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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NYSTI's only way out

The shoes keep dropping at New York State Theatre Institute. Last week, the state's Inspector General issued a report charging producing artistic director Patricia Snyder with misappropriating over a $1 million in funds. On Monday, Governor David Paterson wrote to the NYSTI board urging them to fire Snyder.

NYSTI's board president David Morris has said the board would not take immediate action on firing their leader. That is understandable. Without Patricia Snyder there would be no NYSTI and she deserves a fair hearing. Right now she is being tried in the court of public opinion. Charges are not proof of guilt.

Unfortunately this entire affair isn't about a fair hearing and the board better soon understand that with Patricia Snyder doing public battle with the governor, the institution will be soon out of business. Hundreds of jobs will be lost and the youth of this area will lose an important source of theater education.

Reading between the lines of Paterson's letter there is the implication the governor is willing to save NYSTI - but not with Snyder as its leader. Reading the entire IG report it is clear this entire issue is about her. While there are damning charges, there are a lot of picky things that imply a case is being built to make Snyder look criminal. She is not that person.

But it sure looks bad. A lot of the situation has to do with lack of controls. (Board where were you?) Small excesses look major when grouped together and that's what the IG report does.

This is not to deny some serious charges. I want to hear her defense of moving the rights to "Miracle on 34th Street" to profit herself, her son and a third party. On the surface it looks dastardly, but maybe there is an explanation. And she should have a forum in which to offer that explanation.

As for the charges of nepotism, they can't be denied. However, if you look at the money paid the family members on the payroll this isn't about getting rich. It's about poor judgement and favoritism. I do believe Snyder sincerely thinks her family is talented enough to deserve the jobs they were given. Many of my reviews of NYSTI disagree with her opinions.

There are also nonsense charges - like cast dinners, a receipt for a small charge for a retirement party for a company member who gave devoted service for over 20 years. The report claims she took money to direct shows. She didn't. But she did manipulate reporting the income so as to increase her pension benefits.

The point is simple. The report makes Patricia Snyder toxic. There is no legislator (except maybe locals) who can vote to restore cut funds to NYSTI in the proposed state budget. For months NYSTI has been urging supporters to write their representatives as they claimed the organization would fold if the cuts were implemented. If Snyder doesn't leave, the cuts will stand and NSYTI will go down the tubes.

In the past, during her battles with the legislature and governor, Snyder aways waved her constituents as a battle flag. The children. It was all about the children. Now it seems it is really about Patricia Snyder. Is she fighting for the children or for herself? If she resigns NYSTI might be saved and the children will likely continue to be educated through theater.

Does Patricia Snyder deserve this fate? She is, after all, the person who built an institution that gained national attention for their educational programs. And even if everything on their stage isn't perfect - work like the recent "Orphan Train" speaks to the value of the Institute.

It doesn't matter. It's not about who deserves what. It's about violating state law. Does Gov. Paterson deserve to be hassled over accepting World Series tickets to Yankee Stadium? Yes - if he violated the law. The same goes for Patricia Snyder.

For her the choice is simple - resign or take the Institute down with you. The board has to recognize this. If she doesn't resign they must stop acting like a rubber stamp and release her from her contract,

Resignation would be better. As the saying goes "No greater love hath no man ....." It's time for Patricia Snyder to sacrifice herself for the good of her company of actors, her staff and her audience.

Patricia remember your own mantra - The children. The children.


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