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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Governor Paterson is being relentless with NYSTI. Yesterday he sent a letter to the board asking for everyone to resign, threatening to fire those who don't quit. I don't understand the threats. Why not just fire the lot and be done with it?

The expectation is that if the board goes it will be replaced by members of the Governor's inner-circle. Guess what their first action will be? To fire Patricia Snyder. Probably the second thing will be to replace interim director David Bunce.

Once Snyder is gone someone has to decide what to do with the organization. The proposed budget cuts brought an outpouring of support for the youth theater and it seems to me if the powers-that-be wanted the organization to die it would happen by neglect and withholding of funds. All this drama seems to be more about personalities than it is about destroying a theater company.

It sounds crazy, but having Paterson's close associates operating NYSTI might not be as bad as it sounds. Think what you may about the work NYSTI puts on stage, the fact is NYSTI is a solid, well-run professional organization - despite what the IG says about Patricia Snyder's excesses.

Look past most of those claims and you'll find an institution that knows how to communicate with educators, prepare teaching guides and do all the things that makes going to a NYSTI production an excellent learning experience.

Certainly there are production expenses that could be trimmed. I've long felt NYSTI has one of the most luxurious rehearsal periods in the industry and some sets are elaborate for elaborates sake. However, the production budgets are reasonable for what they get onstage. I believe a few actors might benefit by a retirement package, but the core of the group is capable of doing good work. The actors who are hired on a show-to-show basis are usually strong performers who are not paid a ton of money.

I hope that when the state types experience NYSTI on a day-to-day working basis they will realize it is an organization worth saving. I would also hope they would understand that the name is New York State Theatre Institute and not Capital District Institute. Bring the NYSTI shows to cities around the state. Someone said to me the other say that the company has probably spent more time on stages in Sweden than it has in Buffalo.

I just hope it isn't too late to save an organization that is healthy at its core. When you lose an arts organization it stays lost. In these times change is better than loss. However, at this point it is all speculative. The only thing you can be sure of is change won't come until there is change at the top.


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