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Moving Day

November 24, 2009

Moving day is upon us here at Beyond The Boards.  We’re moving to a new host, with new digs and everything.  If you’re subscribing to the podcast via itunes, you’ll need to do absolutely nothing.  The feed will move automatically…  I hope.  If you’re subscribing via a reader… well, you’ll have to point elsewhere.

And if you’re just reading the blog, you’ll have to point to a new site.  Which is:

All posts prior to this one have already been moved over, including all comments.  So get on over to the new website, and set up your readers, subscriptions, or whatever.

Thanks for listening, reading and sharing!


Next Episode

November 24, 2009

Hard at work on the next episode of Beyond The Boards, which should hit this weekend.  Waiting on a couple of pieces from a few sources and an interview with a new organization.  We’ll let you know when everything is in place and the new episode is available, but it should be very soon.

Not a lot happening right now.  Christmas Belles wrapped up, Christmas Carol is starting.  Christmas Story (with interesting door prizes) is about to hit the stage in Guntersville.  Renaissance is looking absolutely “Perky.”

Congrats to the Whites, of course, on the birth of Nola, their new daughter.

If you’ve got something you’d like to include in the next episode, now’s the time to get it in to me!

Last Statement On HHS Trumbauer Bid.

November 18, 2009

Unless something drastically changes, I’m ending my coverage of Huntsville High School’s Trumbauer issues with this post.  I’ve already talked about the Secondary Chair of the Alabama Conference of Theatre (ACT) being somewhat shakey in her answer to my questions.  I passed that on to the President of ACT, Chris Rich, and got a response.  It wasn’t what I was hoping for, and it glosses over some pretty serious issues, but since it is pretty much a “final” statement, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else to go.

What follows, as requested, is Chris Rich’s entire response.  It’s long, and it goes into the weeds a bit.  Probably my fault, since I questioned the fairness of the process.  I’ll leave that till after, but I do have a real serious issue with the “fairness” of the process

Dear Mr. Malone,

Due to the nature of the issue concerning the Huntsville High School production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I cannot comment out of respect for Huntsville High School or the Huntsville City School District.  I have issued a statement of ruling to Mike Chappell, Max Dashner, District One Chair and Nancy Malone, Secondary Division Chair concerning the issue.  If Mike, his school, and the school district are willing to share the statement with you, you have my permission to use it in its entirety.

As for the issue of fairness of process, I again refer you to Mike Chappell. Huntsville High School’s production of Forbidden Broadway took top honors at state last year and then took top honors at the Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention in Birmingham.  As President of ACT, I supervised the process last year and will supervise the same process again this year.  The Trumbauer Festival is open to the public, for enjoyment or for scrutiny, but is specifically intended for further education of the students and teachers involved.

To answer your question more directly, each one-act production and individual event is adjudicated on the same criteria whether they are from a school that provides funding for theatre education, has a dedicated theatre teacher or teachers, a theater, and technical support or whether they have no dedicated funding, produce in a cafeteria or are headed by a teacher/director who has no specified theatre class and is a one-person department without the support of parents and everyone else in between. Three of the five Trumbauer judges for one-acts are brought in from out of state and all one-act judges are sequestered for the duration of the competition.  They are instructed to not speak about the shows with one another and are seated apart during the competition.  Their results are tabulated individually.  As the head of this organization, I feel that the process is fair and will remain fair.

To be thorough, you should ask all of the teachers directly involved in the state and district festivals if they feel the process is fair, because as a division they write and approve the rules that govern this competition. They dedicate their time to the support and education of these students and through that effort, the state of Alabama has always provided one of the strongest shows at the Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention every year.  If the process were not fair, I do not believe we could involve the close to 2,000 students state-wide in the district and state festivals.  The festival involvement is after all, voluntary.

Lastly, the Alabama Conference of Theatre is a volunteer organization that serves the purpose of improving the quality of theatre arts for community theatres, middle school and high school programs, college and university training programs, professional theatre and theatre-for-youth.  ACT also helps to create closer relationships among theater arts people at all levels and seeks to educate audiences to a greater appreciation of theatre arts.  I encourage your readers with an interest in theatre who would like to be a part of this process and help theatre in the state of Alabama grow in every facet, get in touch with us at .

