Monday, March 30, 2009

Lights down on PCS Lit Department

On the heels of the Fertile Ground new works festival, Portland Center Stage makes what, at best, may be described as an interesting choice in the world of creating new theatre: the letting go of both Mead Hunter - Literary Director, spear-header of the playwright's festival Just Add Water/West, and all-around new works advocate, guru, dramaturg extraordinaire - and Megan Ward, Artistic/Literary Assistant, creator of the Now Hear This reading series at PCS, and local director and dramaturg.

An update from The Mercury...WWire...

If you don't know Mead, there are two interviews in the artist profile archive.


Anonymous said...

What a shame. But with the poor choices of the artistic department for this year's productions and unexceptional theatre of late it is understandable that PCS would terminate their best. Mead and Megan will go on to better things and PCS will go on to mediocrity

Anonymous said...

What is going on over there??????They keep letting all the good people go! I heard there are more than this too. Bad management from the new regime, high prices, bad shows. Nice job PCS!!!

Anonymous said...

Beginning of the end.

Citizens (taxpayers) of Portland - prepare to become the proud new owners of the Armory.

Watch for it.

Anonymous said...

We all know about Coleman and his crown he likes to wear, but it's also this Phillips guy. The guy huckstering before every show to make sure.."You are part of the the magic we here at PCS are creating.." blah blah blah....This guy hasn't done anything except collect a big fat paycheck, I'm sure. Then you try to access the ticket information on their website and IT DOESN'T WORK!!!
There are a LOT of great people working over at PCS, but the higher up's and Board are a joke. The Marketing Director must be learning on the job or Bozo the Clown... They seem to be spending the majority of their time Twittering or Flickring or whatever you call it..but every show they are giving away after their subscribers have gone.

So they are charging big bucks for mediocre shows, using taxpayer and donor $$ to pay themselves well, and firing good folks like Mead who work for them and care about the work. Then send the Huckster out to grab more $$.

This is a disgrace to the city and should be stopped and at least investigated by some of the local press...the headline can read.."Where is all the $$ going at PCS"? In times like these even the good liberals in this town will stand up and say.."Show me your books.."

This is NOT a big city and eventually the truth will out on all of this. None of us know what is going on behind those cement walls, we own. But a crack has opened it up and some of the odor of incompetence is oozing out.

How bad can you be at your job when you are firing the Mead Hunter's of the world of theater in Portland??!! PCS, we can excuse a lot, but you have gone too far this time. This guy was everything good about Portland theater. I will occasionally go see some show at some place WAY off the beaten track and I'll see Mead Hunter walking in and think..."Cool, I guessed right.."

Shame on you PCS, and you have it coming...whatever it is...

Anonymous said...

what the F**K?

what will happen to JAW?


Blessings to Mead, Megan, and whoever else was axed.

Sad day indeed.

Anonymous said...


Three musicals next year, and they cut two of their best employees.

What is this, New Burbage?

Anonymous said...

It's not too late. In times like these, and a town this size, action can be swift if resolve is firm. An email deluge to the PCS board showing the wisdom of buying out the two contracts (maybe three) that need buying will produce results. Filling the void remaining will be easy if the boards executive search canvasses only local candidates. Call me crazy but theatre is too important to be left to these incompetent and vain-glorious hacks.

Anonymous said...

So what needs to happen now? A coordinated audience revolt? A recall? A boycott? A petition calling for PCS management change?

To answer Coleman's trademark curtain question:

"Yes - we ARE ready."

For someone else.

Anonymous said...

Who else was among the cuts?

trishap said...

We lost 5 people in this current round of cuts. Our Audience Services Manager, our rental coordinator, our IT person and Mead and Megan.

Over this last season every single department has experienced cuts as we've tried to get expenses to match the resources that are currently available in this economy.

Every single loss is keenly felt.

We are all devastated, but it would be naive to have thought that PCS would be survive unscathed in an economy where people's disposable income and charitable contributions are getting slashed right and left.

