Full disclosure and transparency are necessary for newspapers, especially in small communities where people know each other and interact in a variety of ways.
So it’s important that as the owner/publisher/editor of the Methow Valley News, I am up-front about my other activities. In the past, I have served as a judge for the Poetry Out Loud competitions, was for a time on the board of directors of the Twisp Chamber of Commerce, and for the past several years have been a part of the Programming Committee that recommends what shows The Merc Playhouse may consider producing in the coming year.
Outside of the valley (but related to what I do here), I was a two-term president of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA) and remain as president of the WNPA Foundation, a fundraising arm of the organization. I’ve also testified at the Legislature in support of proposals that help the newspaper industry. And occasionally people ask for me for my informal opinion, whatever that is worth.
Starting this week, I am honored to become a member of The Merc Playhouse Board of Directors, a serious commitment that I am enthused about.
My association with The Merc started in 2014 when I was convinced by former Executive Director Jane Hubrig and Artistic Director Ki Gottberg to join the cast of The Merc’s production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which Ki directed. I played Sir Toby Belch, which was more than I bargained for but turned out to be a blast. The following year, I was cast as a clergyman in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
I’ve also acted in a couple of Readers’ Theaters productions, and had rehearsed as a character in “The Real Inspector Hound” until, the night before the play opened, I was hospitalized (for several weeks, it turned out) and regrettably didn’t get to perform that one before real audiences. I had a great time getting ready for it, and just wish I had been able to follow through.
I have also directed a couple of Readers’ Theater presentations, and spent about a year of my life preparing to direct a full production of “Rope.”
As a member of the Programming Committee, I’ve read dozens of scripts, looking for the right combination of productions to fill out a full, diverse year of entertainment on The Merc’s stage. It has been an instructive experience, as there are so many things to consider: Is it appropriate for our audiences? Can we cast it? Can we stage it as the playwright intended? Do we have a director available, or in mind?
For the 2024 season, I am directing a Readers’ Theater production of “Ravenscroft,” an English manor house murder mystery that is clever and hilarious. It opens in October.
All that involvement means I have made, and will continue to make, some distinctions between my roles within and outside of the newspaper. I typically don’t write articles about The Merc’s productions or its other activities (although it could not be avoided when, as the reporter who covers the Town of Twisp, I wrote about the dispute between the town and theater over access to the public bathroom in The Merc’s building).
There may be times when a potential conflict of interest arises in my roles, in which as I’ll recuse myself from decision-making for The Merc where questions might be raised.
It’s something of a small-town thing that so many of us have so many overlapping relationships. In the same day, someone could be source for something I am writing, a buyer of advertising, and a seller of goods or services to the newspaper. Some of our freelance writers are also providers of information for the organizations they work for. We sort out these transactions as they occur.
Several years ago I wrote, “Community theater is just that, in several ways. There is the community of support that The Merc so depends on to provide an array of high-quality entertainment. There is the community of generous volunteers who make it possible for a nonprofit theater to operate. And then there is the unique community of cast and crew that develops for each production.”
The board orientation information tells me that I will be expected to not only attend meetings, be part of committees and volunteer as a greeter, but also help fundraise and “be a steward and an ambassador of The Merc Playhouse.”
I’m looking forward to doing that — along with the other things I’m expected to do.