I would appreciate that if you use this e-mail for your publication, please use it in its entirety.  Thank you for being involved in theatre, supporting the theatres around you and showing concern in this matter.


Chris Rich, President
Alabama Conference of Theatre

Now I’d like to say I’ve got some experience with volunteer organizations, and I know how difficult the process is.  Getting people to volunteer is a pain, getting them to perform their duties, even harder.  I don’t envy Mr. Rich his job, not to mention that he is a volunteer himself.

However, I respectfully disagree that the process is fair and that Huntsville High School was treated fairly.  To make it worse, it isn’t fair to the volunteers any more than it is to the schools.  The Secondary Chair, who is in charge of the process of Trumbauer, is also a competitor in Trumbauer.  The district chair, which is where this issue first arose, is also a competitor, and this time a direct competitor of Huntsville High School at the district level.

I’m not saying that these good people are going to cheat.  But how fair is it that the gatekeepers of any event are involved in the event itself?  In most industries, such an event would be unthinkable.  Once a gatekeeper decides to participate, they can’t be gatekeepers anymore.  It’s basic conflict of interest.

Now I’m sure that ACT is working with what they can.  Setting up a statewide festival is difficult, and they came up with a system and the members vote on the rules and they do the best they can.  After all, they’ve asked ME, of all people, to judge.  And the process is fair and well thought out, for what it is.  But to deny that there is a potential, rather seriously, for a conflict of interest is just silly.

Now this year’s gatekeeper is next years competitor, and that helps keep people honest.  But with the conflict of interest inherent in the system, you would think that all competitors would be given the benefit of the doubt in most any issue and great pains would be taken to avoid even the appearance of any arbitrary and inconsistent application of rules and guidelines.  That is not what happened in the case of Huntsville High School.  Instead, the assumption was of wrongdoing, and arbitrary and inconsistent guidelines and deadlines, which were not followed after they were given, were used.  When these arbitrary application of rules were pointed out, they were reversed, so ultimately fairness won out.  But fairness was clearly stepped upon to get to that point.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, this isn’t a judgement on the entire process of Trumbauer.  The process, as voted on by the members, is as fair as they can make it with the resources they have.  But the process doesn’t seem to have been followed in this specific case, with moving targets and changing and arbitrary deadlines.  And with the potential conflict of interest, such actions should have been avoided at any cost.  It wasn’t the process itself that was ever in question.

But ultimately, the result is that HHS earned a superior rating and was passed on to state.  The hanky actions of last week aside, the process worked. And that’s the most important thing.

A Trumbauer Update

November 15, 2009

It was pointed out to me by a commenter (Thanks Bryan) that in the last podcast I focused exclusively on the district success of Huntsville High School’s one act, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I don’t think Bryan really intended to shoot other schools, but he is a bit of a character, so I’m not 100% sure.  So I’ll choose to think he wanted me to send the other schools a”shout” instead.

Indeed, congratulations to all the individuals and schools that received superior ratings and got sent on to Trumbauer state.  Those fine actors will be going to Troy in early December to compete in the state wide competitions.  It is a fantastic achievement.  I’ve been involved in Trambauer as a judge in the past, and I know how difficult the process is.  Frankly, I admire everyone who attempted a Trumbauer entry, regardless of if they were passed on to state or not.  I’m sorry that I didn’t remember all that hard work in the podcast and make mention of other schools.  It was a shameful oversight on my part.


Nancy Malone

Nancy Malone, Secondary Division Chair, Alabama Conference of Theatre

With that said, the story surrounding Huntsville High School’s disqualification and reinstatement continues to mystify me.  It seems the chair of the Trumbauer competition, Nancy Malone, is using some pretty vague language in her responses to my direct questions.  In an email on Friday I asked three specific questions:


  1. Was Huntsville High School disqualified?
  2. If so, on what grounds?
  3. Are they still disqualified or are they back in competition?

Ms. Malone used a pretty typical spin tactic in response to this email.  I’m not saying she is lying in any way, I don’t honestly know.  What I do know is that she didn’t answer the questions directly.  Here is her response:

No, they are advancing to state. They aren’t disqualified, but there was simply a delay as we confirmed some things regarding some competition rules.  Their show will be performing either December 4th or 5th down at Troy University.  They are one of 15 other schools that are from all over Alabama.