Every staff member in this organization are stretching every muscle they have (and some they don't have) trying to keep this ship on a steady course through the current rough seas (particularly so we can avoid any more painful layoffs like this one).

I completely understand your frustration and you have a right to it. But consider expending your energy on supporting Mead and Megan and their current and future projects instead of trying to tear down an institution that provides work to hundreds of your theater colleagues throughout the season and is working very hard to make sure that we will be in a position to continue to do that in the coming decades.

You can contribute time and money to help Megan with her current directing project- Bullet Round. You can get details on her facebook page.

Mead is working to build his new dramaturgical service,SuperScript so if you know playwrights who could benefit from his insight (and frankly, who couldn't!?!) send them his way. You can keep up to date with what he's doing at his blog:

Anonymous said...

why make us responsible for your shorsightedness - good buck passing.
Casting no aspersions on Megan or Mead's projects or undoubted future success. Or suggesting they won't have our loyal support and respect.
We are all feeling the pinch, trying to survive the current economic crisis, etcetcetc and no, most of us are not responsible for the economic well being of an entire staff, but many of us are responsible for the economic well being and all that implies of Family and even Friends.
Getting rid of the finest elements that make up your company begs the question ARE you ready?

ps. Don't the folks who worked those other positions have names. Would be nice to know as I'm sure many of us know them and would like to personally wish them well and since the titles are now quite empty...

Anonymous said...


How big a cut have Chris Coleman and Greg Phillips taken off of their six figure salaries in order to save jobs? Even if it's only ONE job? I'm just curious.

I have a LOT of friends in the theater community, and while I understand that times are bad, I have to tell you that this smells more and more like lousy management and less and less like economic stress. As one of the people above mentioned, they keep dumping the GOOD people. The mediocre ones stay. Why, exactly?

sam kusnetz said...

everyone here who runs a theatre should be signing their names to their opinions. everyone else should ease off, since they do not run theatres and therefore don't know what they are talking about.

also, thanks for calling me mediocre. since I'm one of the staff that wasn't fired, I guess I'm one of the mediocre ones...

sam kusnetz, production sound engineer
portland center stage

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
followspot said...

Okay, the language and attacking are getting out of hand.

Anonymous said...

And yet you kept Sam's attack on anyone who doesn't happen to run a theatre expressing their personal and professional opinions. Classy move, Followspot.

tpancio said...

The other staff members we are losing are Heather Burkhalter, rental coordinator, Jenn Rehnke, Audience Services Manager, and Marty Thompson, IT Manager.

These are the latest cuts. We lost other staff members earlier in the year, and everyone on staff has taken pay cuts and looked to cut their department budget wherever we can. Our goal is to keep this organization working so that when the economy starts to expand again we'll be in healthy enough shape to grow again with it.

Nicole said...

@ Anonymous 2:58

Sam's response asking people to sign their names to their opinion or to ease off is absolutely not an attack. It is cowardly to attack PCS or anyone who still has a job there from behind the cloak of anonymity.

MaryMac said...

My name is Mary McDonald-Lewis, and I work as an independent contractor for PCS.

I posted the below at Stephen's blog but I wanted to post it here, too.

There are some terrible things being said by anonymous folks here and on that blog (some directed at my comments along with Sam's) and I can't help but wonder -- do I know you? Do we go to the same shows, hoist a drink with the actors afterwards? Do I audition you, or have I directed you? It makes me sad to think that someone who might be a colleague holds folks who are asking for moderation here in such seething disdain -- to be hired by people you think so little of would be hypocritical and the mark of a coward, would it not? So, sign your names -- it'll keep you honest.

Mead and Megan's loss will be deeply felt at PCS and in our community at large, as both lose the place where they most broadly shared their great, great gifts with us, and with the theatregoing public.

I know that passions will run high at this news, and there will likely be some hotly-held opinions about who is to blame for this; certainly the comments on Stephen's site bode darkly in this regard.

