California | Gay Marriage | Jeff Whitty | Marc Shaiman | Mormon | News | Proposition 8 | Sacramento | Theatre

Musical Theatre Under Fire for Artistic Director's Prop 8 Support

California Musical Theatre is Sacramento's "oldest professional performing arts organization and California's largest nonprofit musical theater company" according to the Sacramento Bee and its artistic director Scott Eckern, who has been with the theatre for 25 years, has placed it in turmoil following revelations that he donated $1,000 to the campaign to pass Prop 8.

EckernHairspray director Marc Shaiman is leading the charge to boycott the theatre. Shaiman reportedly told Eckern: "The idea that your donation came from a salary that for a short amount of time was drawn from profits from a show I wrote upsets me terribly and I would never allow anything I write to play there and will encourage my colleagues to consider doing the same."

Some of Shaiman's peers, including Avenue Q writer Jeff Whitty, contacted Eckern with their concerns.

According to the Bee, the theatre is contemplating what to do: "Richard Lewis, the organization's executive producer, said the board of directors will conduct an emergency meeting on the matter this afternoon. He said it was too early to tell how this would affect Eckern's 25-year employment with California Musical Theatre."

Additionally, an Anti-Gay Blacklist has sprung up online highlighting business owners and prominent supporters of Proposition 8.

Prop. 8 gift gets theater's leader in a ruckus [sacramento bee]
Dra-ma [good as you]

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  1. Now let them feel how it is to be discriminated. Good for those who stand by to the issues that matters to the LGBT community. Thank you!

    Posted by: erick28 | Nov 11, 2008 10:07:27 AM

  2. Okay, here is what we are going to do. Andy has provided us with a link to a list of haters who gave to Proposition 8. Every one of us needs to call the ones who are business owners to make an appointment for which we will never show up. If they are a dentist, call with a request for an appointment. If they own a home appraisal company, ask for an appraisal, etc... Give a bogus name/address/phone number so they won 't know how to find you in order to bill you for their time. On the allotted day and time of the appointment, call them about 20 minutes into the appointment and explain that you are boycotting their business because of their donation to Prop 8. If we hit them in their pocketbooks/wallets they may begin to listen to our side. It's just a little bit of civil disobedience, folks!

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 11, 2008 10:24:13 AM

  3. Say hello to the unemployment line Scott.

    Posted by: homer | Nov 11, 2008 10:25:19 AM

  4. I understand how frustrated we all are about these people but we must reach out and see if we can help them realize that discrimination is bad. We need to focus more on education and also consider that a simple majority should not change a Constitution. If that were the case women and minorities might not have had the protections we seek.

    I know what many will say by my statement-but I want us to take a higher road than they do. They used lies and misconceptions to make others fear our equality. Same sex civil marriage equality is about love, not hate.

    Posted by: Gary | Nov 11, 2008 10:26:12 AM

  5. he can go straight to hell.

    Posted by: nic | Nov 11, 2008 10:29:33 AM

  6. The AntiGay Blacklist is almost unusable in its current format. I searched for a way to get in touch with the web site and found none. As an old data processing person, may I suggest that the list be arranged alphabetically within city within state. I hope that you (Towleroad) can help in this matter. We can't help if we can't access the list more easily.

    Posted by: TomJ | Nov 11, 2008 10:30:59 AM

  7. How fucking retarded do you have to be to be an artistic director of a MUSICAL THEATER compnay and support Prop 8? How can he look at many of the actors, designers, writers and directors who work there (many of whom are probably gay or gay-friendly) in the eye now?

    I hope he's haunted by the ghost of Ethel Merman sitting on his face every night for 10 years.

    Posted by: Alex | Nov 11, 2008 10:36:15 AM

  8. A few thoughts. First, are we SURE about this. (I meant this guy was a musical theatre director.) Second, I imagine that a musical theatre director must know and work with a ton of gay people. How did he NOT see that prohibiting gays from marrying is discrimination? (Oh, he didn't see it, but every single black voter in CA should have. Hmmm.) That said, I cannot wait for the interview with this guy. I want to hear his explanation. Third, is firing him legal? I mean I think the US Supreme Court has equated donations to "political" speech. Can you fire someone because they made a donation without it being viewed as discrimination? I feel sorry for the theater's employment lawyer. Last, but not least, while I think it is acceptable in some sense to hold individuals accountable, a boycott of the theatre WILL affect the gay men and women who work there as well as many straight allies. People are upset, but there needs to be A LOT of thought about doing things like this before more people get hurt.

