Alley Theatre vows change after artistic director controversies
On then evening of January 9, the Alley Theatre announced in a praise-filled press release that long-time artistic director Gregory Boyd would retire on January 11. The briefness of the two days between the official statement and Boyd's leaving was noted by many in the city’s arts community.
In the next few days, a slew of rumors pairing Boyd with instances of sexual harassment, bullying behavior, and fostering a toxic work environment at Houston’s oldest professional theater company cropped up on social media. Those rumors soon became confirmed reports from Houston and national news media outlets.
Since then, the Alley has offered a brief statement that it would be creating an committee to evaluate its workplace environment, but the theater company has made few other official comments on the matter while other controversies, including the news that Boyd received a $383,000 severance payment at his retirement, have come to light.
More than two weeks later, the Alley appears to now be acknowledging the Astrodome-sized elephant not just in the room, but squashing the venerable artistic institution. On January 26, managing director Dean Gladden issued a statement of apology on behalf of the theater addressed to "those impacted, the Alley staff, patrons, donors, press, and to the city of Houston."
The apology comes with a vow to move forward. For the first step of that move, the Alley will bring in Walker Consulting Group to evaluate and recommend changes.
While the Alley’s journey to change might be a lengthy one, we can only hope that eventually any tragedy and drama in the theater will only reside onstage.
Gladden’s full statement:
On behalf of the Alley Theatre, we apologize for recent events and the actions that led to these news stories.
Long-time Alley Artistic Director, Gregory Boyd, had been discussing retirement options with members of the Board of Directors. When the Alley Theatre Board Leadership learned of the depth of staff concerns regarding his behavior, they requested he proceed with his retirement. Part of the negotiated retirement contract included a severance payment and an immediate departure from his post.
We recognize that this lack of transparency has been viewed negatively. We should have handled it differently. We apologize to those impacted, the Alley staff, patrons, donors, press, and to the city of Houston.
Moving the Alley Theatre forward is our primary goal. To that end, Walker Consulting Group has been selected by the Alley. The consultant will provide input to management and the Board-led Work Environment and Governance Committee to assess the workplace and make recommendations for change. Robbin Walker has been in the training and development field for over 30 years and has consulted for Target Stores at their Minneapolis headquarters, facilitated for Theatre Communications Group, and worked with major theatres across the county. Robbin begins meeting with the staff at all levels this Monday, January 29. We look forward to her findings and changes to be implemented.
We vow to move forward in ensuring a healthy work environment and the Alley Theatre will continue to bring quality productions to Houston audiences in a new era.