And I sure understand the anger, and I sure respect folks' right to express it here; I support Stephen's right to write about it and commenters right to comment.

Ours, though, is a complex web of community, and so as you amass along the borders of opinion, supposition, fact and fancy, remember: there are plenty of folks who read this who also work at PCS and who are both living with the loss of their friends and co-workers while striving as hard as they know how to support this arts organization with their professionalism, and their own good craft. Keep them in mind as you work this through, can you, and contemplate how their own community rending their own employer from limb to limb may make a difficult time even more difficult for them.

I also wonder how savaging the organization serves those who've had to leave, too; what I know of them does not include a taste for blood in that way.

Yes, I work for PCS as an independent contractor, and of course I'm grateful and pleased to be doing it. And though it is not my intention to speak on behalf of folks working there, I'd write these words whether I was occasionally there or not... because every time I walk through those doors on 11th Ave, I see the faces of people I so admire, and who I know are devastated by this. These same folks need to go to work tomorrow and keep on doing what they do, and speaking only for myself... I don't want to make that any harder for them.

I don't have an opinion about Mead and Megan leaving PCS that's attached to "rightness" or "wrongness"; what I feel about all of this is just plain sad. For them. For us. For art.


sam kusnetz said...

dear anonymous (coward) who posted at 2:58 pm:

there is no such thing as a professional anonymous opinion. professionals sign their names.

i think it was a lousy thing for PCS to fire mead. if i were in charge, i am sure losing mead would be at the bottom of my list.

however, i have no idea what the decision was weighed against, and neither do you, so neither of us can fairly judge the decision.

respectfully, and with my goddamn name attached,

sam kusnetz, production sound engineer
portland center stage

Anonymous said...

Could PCS at least have the decency to take these people who they CANNED off of their horrible webpage staff list?

Anonymous said...

What is "Stephen's Blog?"


Anonymous said...

Portland Mercury's Blogtown broke this story:

Anonymous said...

It was nice to hear from trishap from PCS. But I have to ask, where is the Communications Director in all of this?? Looking at their staff list, that would be Cynthia Fuhrman. Isn't it worth her time? PCS is getting hammered all over the place and they have sound techs and the PR Manager covering up...How about the Executive Director. How about anybody who was in the meetings to make this decision. Board member??

Anonymous said...

I think the saddest thing of this whole situation is what it would mean to Portland and the portland theater community as a whole to lose PCS.

Brian Michael Peterson said...

I thought I was in shock when I first heard of these layoffs. Boy was I wrong...

Then I read these comments. Good lord and the love of holy macaroni salad. Mr. Anonymous, here is my message to you:

#1. The website to PCS tends not to work 100% of the time. Internet isn't brain-dead proof! And I don't think that PCS wants to take those names off the staff directory list - so shut up!

#2. Grow up! Get over the face that people have been laid off for the time being - it's happening everywhere and if you don't see that - then you're blind as a bat!

#3. What did the director of communications and marketing do to you? That person does more than you know for PCS and this theater community! Back off!

In short - seriously dude! or dudette! If you like writing so much - then pick up a pen and start writing a script.

Finally, remember to smile because then you can feel tingly feelings in your butt!

Brian Michael Peterson
Artistic Director
Against the Wall Theater Project

Anonymous said...

OK Brian Michael Peterson we will all get in line now that you have spoken. Class act too. Geez, what flavor is the Koolaid they've got you drinking?
We go anonymous because we can and it is a small community and some are trying to protect their jobs, but still want their voices heard. You can't control the world. Some growing up on your end might be a good idea..

Anonymous said...

Apparantly they just made more cuts today.


Wait a week or so, let people think "Whew, didn't get the ax, I'll be safe now" and then WHAMMO.

Classy, PCS. Classy.

