When Leslee Silverman was called into a meeting at Manitoba Theatre for Young People on Tuesday, she was expecting good news.
Maybe that a grant had come in, or there had been some change to the company's financial struggles.
"I was invited into a room, handed a piece of paper that informed me I
was no longer employed by MTYP effective immediately," she says. "Asked for my keys,
my phone...I was told in less then 90 seconds."
Silverman says she was shocked to find out the board of directors had decided not to renew her contract. She founded the theatre company and had been artistic director for 30 years, but she says no performance reviews or evaluations were done to offer any indication this was coming.
She says despite a debt of about $1.8 million, she was never asked to make cost-cutting compromises on the artistic side.
"It's been a tight year but we saved about $180,000 in production. I
can't comment on financial matters but I know we took our
responsibilities seriously in production to make sure it was not the
productions that were causing issues," Silverman says.
Silverman says the theatre was operating at between 89-96 per cent capacity on the road and in the theatre, getting about as much money as can be reasonably earned from ticket sales. She also notes that grant money hasn't increased since the facility relocated from Princess Street to its brand new multimillion-dollar home at The Forks.
"[I'm] not responsible for raising money, controlling money," Silverman says. "The difficulty to
me, is fairly obvious, in 30 years, anyone who builds a facility and
doesn't finish paying for the capital...will run into trouble with
Board of directors president Gloria Koop told CBC the board has yet to determine if they will replace Silverman or opt for guest artistic directors.
For Silverman, the level of uncertainty left behind at an organization she helped build is unsettling.
"I'm terrified at this moment because the general manager is leaving,
and to be without an artistic director and general manger and marketing
person is terrifying," she says.
"On the other hand, perhaps there is a plan. I'm
just not aware of it."
And despite, as she says, being given no reasons why her contract wasn't renewed, Silverman would still like to step inside the theatre doors at least one more time.
'It's a hard place in theatre, but it's a wonderful place and I have a lot of people to thank that I haven't been able to," she says, her voice starting to break.
"I want to go into the building and thank the volunteer women who are there every day helping the kids, and say goodbye to the Kindermusik person. This process is very unreasonable, for anyone to go through."
Related:NFB film celebrates artistic achievement of MTYP founder Leslee Silverman.