Black and White?
Was the firing of Delaware Theatre Company’s artistic director motivated by a controversial play, or was it something else?
(page 2 of 5)
Yet some of the highest-grossing shows in DTC history happened under Cammarato’s watch, she says. Works such as “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Fire on the Bayou” were huge. Cammarato produced four world premieres and secured for DTC 28 Barrymore nominations, the most earned by any DTC artistic director. (The Barrymore is the Philadelphia equivalent of the Tony.)
Fluctuating ticket sales—and the factors that affect them—are realities in show biz. Fontaine Syer, Cammarato’s predecessor at DTC, says that in 2000, plays like “Macbeth” and “A Christmas Carol” sold a booming 75 percent. After the terrorist attacks a year later, she was lucky to hit 50 percent. Cammarato’s curses were the recession and, last year, a blast of monster snowstorms. Board members had even considered closing DTC during her tenure, and the theater is nowhere close to being out of the woods financially.
Yet that same board always rolled with the economic punches. And it never questioned Cammarato’s talent.
“There was not a single time the board ever got involved with her show choices,” says Marquardt. “That’s how it should be. You have the artistic director’s vision, and it’s her view. She determines what makes sense in the greater narrative of the theater.”
Cammarato joined DTC after 15 years of deficits. “It takes a long time to recover from that,” she says.
Managing director Mary Ann Ehlshlager disputes that number, calling it “inconsistent with our audited financial statements.” She would make no further comment.
Cammarato was originally hired as both artistic and managing director, an unusual role for a creative type—one sure to trigger burnout—but it was a challenge she accepted willingly. Once Ehlshlager entered the scene in 2008, Cammarato’s role became solely artistic.
The board believed that, as a 30-something native of Milford, Cammarato was a good hire who would appeal to different groups. And she did.
She introduced Delaware audiences to Kevin Ramsey, an African-American playwright, director and actor who, since his 2006 premiere in “Sam Cooke: Forever Mr. Soul,” has become an audience favorite. Ramsey helped Cammarato connect DTC to the African-American community.
“Ten Months” appealed to African-Americans because it gave voice to racial issues that had long been swept under the rug. An original work by Cammarato, the play focused on the race riots of 1968. The script was based on interviews Cammarato conducted with many Wilmingtonians.
Some of those Wilmingtonians had endured the riots and National Guard occupation after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Others were young African-Americans living in present-day, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Cammarato also interviewed well-intended but out-of-touch white suburban residents who rationalized their prejudices about the city.
Page 3: Black and White?, continues...