Anonymous said...

it all started when they claimed they spent $37 mil on the bldg.
i'd say it cost more to the tune of $5 million.
the rest was a way to get public funding to pay for what they did spend.
but the note comes due soon, so they had to fire people.
math is a bitch.
i suppose it was nice to have had a job and the experience and the resume, even if it was shortlived and due to creative accounting.
if PCS produced good theatre, it would be decidedly sadder, but as it stands, perhaps worthy theatre companies will gain some valuable employees.

Anonymous said...

I have an event planned there is summer and since they eliminated their events coordibnator position (and didn't tell most in an adequate time, lack of respect) I have recevied nothing but the run aound, poor service, and a bunch a promises that have gone no where.

I understand this is a tough economic time but being humble as an organization can get you far in tough times.

The "upper" level management doesn't seem to know or care what their customers/clients are looking for. Now they've created some "special" team of people to deal with events, brides, etc. In all actuality they have no idea what they are doing, lack experience, and mostly just annoy people by wasting there time. I don't recomend booking an event there, as who knows what their future holds. Regardless if they get lucky and make it through these times their service, professionalism, and organization is poor.

I wish those that we let go the best in their new projects.

Anonymous said...

i asked about renting a space there and they never got back to me.
speaks for itself.
enough said.

Anonymous said...

attn: PCS Board of Dir.s,

It's time to scrap your mgmt team.


the paying public

Anonymous said...

I am so over PCS anyway. I have been a subscriber for 3 years, along with 15 of my good friends and I think I have seen 1, MAYBE 2 good shows in that time. NONE of us are subscribing again.
Plus, Chris Coleman is a pompous ass.

Anonymous said...

"I am so over PCS anyway. I have been a subscriber for 3 years, along with 15 of my good friends and I think I have seen 1, MAYBE 2 good shows in that time. NONE of us are subscribing again.
Plus, Chris Coleman is a pompous ass."

amen, say it again!
it bears repeating.

Anonymous said...

More developments at PCS.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm coming in late on this, but I felt it was important to divulge some information on Greg Phillips as a way to explain what is going on at PCS. I worked for Broadway By the Bay, where Greg came from in the SF Bay Area. When Greg became Managing Director at BBBay we were all very excited. He had a fantastic reputation as an amazing fund raiser and seemed to be very well versed in the world of Musical Theater. In fact, he is amazing at the fund raising because he has a very nice way about him and is not afraid to "ask" for more. He is able to inspire confidence in Board members and audience members alike.

Then the trouble started. He insisted on moving the offices. We were ideally located a few blocks from our theater in a space perfect for our operations. He then made us get rid of our storage space, throwing out stuff we then needed to re-purchase a year or so later. We moved the left over archives, props and sundries into the conference room in the new offices, blocked off by a curtain. We then found out he didn't even know what a fly space was. He had his own agenda to deviate from our tried and true 3 or 4 show season wanting to add a speakers series even though we didn't have the staff to cover it, and he completely restructured the season programming, making it almost impossible to accommodate our subscribers.

Following this change he systematically bullied employees into quitting or fired whomever he could. He did this by bringing each of us into his office for a meeting and somehow the conversations always turned to "so what do you think of so-and-so?" which he would use a fodder to get approval from the board. The board, by this point, was totally in his pocket, as money talks loudly and drowns out all other voices, and did not stick up for any of the loyal employees (who knew the subscribers and their idiosyncrasies). Greg also iced out the board members who didn't agree with his every move. We had a fabulous group of devoted volunteers - they were virtually employees. They all dropped off and stopped coming as well.

Our Youth Theater Director (who quit) did some digging and found he also had a reputation for this sort of behavior. He was known as "The man with the silver tongue." He would start huge ambitious projects for developing a new theater space, but quit when the going got tough and before they were finished or even started. Although he claimed BBBay was where he wanted to be, without a doubt, and he was fine with the commute (although he worked from home 2 days a week), a year and a half into his tenure he quit and went up to PCS.

There's more, but this is getting very long already. I hope this sheds some light on the situation up there at PCS! I wish you all good shows and good luck.

-Dalia Vidor
former Marketing Director, BBBay