Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Official Statement by Marti Maraden

Maraden's Statement

At the end of last week, former Artistic Director Marti Maraden issued a statement to the Globe and Mail, which we received in pieces. Here is the original text, edited by the newspaper:

"I have loved the Stratford Festival since I first set foot on its stages in 1974. As both actor and director I have received from it gifts beyond measure. When I was asked to become one of three new artistic directors in a shared leadership of the Festival I was utterly thrilled. This was not only an opportunity for me to give back to a theatre which had given so much to me, but a chance to be part of a great adventure. Though an earlier attempt at a shared leadership had foundered, having never been given a chance to prove itself, I have always believed this model of governance could work very well, and, despite recent events, I still do.

"I wish the Stratford Shakespeare Festival all success and I wish it no harm, and precisely because of this my actions and decisions of the past few months have been consistently tempered by my concerns for its well-being. However, comments in the press on March 15, 16, and as recently as [March 22] by Antoni Cimolino and Des McAnuff have left me compelled to refute misleading statements.

"Impressions have been created that Don Shipley and I resigned in a sudden and impulsive manner.

"This is the history of my resignation.

"On December 3, 2007, I told Antoni Cimolino that I had great difficulty continuing as part of the Festival's leadership because of the lack of protocol for decision-making, and because of what was becoming his own ever-increasing involvement in artistic decision-making, including the virtually unilateral imposition of his agenda. Over the past months I have made it clear that I did not wish to harm the Festival, that I was determined to act with as much integrity as possible and that I would leave my position in a manner that would cause the festival as little disruption as possible. I repeatedly suggested that we delay the announcement of my departure until late summer and that I finish my year out as Artistic Director. Amicable discussions were held as recently as March 3 with the three Artistic Directors and Antoni confirming everyone's wish for a graceful transition.

"Don Shipley, who had been troubled for many months but who clearly had more optimism than I that the partnership might succeed, found it necessary to resign. I will not presume to speak for him but I will say that I understand and sympathize with his motives. At this juncture, still hoping that the announcement of our departures could be delayed for the Company's sake, I volunteered that as both of us were going to resign, it might be better for all concerned to make one announcement rather than staggered ones. I certainly wasn't expecting or wishing for an abrupt or immediate announcement. In discussions with Antoni no precise timing had been discussed and I continued to hope for as long a delay as possible.

"It would appear from statements in the press that Antoni was the only one to make a last ditch effort to salvage the partnership. In fact Don Shipley, desperate to find a resolution, created talking points to urge a solution. He persuaded me to agree that if certain fundamental conditions could be agreed upon that I might reconsider my decision to leave. I will confess that I wasn't optimistic, but agreed it was worth a sincere effort.

"On Wednesday, March 12, Antoni visited me briefly during a break from my rehearsal and asked me to speak to him that evening after I had finished work as no resolution had been achieved. After my rehearsal ended I went to his office. Antoni told me that Don's and my resignation would be announced the next day, and that settlement papers had already been drawn up. I was very surprised.

"Don Shipley and I never marched into Antoni's office offering our resignations abruptly and in tandem, though that is the impression created in the press I have previously quoted.
The reason I haven't spoken before is that the settlement agreement given to me (which I have declined to sign) contains a clause limiting what can be said by either me or the Company to anyone, to the media, or to members or former members of the Board. I was prepared to sign the settlement for the sake of the Festival, its staff and its artists and in the hope and expectation that any statement made on behalf of the Festival re our departure would be fair to all parties. However, as Antoni Cimolino and Des McAnuff have spoken forth beyond these strictures and have left the public with a very misleading impression of the manner of my departure, I feel I must speak. An attempt was made to persuade me to issue a joint statement with the Festival. I declined. I need my own voice. To date, so far as I know, only Antoni, Des and the Board Chair, Richard Rooney, have had been heard.

"My original Stratford contract states that 'Maraden will report to the General Director of the Stratford Festival, along with her partners, and will have the creative responsibilities and authority of an artistic director of a not-for-profit theatre.' Though Antoni clearly held ultimate authority, he repeatedly told us that we three Artistic Directors were to make decisions regarding programming and hiring of artists and that he was there to let us focus on artistic matters while he looked after the Festival as a whole and sought the means to make our dreams and vision a reality. I would never have agreed to become part of this leadership if this had not been the understanding. However, the General Director's increasing involvement in artistic decision-making on large and small matters, especially as the 2009 programming began, and as I indicated earlier, a virtual unilateral imposition of the General Director's agenda made it impossible for me to continue. I felt more and more like an artistic associate.

"I cannot be an Artistic Director in name only. That would betray the Stratford Company's, the Board's and our constituents' belief and conception of the way in which its artistic leadership is functioning. Either a leadership is shared or it isn't.

"I don't think it can be disputed that I have l have lived up to the 'responsibilities that my contract imposes' with integrity. In my designate year I worked for ten months instead of the six months for which I was contracted. Though compensation for the additional time was modest, I didn't care. I loved the theatre and I wanted it to thrive.

"I have done my best to express my fundamental reasons for resigning and the timing and manner of doing so and hope this puts the matter to rest.

"The focus now rightly belongs to the actors, directors, designers, artisans, crews and staff of a great theatre in the midst of creating a new season. My focus belongs in the rehearsal hall and on the stages with them

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