    Posted by: Brandon | Nov 11, 2008 10:52:16 AM

  9. You can write directly to Scott Eckern here:

    Posted by: JohnInManhattan | Nov 11, 2008 11:04:31 AM

  10. OK, Let's keep our wits while the information comes out. If, indeed, this man did support Yes on 8 the theater company should be boycotted, by artists and those who supply their material. Also, the least the ineffective HRC can do is to publish a list of all person donating to Yes on 8 and a widespread boycott should be enacted. I am also thinking that a Gay Day Off might be in order. Let's all pick a day and every person identifying as gay or queer (or whatever word you want to use) call off or do not go to work. What do folks think about that? With this Eckern guy....if he really did donate to Yes on 8, is he an idiot! "Yes, Taffy, we had you tested at birth and you are definitely retarded."

    Posted by: noteasilyoffended | Nov 11, 2008 11:07:03 AM

  11. Brandon,

    The Artistic Director of a theater is at least partly responsible for the donor base. Alienating a large part of that base while also alienating potential employees and the people who license the material you rely upon for revenue is, and should be, a fireable offense. Political speech does not relieve you of your responsibilities to your employer.

    He had every right to vote as he saw fit. That's why we have a secret ballot in this country. But we also have open and transparent elections, which means you don't get to advocate for a candidate or ballot issue in secret. Giving money is advocacy. And if you want to take part in the public portion of an election, you get to take it like a man.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 11, 2008 11:14:40 AM

  12. "Can you fire someone because they made a donation without it being viewed as discrimination?"

    California is an at-will state, so you can pretty much be fired at any time, unless he has an employment contract

    Posted by: Jon92027 | Nov 11, 2008 11:14:51 AM

  13. To Brandon's comments...
    1. Reading Jeff Whitty's blog, it sounds like Eckhern knew exactly what he was doing. It sounds like he did not put two and two together about his donation and the impact on the community which supports his business.
    2. Can he be fired for the donation? I would think that if the theatre can show that his donation affected the theatre's ability to financially function due to a reduction in business, then he should be fired (unless he and/or the theatre can find some way to offset his donation). However, from what Whitty said in his blog, he doesn't sound very willing to backpedal.

    Posted by: Adam | Nov 11, 2008 11:19:34 AM

  14. BRANDON, i don't believe you can or should fire someone based on their political beliefs. You can, however, remove someone from a post when they can no longer be effective at the job. That Whitty, Shaiman, etc will not work with him or allow the theatre to perform their works is cause for his termination.

    Posted by: Dan B | Nov 11, 2008 11:21:39 AM

  15. Looked him up on the donation database at SFGate. Seems like he did do it...

    Posted by: Zeeshan | Nov 11, 2008 11:27:34 AM

  16. I have to say, firing someone on their beliefs or donations is wrong. We may not agree with them, but what if a gay man who worked for some other organization were fired for donating to No on Prop 8? We would be up in arms.

    Hiring/Firing practices are a slippery slope, and while this guy did something incredibly thoughtless given his workplace, he shouldn't be fired for it. Send him to gay-rehab or whatever.

    Posted by: AED | Nov 11, 2008 11:49:24 AM

  17. If the theater is a non-profit (chances are that it is), this guy can be fired if his actions interfere with the company achieving its mission.

    If his pro-8 stance causes the theater to be unable to bring in shows/artists that would bring in audiences or if donors stop making donations to the company, he IS interefering with the company's mission and the board has EVERY right to fire him.

    Yes, he has the right to his opinion, but he also has to deal with the consequences.

    Posted by: Alex | Nov 11, 2008 12:00:57 PM

  18. Guys, it's very simple. No customers at performances at his theater company will signal this man's end. No need for hyperbole, angst or anything. Put our money where our mouths are. And when we do not attend, write to the board of the company and tell them why you will not be patronizing the theater company. Things will take care of themselves.