The response arrived as I was recording the podcast last night.  I read it on the podcast, but didn’t really have a chance to digest it before joining the cast of Theatre Huntsville’s Christmas Belles at a fun night of Karaoke.  I’ve looked at it again today, and at first glance the response SEEMS to answer the questions, but it really doesn’t.

Really, she ignores the first question entirely.  She says “No, they are advancing to state.”  Okay, but that doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not they were disqualified.  She gives a vague answer to the question of grounds with the “…simply a delay as we confirmed some things regarding some competition rules.”  That isn’t really an answer at all.  The “grounds” weren’t really discussed, and by confirming that there was some problem, at least in her eyes, without explaining exactly what those problems were, is really just avoiding the question altogether.  The last question, as to their current status in the competition, is plainly clear.  They are “advancing to state.”

Ultimately, the rest of the questions are just noise.  The important part of the message is that the kids advance and can compete in the one act division.  But I can’t help but wonder just how “fair” it could be for these kids, and frankly this kind of spin response doesn’t help me feel confident that they will be treated fairly.  It certainly doesn’t make me believe they were treated fairly up to now.

In “fairness” to Ms. Malone, she doesn’t know me.  I’m a podcaster/blogger and not NBC News.  Even if I was a “credentialed” news organization, she has no obligation to answer me.  But she isn’t helping the case of the Alabama Conference of Theatre or Trumbauer by using spin instead of straight honest answers to what happened.  You can’t hide behind spin when dozens of kids were affected by your decisions.  They have parents.  They have friends.  The word WILL get around and the confidence in the process will be affected.  Could another school get treated the same way?  Could another school find themselves disqualified over vague “competition rules?”

I’ve sent Ms. Malone another email, since she did respond the first time.  I’ve asked for more clarification of exactly what “rules” needed to be reviewed that caused the “delay.”  I eagerly await her response, because so far it doesn’t match what my inside sources are telling me.  But since those sources are currently “off the record” I’m not going to use that information specifically until I get confirmation either from Nancy Malone or from a source willing to go on the record.

But frankly, right now something seems fishy at Trumbauer.  It seems political, and for some reason when people get political over kid’s and their futures, I get a little upset and want to do something about it.  So while I probably should just let it go, I can’t.  Everything points to unfair treatment of local kids, and that gets under my skin.

Episode Three!

November 14, 2009

It is now time for Episode Three of Beyond the Boards.

In this episode:

Sara’s Soapbox
Update on Huntsville High School’s Truambauer troubles
Christmas Belle’s opens amid Drama at the VBC Playhouse
Interview with Gayl Miller, Director of TH’s Christmas Belles.

Listen to Episode Three Now!

As always, you can also subscribe to Beyond The Boards at the iTunes Music Store.  Do a search for Beyond The Boards, and subscribe.

Last Minute Changes!

November 13, 2009

Hello Beyond The Board Listeners!

You’re due an episode tonight, and you’re gonna get it.  But do to some last minute explosive news, the show is going to be late late late.

Last minute cast changes, ACT actions, and an important fundraiser for Huntsville High School mean I’ll be up late tonight finishing and getting all this exciting information into the show.

I love late breaking news, and while it may end up being less polished than I like, I don’t want to speak out of turn but I’ve got some interesting information that you’re sure to want to hear.  I’m heading out, digital recorder in hand, to get the very latest on the happenings of the last two days.

Stay tuned, and check back in the morning.  This is a show I don’t think you’re going to want to miss!


Sarah Rants Rocks

November 10, 2009

I’ve gotten word from Miss Sara that this episode’s Sarah Rants is the best ever, no doubt about it, blow your socks off.

Okay, not really, she just said that I’d have it for the next episode.  But I thought I’d like to hold her feet to the fire, and I’m chomping at the bit to hear it.  It’s one of my favorite things about doing the podcast, and its a delight to hear her take on theater.

So I’ve got all the pieces, so no worries about the show coming out thursday.  And so you have no worries and get your tickets for this weekend’s showing of Christmas Belles at the VBC playhouse.  After you download the latest episode, of course.