Curtain Coming Down?

There’s a really sobering (and superbly reported) piece in last Sunday’s New Jersey Star-Ledger about the threatened collapse of the venerable Paper Mill Playhouse due to the Board’s failure to give or get.  Managing Director Michael Gennaro, now at Trinity Rep, left Paper Mill in frustration after cutting the budget to the bone while running into a stone wall in efforts to persuade the Board to pony up.  It sounds as if Gennaro was punished for his very success: as long as Paper Mill kept doing well at the box office, Board members felt they could take it easy. 

The article also strongly suggests that the Board president made all his contributions through the company’s benefit events.  That may mean he was selling tables; it may mean he was buying them.  But benefit events are fundraising supplements, their real purpose being to introduce newcomers to the group and charm current supporters into re-opening their wallets.  If your Board president has to be charmed to open his wallet the first time, he’s unlikely to be able to persuade the rest of the Board to donate.

Paper Mill’s travails make clearer than a hundred textbooks that Board leadership has to come from the Board, and that unless a Board president is prepared to give him/herself AND demand compliance from his/her fellows, disaster is waiting in the wings. 

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