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As Long as We Remember...

February 28, 2003

Weinberg Saga Continues To Develop, But Is Still Profitless

David 'Kip' Koontz

I went to see "Gods and Generals" last weekend. Curiously, though it took four-plus days to shoot, my block (in Frederick) managed to make the big screen a grand total of about 20 seconds.

They could have just taken a snapshot and let it go at that.

But, even with its epic 3-hour, 40-minute length, it pales in comparison to the show that is running in City Hall in regards to the Weinberg Center and who is or who isn't the director, acting director, or whatever the job title is or will be.

This show seems to be gearing up to take on "CATS" as the longest running show in history.

Yet, it is a show that is becoming, if nothing else, BOOOOOOORING!

Currently the drama centers on whether Herzonner Jenita can withdraw the nomination to appoint Jeffrey Reedy as director of the Weinberg until something is decided on the art house's fate, by anointing him "acting director" instead.

Remember, it was the Weinberg family who wanted someone at the helm until decisions were made about whether the theater should privatize, stay under the city's purview, or whatever.

So, as it stands, Jeffrey Reedy, a relatively unknown commodity to those inside City Hall and to those in the theater world, is currently "Acting Director" until the Weinberg's fate has been decided. Interestingly, Mr. Reedy seems to be unaware of the "acting" part of his title, as he appears as the "executive director" on the Weinberg's website.

Funny thing is that in the Roberts' Rules of Order war raging about whether Jenita can do the "submit name for consideration, withdraw name from consideration, appoint acting director" game legally, or if there needed to be more involvement by the aldermen before all that occurred as Alderman Dave Lenhart asserts, city attorney Heather Smith responded: "They are both right."

That most likely shocked the boots off both Herzonner and Mr. Lenhart.

As a point of reference, there have been "acting directors" serving this city in the past. Jeanne Rockenbaugh, Jeff Holtzinger, Saundra Nickols and Harold Domer to name a few of those who served until appointed permanently, were discharged or they left.

It just seems funny that Mr. Reedy, a man no one seems to know much about, is being given this opportunity.

Many inside and out of City Hall simply acquiesce and say things like: "He is the best alternative."

To whom, exactly?

Or they say things like: "Well, we should just give him a chance."

Why, if we are not convinced he is the best overall person to fill the position?

Does Mr. Reedy have some kind of hold over Herzonner?

Could it be suggested that since his background is in the circus biz, he somehow put our elected officials and others in a trance of some kind so they know not what they do?

To continue the saga, the city's personnel board reviewed the suspension of Stewart Seal, former director, artistic director, chief cook and bottle washer, or whatever he was called, of the Weinberg and determined that Jenita suspended him inappropriately.

The transaction that sent him tumbling from grace was that he did repair work without receiving funding authorization to do the repair, though it wasrequired to bring the building to code before it could reopen in October. Mr. Seal did that work, using funds authorized to do other work. Mr. Seal though, managed to do the authorized and "unauthorized" work, all for under the amount that was funded for the authorized work.

Well, the personnel board has determined that while Mr. Seal had not sought approval for funding requests for specific repair work, he actually did nothing wrong in doing the additional work as the city has no written policy requiring directors to seek funding authority for specific projects after the original contract is approved by the mayor and Board of Aldermen.

YIKES! Insider's say that will be fixed very shortly as that basically means departments can spend their money any way they see fit with no oversight from anyone.

And this was just found out?

Well, that means that Mr. Seal gets paid NOW for his three-day suspension.

Be that as it may, it seems Mr. Seal had a bit of an additional problem against him.

The Weinberg - some think - should be a profit-making machine.

There are critics who claim that Mr. Seal was not as supportive of local theater as he should have been and was too focused on bringing in national acts that some thought would be a profit resource for the theater, but ended up not being one.

These critics claim that while Mr. Seal was in charge of the Weinberg it really became a loss leader even though more people were attending the acts presented -- that too many city dollars were/are being spent to keep it afloat and that this worsened under Mr. Seal's tenure.

But that is going to be the huge challenge facing anyone who is in charge of the Weinberg.

Can national acts of a "big enough" name be able to play a 1200-seat theater without charging a ticket price that is so high (in order to cover the cost of the act) that no one will be able to afford to attend the event to begin with? Let alone make a profit.

Guess what is needed at this point is a definition of what the Weinberg is going to be.

Will it be simply a resource for local theater (remember, the Cultural Arts Center was created because local troupes can't afford to use the Weinberg in its attempt to be a money-making machine) or will it simply exist to bring in performers who can somehow make the venue profitable?

Or is there a way to balance the two?

Maybe, maybe not. But even though Mr. Seal quit under the extreme pressure put upon him to get out of the way for Jenita's appointment, it seems he actually didn't meet some of Jenita's insider view of what the Weinberg should be. So he had to go.

Problem is, and not to demean a circus, but seriously, folks, Mr. Reedy's background is in the circus business not the "arts" as seen on the stage of the Weinberg.

Wonder if the acts will be things like "Come see the last living Unicorn!" or "Delight to the thrill of Russian Dancing Bears?"

One thing his background will qualify him for is dealing with Jenita and "The Greatest Show In Frederick" at City Hall.

You just have to wonder if there is any truth to the rumor that Mr. Reedy is just seat filling as "acting director" of the Weinberg until Vinnie Hughes quits?

Who knows, but until then, enjoy the show!

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