ON APRIL 26, the trustees of On the Boards eliminated the positions of artistic director Mark Murphy and managing director Sara Pasti, saying the organization could only prosper if the responsibilities and powers of both jobs were placed in one individuals hands. Within days the board was deluged with protests from eminent artists across the country and around the world, many saying that if Murphys dismissal were to stand, they would never return to the stage of On the Boards.
Publicly, the OTB trustees stuck to their guns: Privately, under significant pressure from the local arts and funding community as well, they began to backtrack and look for grounds for compromise. At press time this week, after frequent and tortuous back-and-forth negotiations, word was the parties were ready for "compromise," compromise in this case meaning that the board would effectively reverse its decision, rehire Murphy as artistic director and look for a new managing director to work on equal terms with himthereby admitting either that they had made a catastrophic mistake in the first place, or that their first explanation for his dismissal was a phony.
Little of each, actually. In their discussions with artists and administrators familiar with the new-performance booking and producing game, some board members began, if dimly, to realize they knew nothing about the business theyd so blithely decided to meddle in. In defense, the boards solid stonewall began to crumble, with some members assuring opponents that there was more to the decision than met the eye: personal and personnel issues which couldnt be discussed. When it was pointed out that such suggestions alone bordered on the slanderous, the board found itself in even more awkward straits, with a good chance that Murphy might bring suit under the state stringent fair-employment practices law.
Enough tales of conflict and confrontation between Murphy, Pasti, and board have leaked out of OTB since last month to make it clear that, whatever genuine concerns the trustees may have had about administrative structure, there was also an element of getting even with Murphy for his perceived indifference to or even contempt for the views of the trustees. "He used to shout at us sometimes," one member wailed; "actually shout at us!"
As a tacit face-saving gesture to the trustees, Murphy, its reported, will take a six-month leave of absence soon after hes reappointed, ostensibly to recuperate from the year and a half of terrific stress getting OTB moved from the Central Area to its South Queen Anne location, in fact to consider the error of his ways and, one board member privately hopes, to get some training in "modern management methods"; i.e., the coaching and stroking of non-profit boards.
Good news at last! On the Boards' Board of Directors' Press Release >>