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Editorial

April 15, 1997

There will be no second act for Don Wiswell, at least not on the stage of Hagerstown's Maryland Theatre. His resignation as managing director, after a little more than a month on the job, leaves the historic facility (again) with no leader who has any theater experience.

We knew Wiswell's days were numbered when he cancelled a planned interview, saying that he'd been unaware that it was board policy that employees couldn't speak to the press. At the time, we said that we could understand that the board might not want the custodial staff, for example, talking about matters beyond their expertise. But trying to market a theater and gagging the guy expected to do the job made about as much sense as hiring a tap dancer, then telling him he'd have to perform with his ankles shackled together.

The board said its gag policy came about because of banks' concern that that employees and volunteers were talking to the press. But William Reuter, president of F&M Bank, the lead institution on the loan, said it wasn't employee/volunteer statements to the press that concerned lenders, but the fact that the board was trying to negotiate loan terms through the press.

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Wiswell's departure is a true loss for the theater, because based on interviews with friends and fellow performers, he knew how to operate a theater, and perhaps more important, how to get the public behind it. He made it a point to remember theater subscribers' names and got actors and actresses to line up for a final handshake as patrons left his Frederick theater.

He also had a passion for the productions he was involved in, a passion that indicated he cared about quality and knew how to ensure that good productions got into his facility. That he's left before even being allowed to start work here is truly sad.

When the theater board put its gag order into effect, we recommended then that no citizen should contribute another dollar until it was lifted. We stand by that now, because as Mayor Steve Sager said recently, it's time for some "tough love" to get this institution back on track.

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