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September 20, 2017
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Jud Snyder
Virginia riots cancel Spreckels, ‘“The Foreigner” on RP stage. Do RP public safety hiring’s reflect city reality?
September 8, 2017

THERE’S A BUNCH OF PEOPLE in Rohnert Park who have a keen sense of history and what it can do when circumstances force it into action. We’re talking about the cancellation of the late Larry Shue’s production of “The Foreigner” at Spreckels Performing Arts Center.

“The Foreigner” is a hilarious and pointed farce about a stuffy British citizen visiting a rural Georgia hotel who discovers the Ku Klux Klan is planning to take over the hotel for a KKK rally.  The play was selected by former Spreckels artistic director Gene Abravaya who was also directing the play. He directed nearly half the play when he suddenly retired and Sheri Lee Miller was named artistic manager. 

Key to her decision was the racist-tinged riots at Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash the same day.

MILLER SAID, “MY DECISION is based on my own feelings. It was my decision alone. The whole climax of the play is these actors coming on stage in Klan robes. I felt that this was not the time to treat domestic terrorism lightly.

“I heard from absolutely no one in the city government of Rohnert Park prior to my decision,” she continued. “They said ‘It’s completely up to you. That’s why we hired you.’” 

The play has won several honors from theatrical groups and theater critics circles before Charlottesville happened. Critics awarded it as best play of the year also.

MILLER IS ONLY A FEW weeks on the job at Spreckels. She was approved by the city council and drew criticism from Tice Allison who was cast as a Klan leader during the four weeks under Abravaya’s direction.

Allison called it  “Concession to the grievous industry, political correctness and selective moral outrage.

“They pulled the rug out from under us and at least could have told the audience before the show started what to expect.”

Miller came to Spreckels loaded with talent from theater companies in both Marin and Sonoma counties (including Spreckels) and right away she had a crisis on her hands

IN MY OPINION I’M ON her side. Miller acted quickly and in her own chosen manner and it’s understandable why city hall didn’t want to get involved. She’s had years of stage experience in both counties.

The critical actor Tice Allison offered reasons to alert audiences before the curtain and maybe discussions with audience members after the curtain drops. 

These procedures are unworkable in Rohnert Park for Spreckels Theater has only a small piece of RP theatergoing regular attendees. The majority of members are from Santa Rosa and Marin County cities and small towns who recognize what a magnificent theater we have here. Unless you can see it on TV it’s a tough sell in its home town.

HOWEVER, YOU ANALYZE IT, the pictures Police Chief Brian Masterson took as a photographer pro tem, there was not one African-American in either photo and only one woman pictured. The apartment complex I live in on Enterprise Drive already has two African-American families and I know there are more living in B Section. 

Plus, already women outnumber men at Sonoma State University, including campus president. I don’t know of any census taken in this city concerning population gender, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there are more women than men in RP.