    Posted by: noteasilyoffended | Nov 11, 2008 12:04:13 PM

  19. Jonathan Crutchley 2.0.
    Here we go again, another hypocritical witch hunt. What if your employer fired you because you donated to the No on Prop 8 campaign? What if your business was boycotted because you were gay? Sure it's easy to sit there and say fine bring it on - but chances are if you're saying that you aren't a small business owner counting on every soul you can get through your front door. It's one thing to blacklist companies that make corporate donations to anti gay causes. It's a completely different thing to hunt down people that spend their own personal money on anti gay causes and target the companies they work for. It's shortsighted, hypocritical, anti-american and disgusting. You do an incredible disservice to our community and our collective cause. Grow up.

    Posted by: Cameron | Nov 11, 2008 12:24:00 PM

  20. The blacklist website is, in its present form, unfortunately, practically useless.

    The term "blacklist" makes me think of McCarthyism -- how about calling it a "boycott list" or "protest list." "Dishonor Roll" has been used -- another good choice: If it were up to me, this info would be converted to a searchable database -- searchable by location, and name. (sfgate may have such a thing)

    Lassens Health Food in Ventura County, California, donated $25,000 to Yes on 8.

    Posted by: George | Nov 11, 2008 12:24:39 PM

  21. Cameron, I could to disagree with you more. People who take stances against our community, a community much more closely tied to the arts than most, is asking for trouble. And your placation of them reminds me of the early 80's when people were "horrified" that gays would march on and take on the NIH.

    "Why, you can't do that."


    Puhleeeeeaase. This man took a stand against every gay person under his direction. I am not saying he does not have a right to do and donate as he pleases, but he MUST take the bad with the good. And, in case you're wondering, his actions hurt our community.

    Posted by: noteasilyoffended | Nov 11, 2008 12:41:37 PM

  22. Cameron: I don't think there is anything wrong with the concept of economic boycotts in concept. (I don't live in CA, so this is kind of theoretical to me.)

    However, I do wonder about the effect of a boycott on the actors, technicians, etc., and others who work for the theatre. I imagine that many of them are gay or very supportive of gays. What happens to them? I would hate to see their jobs affected as ticket sales decline because of ONE person.

    Let's not use a bazooka when a scalpel will do to deal with this situation.

    Posted by: Brandon | Nov 11, 2008 12:48:17 PM

  23. Commercial photographer and Napolean Dynamite actor Aaron Ruell donated to YES on 8!!!

    Posted by: henseie | Nov 11, 2008 12:55:33 PM

  24. I read the list and decided to send an e-mail to one of the *people* on it ("Andre Carli" of Cal. State Fresno turns out to be Andrea Carlin of CS-F's Department of Social Work Education, of all things). I just sent a thoughtfully worded e-mail to her put a human face on things and to ask for the same... we'll see if she responds. It might be a bit naive, but hey, I'm young.

    Posted by: AdamO | Nov 11, 2008 1:13:15 PM

  25. SCOTT ECKERN (Artistic Director) joined California Musical Theatre in the summer of 1984 as co-director of the prestigious Music Circus internship program sponsored by American River College, where he was an adjunct professor of theatre arts. In succeeding years, he assumed a variety of artistic and administrative positions at the theatre while continuing his teaching career during the academic year. In due course he became a tenured professor in the drama and dance department at Stockton’s University of the Pacific. An actor, musician, director and playwright in his own right with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brigham Young University, Mr. Eckern left academia in 1993 for a full-time appointment as California Musical Theatre’s general manager. In 2002, he was named the company’s artistic director. In that position, he provides CMT’s overall artistic vision and direction and is responsible for day-to-day supervision of all artistic matters. Mr. Eckern is president of the League of Sacramento Theatres and sits on the executive committee of the board of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) as well as serving as co-chair of the new works committee for NAMT. Last year, Mr. Eckern served as the producer of “More Precious Than Gold,” an original musical theatrical presentation performed by 5,000 young men and women ages 12-18 from throughout Northern California. This youth cultural celebration was performed at ARCO Arena as part of the events connected to the dedication of the Sacramento Temple. He is also an adjunct professor of theatre at Sacramento State University and American River College. Mr. Eckern and his wife, Paula, have three children: Lauren, Erik and Bryan.

    [ This is from the California Musical Theatre site.]

    Posted by: Tom | Nov 11, 2008 1:16:07 PM

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