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An open letter to the patrons of Flat Rock Playhouse

My name is Michael Edwards. For 17 consecutive seasons I was contracted by Robin Farquhar as an Actor and Director at Flat Rock. My last appearance was in 2009 with Scott Treadway in Greater Tuna.

Since Robin’s untimely death and the search and hiring of a new Executive Director (now called Producing Artistic Director) The theatre has acquired a debt of 2.6 Million dollars. The conclusion of the 2009 season was balanced and in the black, contrary to published insinuations by current management. I have not been asked back to Flat Rock since 2009 since I expressed my non support of the current management and its “business plan”. Seems I was correct. Since then I have been described as “retired”, “ill” or “not available”, all of which is a lie. With a passion for the joy and creativity of the ROCK, I would have arranged my schedule to be available.

The truth is I have not been asked to return. Perhaps that is a good thing. I have heard the depressing tale of the downward spiral of debt, audience withdrawal, and choices of shows without regard to the history or success of the nationally recognized State Theatre of North Carolina.

In only 3 years the beloved Playhouse has gone from icon and legend to debtor and beggar theatre on the verge of financial collapse. I can only blame the management and the board for this embarrassing and insulting situation. The theatre has lost the trust of its patrons, it has lost the passion of the “family “and it has lost its direction in a mire of change and redirection….none of which has worked.

There was money to continue the legacy when the new team took over …it’s gone. There was success and audience trust and care and devotion……it’s gone. I have heard “ the past is gone and you cant go back”…..WHY NOT. The former family management made it work for over 55 years.

What is the desperately needed $ 250,000 dollars for? To pay off current debts and overdue bills? Then what? The ticket prices have increased, and sales have dropped, does this not say something to the judgment of the management? A theatre in debt trying to operate 3 performing spaces…does this make fiscal sense? Bringing in rental equipment, designers, technicians, and negotiated salaries of actors hired thru a casting agency…does this make sense? It is a nonprofit 501 c3 business and as such all books should be open to anyone to see and analyze ,has anyone bothered to audit the records of expenses and costs? Do the original musicals and revues pose a future revenue for the Playhouse coffers? Have they made money? Why will no one ask these and other questions of the current management?

In reading all the articles and news reports on the politics and maneuvering between the factions one thing is still missing: Why has no one asked management to resign for mismanagement of the operations of the Playhouse. The board of directors has that power. Surely they have seen the debts piling up and the patronage and contributions dwindling. The current “business plan” is not working . It is destroying one of the most successful regional theatres ever. The hue and cry to SAVE THE PLAYHOUSE may work as a stop gap but it is throwing good money after bad management and all the devotion and good intentions will be used to continue the downward spiral. It’s time for change. It’s time for a renewal of the spirit and tradition of the renowned FLAT ROCK PLAYHOUSE. Why is that so difficult to see? To support the Playhouse, support a move to renew, rebuild and replace. Lets indeed SAVE THE PLAYHOUSE and the vagabond tradition. Let’s make Robin proud.

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