Several weeks after we first speculated whether Satch Huizenga was still working as Live Arts’ Producing Artistic Director, the theater announced last Tuesday that Huizenga—whose 10 years at the leading local theater included six as a volunteer and four on staff—had resigned for “personal reasons.” But the lag time between Huizenga’s apparent depature and any official word about it concerned some members of the Live Arts “family.”
Producing Artistic Director Satch Huizenga (left) and Executive Director Matt Joslyn were photographed for a September C-VILLE cover story about Live Arts’ 21st year. Live Arts announced Huizenga’s resignation on December 14.
That sentiment was widely aired in the comments section of C-VILLE’s Feedback blog. “The organization’s silence during that six- or seven-week period did great damage to Satch’s reputation,” says Jude Silveira, a 12-year volunteer who resigned from the Board of Directors last spring, “in that it left a vacuum for rumors and speculation of all sorts to grow concerning the cause of his absence, most of which was far more damaging than the actual reason for his going.” (Huizenga didn’t respond to several requests for comment.)
According to Lotta Lofgren, the chair of the theater’s Board of Directors, “The delay was caused by the fact that we wanted to move as fairly and as judiciously as possible. I think a knee-jerk decision would have been much more unfair. We took our responsibility very seriously. Unfortunately, it took longer than some people might have liked, but we were more concerned with doing what was fair for Satch and the organization than about what people were saying behind the scenes.”
The date of Satch’s resignation is confidential, says Lofgren. “The process that took so long was that we were trying to figure out what to do with the fact that Satch resigned for personal reasons.”
“The only response that I can really offer is that, in any organization, personnel issues are not transparent, and shouldn’t be, out of respect to everyone involved,” says Live Arts Executive Director Matt Joslyn. “I know that’s hard, and that there’s a lot of expectation of an organization like Live Arts to be very transparent, and I understand that and empathize with that. But this board has navigated these waters in a great way.”
One corporate sponsor that was interested in supporting Huizenga as a director has pulled its support from Clybourne Park, which Huizenga was slated to direct, but Joslyn says the relationship with that sponsor remains good. He and Lofgren say they are not aware of any donors or sponsors that will stop supporting a Live Arts without Huizenga.
Two positions were created after longtime Artistic Director John Gibson left Live Arts in 2009: as Producing Artistic Director Huizenga produced a majority of the plays performed there since 2008; Joslyn takes care of business. That structure will likely remain, says Lofgren, who has appointed someone to head a search committee to fill Huizenga’s position.
As far as figuring out what plays Live Arts will produce next season, Huizenga’s task for the 2010-2011 season, says Joslyn, “We think we’ll be able to be on the same timeline. It’s going to be an equally communal decision with different leadership. Instead of there being one person to make the decision, we’re going to bring that to the whole Live Arts staff.”