Defending Hilary

If you’re a member of the Omaha theatre community like I am than I imagine you were rocked by the startling news of the dismissal of the Omaha Community Playhouse’s artistic director, Hilary Adams, last evening.

From reading the multiple posts on FB, it is clear there is a lot of sadness, frustration, and anger at the news, but most importantly there are a lot of questions. Specifically, the question, why. Why did this happen? Why are we once again heading down a road that we visited not that long ago with Carl Beck and Susie Baer-Collins?

We may never know the truth, but I certainly think we have a right to know what happened and to have a say in things. The Omaha Community Playhouse is all about the COMMUNITY. And the community is the board of directors, the hard working staff and crew, the dedicated volunteers, the actors who offer their time and talent free of charge, and the patrons who pay their hard earned money to be taken out of reality for a few hours. In short, everybody. Without the community, there is no community theatre.

I’ll be honest. I do not know Hilary very well. We’ve only spoken briefly at auditions for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the meet and greet for Jeff Horger. Thus, my judgments of her as an artistic director are based solely on her work. Based on those observations alone I believe, to the bottom of my heart, that the Playhouse was in very capable hands with Hilary at the artistic helm.

In the short time that Hilary served as artistic director, I not only saw a continuation of the Playhouse’s legacy of producing great shows, but other positive changes as well.

One of the best changes initiated by Hilary was to the audition process. When I saw that Hilary made the auditions more of a private process, I was ecstatic. Not only did the actors have the security of knowing they had her full attention, they also had the security of knowing everything they did would be perceived as original since no other performer could see what the others were doing. I imagine nerves were also much lower since there wasn’t an audience watching the auditioners. This would allow the actors to give their very best and be judged in the best possible light.

I also praise Hilary in putting the COMMUNITY in Omaha Community Playhouse. As actor, critic, and patron, it has been a real treat for me to see so much new blood have a chance to shine on the Playhouse stages over the past year and a half. I think the casting during Hilary’s tenure put new vitality into the Playhouse product.

And her directing. After 20 years in the business, I know good directing when I see it and Hilary is a great director. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Man of La Mancha easily make my top 10 list of the best shows I have seen on metro area stages. And I especially loved her focus on the story of A Christmas Carol in this year’s production. She’s intuitive, inventive, and interesting and those are qualities essential to a good artistic director.

Since it is our Omaha Community Playhouse, dear readers, I think we need and deserve to know the full story behind this decision. I’d also like to encourage the Playhouse board to be direct with us about what happened. Perhaps with an open forum like we had a few years ago. Why was this decision made? Might we be able to talk about it? Is there anything we, in the theatre community, can do to help? Great things can be accomplished if we simply talk things out.

I encourage you to get the word out, Omaha theatre community. Let your voice be heard. Contact the board. Share this post. Let’s come together as the community we are and do some good just like we did once before.