Sunday, November 09, 2008

California Musical Theatre: Artistic Director Scott Eckern

This is stupefying. The Artistic Director of Californai Musical Theatre, Sacramento’s oldest professional performing arts organization and California’s largest nonprofit musical theatre company is a donor to the “Yes on Hate” campaign! He gave $1000 to the Yes on 8! This is from a man whose job it is to select the musicals and hire the actors and designers. He hires and works with thousands of gay men. (Believe it or not, there is a very high proportion of gays working in musical theatre.)

Hard to believe that Scott Eckern supports YES to bigotry, YES to discrimination, and YES to second-class status for same-sex couples. This is an attack on gays everywhere.

I have read his bio. He is obviously Mormon. But has he not learned anything from the people he works with or from the shows he has produced? Mr. Eckern seems like a smart, intelligent and successful man. I am amazed that he is a naive and simple believer of the Mormon doctrine, Religions and faiths can change. My religion, Reform Judaism, has grown and changed with the times. Even I know that the Mormon faith has made social progress. It use to promote polygamy and taught blacks were inferior.

We first started to make trips to Sacramento to see a musical at California Musical Theatre. (Read here and here) We discovered that the Sacramento area is blessed with a wealth of theatre companies. As long at Mr. Eckern is at California Musical Theatre we will no longer be patrons of that organization. We will make sure our friends and theatre colleagues in the Bay Area know about this as well. We love these other theatres in Sacramento: B Street Theatre, Capital Stage, and Sacramento Theatre Company.
UPDATE: Mr. Eckern announced his resignation as artistic director of the California Musical Theatre on Nov. 12, 2008. He says he will make a comparable donation to the Human Rights Campaign. He also revealed "I chose to act upon my belief that the traditional definition of marriage should be preserved. I support each individual to have rights and access and I understood that in California domestic partnerships come with the same rights that come with marriage. My sister is a lesbian and in a committed domestic partnership relationship. I am loving and supportive of her and her family, and she is loving and supportive of me and my family."


Esther said...

Unbelievable that he could be in that line of work and have so much contempt for gay people. Sadly, we've seen from recent history that familiarity doesn't always breed respect or understanding or compassion. Look at Nazi Germany or Rwanda. Amazing, isn't it, how quickly we turn on our fellow human beings.

Anonymous said...

I work for CMT and I am openly gay. I certainly am not happy about Mr. Eckern's choices based on his personal faith. But... if everyone opposed to Prop 8 refuses to attend Music Circus or other CMT productions over this issue, then it is seriously going to affect my income and fellow employees incomes. How does that help? These are very hard economic times for those of us working in theatre. I urge you to bring your opinions up to Mr. Lewis and the board of directors, and call for change, but don't boycott.

Anonymous said...

As someone who opposes Prop 8, and also as a Musical Director - I feel that this kind of belief from a man who makes his living off of actors, musicians, and crew where a large percentage are gay is not a place that I would be willing to work for.

By making a donation in his name, and using his theater name and title (whether they supported him or not) he has opened himself up for public scrutiny.

To the current employee who posted above - I understand where you are coming from - and I don't plan on getting married anytime soon so I am not really affected by this Proposition right now. However some of my friends are - and I personally don't agree with his beliefs.

I also believe that in this day in age the only way to get a message across is to keep money away from the organizations that do not support what you do. If I were in California I would be leading a picket line against this theater - not to hurt you or any fellow coworkers, but to express my beliefs.

Anonymous said...

TOTALLY agree with the above comment! Why do the workers NOT bring it up?

Anonymous said...

No one wants anyone to lose work over this. I think the point is, threaten to boycott, let the theatre know how we feel about it and hope they do the right thing. I know the executive producer, Richard Lewis, he's an upstanding guy. He, and his father Russell before him, were and are very compassionate about gay people. I don't believe for a moment, that Richard will stand for this. Go to the website and let them know how you feel!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11:00 pm ~

How about you bring it up with Eckarn? Tell him that yes! people are going to boycott the theater because of his actions?

Because we are.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a letter of resignation by that person, and statement from the head of the company disavowing that persons monetary support of prop 8 is the answer. That's one way for the convesation to start and the healing to begin.

Anonymous said...

the rumor i heard was that since the donation was $1000 or over, it couldn't be anonymous. It is certainly a lapse in judgement. I too, having known both men and the theatre for a while, hope there is some scenario where Eckern acknowledges how his action offended so many, and yet somehow the theatre's reputation (and other employees, both full-time and seasonal) do not suffer unduly.

Anonymous said...

I see him at GAY bars all the time in SF. He's a closted Homo.

Cum out already!

What a tool!

Anonymous said...

I have notified Actors Equity Assoc. And over a thousand of it's memebers of this insanity. I wrote a letter to CMT executive director Richard Little and also emailed many friends who are executives at major corporate producing offices and regional theatres across the country. Word travels fast in the theatre community. I am going to write a letter to as well and hope they choose to cover it... The SF and LA times needs to know about this as well. They're next on my list... This man should be OUT of there!

Anonymous said...

This is all so very sad. I know Scott as well and he is a very kind and good man. Having worked in theatre in the Sacramento region for a long time, I can find no excuse for the donation. He knew, he has close friendships with many of the gay artists that work either with him or in other theatres nearby, this is a small community. What he did has hurt people, hurt many of his so called friends personally. The pain of the broken marriages and families and friends vs friends, this is real. I am not sure what will happen, but perhaps this action is one that cannot be forgiven or carries too much hypocrisy. I am deeply saddened, but hold steadfast in the belief that the donation was wrong.

