Published Friday, May 16, 2008 in The Register-Guard.
Friends, Eugeneans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Willamette Rep, not to praise it.
The mistakes that theatres make live after them;
The good is often buried with their last production;
So let it be with WRT. The noble Hult Center
Hath told you founder Kirk Boyd was ambitious,
Paying equity actors and union stagehands:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Willamette Rep paid for it.
Come I to speak at Willamette Rep’s funeral.
Boyd has been my friend, faithful and just to me:
But the Hult Center says he was ambitious;
And the Hult Center is filled with honorable staff.
Twenty-five and a half honorable staffers,
Seven more if count you the stagehands.
Years ago the staff was but a third that,
The same honor spread among fewer staff.
But nay, we cannot go back to what once was,
The past fiddles with us better than we it;
Ahead! What lies ahead for the Hult Center?
These questions live again, even as WRT dies.
Consultants last year brought sooth and sage,
And left with a quarter of a millionaire’s purse.
Their findings, adopted by our City Council
On a summer evening, twenty fortnights ago?
“Reconsider the mission and operating model
For the noble Hult.” Ten months later, what?
But speak straight as an arrow; pierce us through.
The check has cleared. Tell us true what to do.
The Soreng Theatre — gut it to its ribs and begin.
Be gone, 500-seat proscenium. Make us a room,
Where all moves freely, space adapts to vision,
A Black Box, for that is all it is. Waiting to be filled.
And easier. Empty seats bring no joy. 350 suffice.
We’ve only begun beginning again. There’s more.
The New Soreng wants an entrance on the street,
Not to heat and guard the whole building for a show.
And a marquis above that entrance, new each night.
How many WRT fans paid their joy only to the Hult?
Still more, stay with me. Years of sorrow need atoning,
Willamette Rep was not the first; add those turned away
Before begun, because the stage or cost displeased.
Alas, honor’s high cost stays, but art patrons do not.
Cast out the ticket office; to the street, marquis above,
Let it function fully at all but the busiest times of year.
Must we heat our grand lobby for standing in line?
Next, look east, again, rethinking our selves anew.
Springfield Council loves it Wildish, but not the keys.
“We shouldn’t get into the arts administration business.”
Sagely so. They’ll leave that battle to a new company,
Its life and blood will serve the people with the space.
Forsooth! Well said. We must hearken and follow suit.
Ten years ago with the Eugene Celebration, and also
Lately with the Cuthbert. As with pieces, so the whole.
But finally, one final act, beyond what you expected,
Pity not Kirk Boyd or the many holding keen this loss.
They lived their mission, their joy. Enough. No regrets.
We dare not regret for them; they have given well.
Only rogues regret what they failed to gret before —
No honor there, for them or us. Pity is a selfish gift.
Forward! What is has been, but always so to be?
We bury WRT — though moved, we have not moved.
Can we? Shall we? Yea, we must. The future calls.
We move on, bereft, together. It cannot be but so.
Willamette Repertory Theatre is having a farewell fundraising party this Saturday evening, May 17th. If you’d like to attend “Hats Off,” buy raffle tickets or make a donation to pay off the outstanding debt, call 343-9903 or mail a check to 115 W. 8th Ave., Suite 285, Eugene, OR 97401. Don Kahle (email@example.com) got a B in his only college Shakespeare course.