altruism, inclusion and helpfulness. We do not feel that the current board and staff leadership is taking to heart the damage it is doing to the soul and morale of THS. You have taken almost all of the "Society" out of Theatre Historical Society of America.

Therefore, we will submit our concerns to the President of the Board, the Board of Directors and the Executive Director via this online petition and request a response from the Board of Directors on or before March 1, 2018, as follows:

PURCHASE OF A COMMUNITY THEATRE BUILDING: It has been reported by media in recent days that THS leadership intends to buy and operate a cinema, the Hollywood Theatre in Dormont, Pennsylvania. We feel that is contrary to our mission and fiscally irresponsible. Additionally, the local volunteers and patrons of this theatre are vocally and vehemently opposed to a THS takeover. Why are we pursuing something so costly and disconnected from the mission of our organization? Who are the volunteers asserting this agenda and how have they brought this plan to the membership?

Where is the business plan?

Have you shared an annual report with us, your members?

  • RELOCATION: The THS Board of Directors has undertaken an extensive plan of substantial change in the functioning of the organization, including the transfer of all operations from its 25 year home in Elmhurst, IL to Pittsburgh, PA. This project was undertaken without the approval of the membership.
  • CHANGE OF DIRECTION/FOCUS OF THE CORE THS MISSION: The membership was informed that the Board was “in the process of identifying a blue-ribbon advisory committee…to guide...our new entity, the ‘National History Center’”. How can THS embark on another new service when it apparently is struggling to perform its basic oversight of our mission and goals?

  • COMMUNICATIONS: Statements made to the membership in the announcement of these sweeping changes contained mostly vague assertions, unsubstantiated by financial data or verifiable facts. Misrepresentations were made regarding the cost of remaining in our Elmhurst, Illinois location and the availability of alternate locations.
  • LACK OF RESPONSE FROM MANAGEMENT & THE BOARD REGARDING FIDUCIARY REQUESTS: The membership has a right to ready access to all Accounting Records; namely the annual profit and loss statements together with the Balance Sheets comparing the most recent several years. Requests for same were met with silence. When eventually supplied, they were not up-to- date and did not address the inquiry posed.

  • Other pertinent requests from dues paying members in good standing have made to the Leadership (Executive Director and/or President) that were not addressed in a timely or complete manner. Many in the membership feel a sense of disconnect with an organization that previously had been extremely responsive to its members.
  • STEWARDSHIP OF FINANCIAL ASSETS: Recent staffing and relocation expenditures by the board call into question the use of paid consultants and contractors to complete functions that previously were performed by professionals who DONATED their time and expertise. Most notably:
  • Publications Editor – publications now contain numerous errors of fact, the publication schedule has been reduced, the quality of content, articles and photos has dropped considerably.

Distrust and ill-defined information are insidious things. Let’s get our organization back on track!

We ask that the following issues be addressed:

1. A tolling period of six (6) months for transparent communications and inclusion of THS membership in all major matters of significant and material change to the Society's operations.

2. A policy directing expedient response to specific requests for information as allowed by our by-laws and all other applicable laws with up-to- date information including meeting minutes and financial reports.

3. A blue-ribbon committee of members to assist staff in:

  • Researching the true needs and operating costs for our museum, archives and headquarters that meets with THS’s goals and geographic needs.
  • Growing membership and increasing valuable partnerships.
  • Address employee and board performance and maintaining a high quality of member services interactions

4. A commitment from the board that THS will be volunteer-led with a goal of Growth, Transparency and Authentic Communication with the Members who, ultimately, are the true owners and voice of Theatre Historical Society of America.

What can you do?

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:

  • ASK QUESTIONS
  • INSIST ON SUBSTANTIVE ANSWERS
  • BECOME ENGAGED IN THE OPERATIONS OF YOUR SOCIETY
  • SIGN OUR PETITION TO ADD YOUR VOICE!

We owe it to the legacy of our Founders to respect the History of Theatre Historical Society of America.

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS OF THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA
 



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