Anonymous said...

I've attended CMT performances since 1964. My parents started buying season tickets in the early 70's. I started buying season tickets in the early 80's. I've donated money every year since they started asking for charitable contributions.

I sent an email to Richard (exec. Producer) about my feelings. Yes, everyone has a right to free speech, including Mr Eckern. But it has consequences, and the CMT is going to feel the pressure.

I'm not sure firing is right; but a demotion may be appropriate. Artistic Director? Huh? Show Boat was the first production of the company and its the most produced show in the company's history. Doe the Artistic Director not understand the theme? He probably is over his head.

Maybe his punsihment should be to watch a performance of Show Boat with his eyes taped open and write an essay on what is the point of the show.

Anonymous said...

I would think this kind of support for hatred would put LGBT persons in a hostile environment.

nofreespeechhere said...

Or maybe the heart of the problem is that stereotyping and hatred have emerged within the LGBT movement and are reaching levels of hysteria toward the religiously inclined folks they have vilified.

Kitty is right, this does have more to do with general civil liberties than gay rights.

Remember the Methodist church in New Jersey that lost their non-profit status for withholding one of the their buildings, a sanctuary, from the gay wedding requested for their site.

Remember the father in Massachusetts that spent the night in jail demanding his promised "opt out" rights for his kindergartner.

This is about freedom of speech and freedom to follow your religious conscience within the confines of your own church, and home.

Multiple precedent setting cases have occurred removing rights from those that exercise their conscience. Tolerance now can only be expected if your sexual orientation is at stake, not your religious beliefs.

If only religion were still considered a civil right and private citizens could still voice their opinion without fear. Scott Eckern has experienced something that should never have happened in our country.

One can only hope that some day the LGBT population will learn to tolerate freedom of speech and the constitutionally designed civil right of religion. I have never infringed on others rights to live their lives as they see fit, but please don't ask any church to condone and perform gay marraiges that violate the foundation of their beliefs. Give me a bill expanding civil union benefits and I will be first in line to pass it, as long as it doesn't curtail the freedom of speech of others.

An old saying from the WWII era goes something like this, "Your right to move your fist ends where my nose begins." Please stop swinging your political fists. Religious folks didn't start this fight...we are defending our God-given right to worship.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above cogent statement. We should appeal to eachother's sense of fairness, stop making a scape goat of Mr. Eckern, who has done nothing wrong, and continue to judge only on the basis of talent, skill and experience. After all, isn't that what we all want, to be judged fairly, not to be judged on our political, religious, sexual or social orientations? I am shocked at the "knee jerk" reaction towards Mr. Eckern, two wrongs do not make a right. His resignation is uncalled for based on his record of inclusion and respect towards those in his employ.

Anonymous said...

You are the ones who are bigoted, not Mr Eckhern. He works with those he evidently knows are gay; does he only hire straight actors and musicians? No, he hires the best he can afford, straight or gay. Does he discrimate against or not associate with gay people? I doubt it.
Yet you want him to lose his job because he exercised his right to vote, or make a political contribution, and you don't actually know how he voted! You say he is evidently Mormon without knowing him. He supported Prop 8 because his personal, moral and religious beliefs, his core values, told him that same sex marriage was wrong, that he didn't want HIS children to learn that it was ok, that he didn't want more interference by the government in his church and personal life.
HYPOCRITES, all of you. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and see what you really believe. Maybe you need to reread 1984. Your actions and words are so Orwellian, can't you see that?
Lake Elsinore, CA

Anonymous said...

Not only SHOULD he lose his job, he apparently HAS lost his job.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with Scott also and my problem isn't that he is Mormon or what his political views are. The problem I have with Scott is the favoritism that he frequently indulges in and that he often blurs the line between work and religion. I also have the sneaking suspicion that he is as bi-polar as the day is long. It's a bit like walking on eggshells around him. Let me tell you that the summer is incomplete at the Music Circus until someone has had it out with Scott.

I'm sad that this is happening, but hopeful that the Music Circus will be able to have more artistic freedom now. I guess this might knock out a few Rodgers and Hammerstein shows that were planned for the next few summers.

Anonymous said...

While I was surprised Scott contributed $1K to the Yes on 8 campaign, I also realized that he is Mormon, and was undoubtedly subjected to many sermons STRONGLY encouraging him to contribute to 8's passage.
I voted NO on 8, and am angry that a good man who has contributed 25 years of service to Sacramento's theater community has been forced out for having a differing opinion.
Isn't it illegal to pay people to vote a certain way? Then... how can it be legal to punish someone (financially in his case) for voting a certain way?
Like I said, I voted NO, but I understand that many don't agree with me. That doesn't mean I want them to lose their jobs.
This is wrong -- and I fear for our "no" side. How will we win converts and change minds by blacklisting people like this?
This could blow up badly and be extremely divisive.
It WILL be overturned, though.

Anonymous said...

Losing one's job over a religious belief? This is insanity! Mr. Eckern does not earn his living "off" of actors, musicians, crew etc., he EMPLOYS them! and the best in the business. He has given a start to many in the business and has embraced all types. We are indebted to his inclusion of people of all persuasions on the CMT payroll and the theater community has been lucky to have a champion like Mr. Eckern on their side for so long!

Anonymous said...

Damn, his SISTER ought to boycott his ass.

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