Board of trustees terminates 11 employees at Old Creamery Theatre
AMANA Iowa (KCRG) - Along the country roads near Amana is a favorite tourist attraction in eastern Iowa; the Old Creamery Theatre.
The theatre shut down in early July, leaving 11 staff members without jobs.
“If we knew we were going to close the theater, give people a week heads up,” Katie Colletta, former interim artistic director, said. “The theatre is a disaster right now. There is stuff left up everywhere. We would have used that week to tie up loose ends.”
Colletta worked for the theatre for more than three years. She along with other staff created virtual shows, drive-in performances, and socially distanced theater tours to help keep the theater afloat during the ongoing pandemic. But earlier this month employees were emailed notice from the board of trustees that their jobs were terminated.
Only one person remains employed at Old Creamery Theatre.
“It felt like the abrupt manner which it was done, it felt like it could be because of more than just COVID,” Colletta said.
Colleta believes the termination is in response to a recent post in support of the Black Lives Matter movement she posted on the theater’s social media account.
“Three weeks later, everyone who signed the statement, as well as other folks who at a staff meeting said they would also add their names to the Black Lives Matter statement, were all terminated,” Colletta said.
The statement included a call to action to cast more people of color in theatre productions. Colletta was forced to take that post down.
“The following morning a member of the board called my husband and threatened to resign if the post was not taken down,” Colletta said.
KCRG-TV9 reached out to several members of the theatre’s board of trustees for comment. The board’s president, Peter Teahen, said it’s a matter of finances, adding the theatre is projected to be down $500,000 by the end of the year.
“We saw legal council we wanted to do it the right way to protect employees and protect operation,” Teahen said.
Teahen added the terminations would have happened regardless of any social media posts, but said that the staff needed to seek permission before posting. Teahen also said the staff was invited to meetings regarding financial concerns.
Fellow board members dispute those claims. At least two board members have resigned due to this situation.
“There was not a larger conversation to come together of how to reorganize structure of theatre to maybe at least get us through the summer so we could be an entertainment structure for families,” Heather Gierut, a board member who resigned, said.
Teahen said the theatre plans to reopen sometime in 2021 and would like to re-hire most staff back. He also said the theatre is working on a new statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We have a statement ready to post but we don’t have access to our computers because access codes and administrators codes,” Teahen said.
Former staff said the board could easily post a statement whenever, and if access to administrator codes is an issue to let them know.
“Just call me,” Colletta said.
For Colleta, and other former staffers, they’ll keep sharing their message. They hope one day the board realizes the changes that need to be made.
“I hope that they see in 2020, they see there are more people that would be more fit to govern this body,” she said. “I hope that a new board hires people of color to take their jobs.”
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