On March 15, 2017 Seattle Opera announced it would be closing its Scenic Shop and dismissed 6 of its Senior Production Staff including Robert Schaub (Technical and Facilities Director) ,Vincent Feraudo (Director of Production), Kitty Kavanaugh (Master Scenic Artist), Michael Moore (Scenic Studios Manager) and Linda Kenworthy (Properties Coordinator),. This was all with no warning. These measures were to "Streamline Operations" and "stabilize its fiscal health".
The staff members who have been dismissed comprise some of the top figures in opera production in the US and have shepherded the Seattle Opera through both good times and bad. They have been instrumental in building both a national and international reputation for the company in terms of design and production. Robert Schaub and Vinnie Feraudo in particular have trained and mentored some of the finest technicians and stage managers working in opera today. Their depth of knowledge is profound and their insights have helped many a struggling production achieve success not only at the Seattle Opera but throughout the opera community at large.
Under the guidance of Michael Moore, the Seattle Opera Scenic Shop has produced hundreds of productions, many of which have been seen throughout the United States and internationally. Its staff is renowned as highly skilled artisans who have been loyal to the company through every possible economic time. Whether for the grandest opera houses or the smallest local theater companies, their work exemplified dedication, precision and artistry.
Arts organizations and their production departments take years to build up. Putting together a team of artists, technicians, and directors in a operatic production department is as difficult--if not even more-- than in the most complicated industrial production environments. With their long histories and experience tailoring productions precisely for the needs of the Seattle Opera, these Senior Staff members and the Scenic Shop have time and again been key to the success and long term health of the Seattle Opera.
We the undersigned strongly urge the Seattle Opera Board to reconsider the decision to dismiss the Senior Production Staff as well as close the Seattle Opera Scenic Shop. We hope you will choose the long term artistic health of the company over a short-term goal of immediate liquidity.
Response From The Seattle Opera Board of Directors on April 5, 2017:
To: Linda Brovsky, Thomas Hase, Donald Eastman, Kevin Langan, Greer Grimsley and Luretta Bybee
Dear Friends of Seattle Opera,
On behalf of the Board of Directors of Seattle Opera, this responds to the six of you and through you, to those who joined in your petition concerning our recent decisions to streamline our operations.
Copies of the petition were delivered to every member of the Board who attended our annual all day board meeting/retreat this past Saturday and complete copies of the list of, and comments from, the persons who joined in it were made available to all the Board.
We assure you that the Board appreciates your concern and we know the news of the past few weeks has been heartbreaking for many of you, and wish there was another way forward that did not involve these types of changes. Unfortunately, the reality of Seattle Opera’s financial situation has called for difficult decisions. We have been exhaustive in our efforts to balance budgets and reduce operational costs in less disruptive ways, and believe that the measures we’ve taken, however painful, are necessary to put us on the path to sustained financial health. The Board unanimously supports Aidan Lang’s plans to bring expenses into alignment with earned and unearned income. Our hearts go out to those who are impacted by these changes.
The Board of Trustees of Seattle Opera
John Nesholm, Chair
Brian Marks, President
To The Seattle Opera Board of Directors,
We strongly ask you to reconsider the decision to dismiss the Senior Production Staff as well as close the Seattle Opera Scenic Shop. We hope you will choose the long term artistic health of the company over a short-term goal of immediate liquidity.