http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2008/01/24/city-to-plan-for-reopening-childrens-theatre


Town Square

City to plan for reopening Children's Theatre

Original post made on Jan 24, 2008

The Palo Alto Children's Theatre, closed late Thursday afternoon because of a criminal investigation into its finances, will be reopened as soon as possible, Palo Alto City Manager Frank Benest said today.
UPDATED:

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 25, 2008, 4:22 PM

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:25 pm

How sad. The Children's Theatre is an amazing place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Very sad news to read indeed. The experiences my children have had there so far have been wonderful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Is this going to affect the programs that the Theater staff do with the elementary schools?


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Posted by Parent and resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Closed? Why not investigate while it remains open? Why do the kids need to pay for this possible crime? About 40-50 eager and hopeful kids just auditioned for a play this week, so I do hope the wonderful work of the theatre will resume very soon. The Children's Theatre has been a bright jewel in Palo Alto's crown for many, many years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:18 pm

That is the real question: Why not investigate with the theater open??? Dozens of children auditioned for "The Giver," and the cast has been rehearsing everyday! My neighbor's child is on the play, and I have already set the date of the opening. The closing of the theater when the children are in dress rehearsals in very sad for the cast, the crew and the community... My young neighbor will be devastated with this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Asher in The Giver
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Wow, this is really sad. I'm in the play that is in Dress Rehearsals (The Giver) now, and this just sucks. I really hope that it reopens soon, because it is one of Palo Alto's greatest institutions and has been around for so many years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm

This is really intense. I wounder what is going on


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Disturbing news, I share the sadness others have expressed.

If the theater must be closed for an indefinite period of time, it suggests that keeping it open in some way may make the investigation more difficult to conduct in a fair and complete way. This is one of those situations where transparency on the part of our public officials encounters the need to protect people's privacy if they are part of the investigation.

It surely is a disappointment to many, especially those who are involved in the current product, and even more especially the children. What would be an even greater tragedy is
if information came out about this in a piecemeal or unsubstantiated way that could damage people who do not deserve it. I support letting the police doing their job the way that they think is best, under the circumstances. The unintended consequences of this becoming too visible before they have completed their investigation are truly frightening. It would likely affect people many of us know.

Shades of The Crucible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stage Manager for The Giver
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm

This is really disappointing. I'm stage managering the Giver, and it would be really sad to have to postpone any of this show, everybody has been working really hard on it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:36 pm

this really sucks especially for the people in the current production. i really hope the theater opens back up soon.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm

The idea of postponing a play is not very practical... Children and parents have commitments and they have set times and dates aside for the production and performances. The Giver is party of their daily schedule at this point, and closing the theater will affect many parents and children.


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Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:59 pm

It's important to know that there is a staff, a large board, and the city backing up the theatre. If The Giver can't go on for the next two weeks, it will definitely go on after the investigation. The kids should remember that the whole community will make sure things turn out OK, and the shows will go on in the future. It's too bad this had to happen, but the Children's Theatre is the jewel in the crown of Palo Alto and it will continue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I don't see why the theater needs to be closed. I mean whatever happened to "The show must go on." I've done a bunch of shows at the theater and plan on doing more and i just don't understand why the whole schedule everyone has been planing around has to be disrupted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CO-Stage Manager
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:25 pm

I Agree with my fellow stage manager. We have all worked really hard on this project and i wish we found out about this sooner so we wouldn't of had to have any chances of it majorly conflicting with the show. I hope that something will happen so the show will be able to go on. I am very upset at the moment


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Start being practical.

Is there any way the show can be moved to JLS, Jordan, Haymarket, Spangenberg, a local Church, or somewhere?

The fact that the theatre is closed may mean that the staff are able to work elsewhere. Maybe there is a theatre group somewhere on the peninsula that can help with props, costumes, etc.

I know it may take some work, but think how wonderful this would be to carry off.

Maybe one of the local TV stations can be approached to help out.

Never say die, don't give up, see what can be done and do it.

Good Luck.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mac Clayton
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 7:46 pm

This must be pretty serious, and I, like others, am distressed to hear about it. However, I urge the police and the city manager to stabilize the situation and, unless the sums are huge or there is significant risk of continuing harm, to re-open the theatre quickly so that the current show can be staged. You wouldn't close a business while investigating possible embezzlement.

My family and I have been friends and supporters of the theatre for many years, and we send our thoughts and good wishes out to the entire extended theatre community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toni McGregor
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Pat and Michael were heroes to me as a kid, they were my parents watchful eye when I wasn't at home, taught me some of my most valued life lessons, and are a huge part of who I am today. There were a lot of us that grew up at the Theatre and Pat and Michael were the one thing we could always count on day in and day out to be consistent. (I tried, but could not refrain from mentioning the one exception to the rule... who remembers Michaels perm?)
My thoughts, support and prayers are with them during this time and I hope that before people jump to any conclusions, or rush to judgments they remember Pat and Michael have given their lives for PACT and are really pillars of the Palo Alto Community. I for one love and support them and hope others rally around them and the theater in this time when they really need it the most.We are a family!
We love you guys!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CHnCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Has anyone stopped to think the unthinkable - that maybe the reason the Theater can't stay open is because it is the staff and management of the program who are involved................?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:25 pm

That is the point; if they don't know who is responsible for the embezzlement, they don't know if they can trust anybody there.
There may be code of silence among the staff that they are trying to crack. Somebody there knows or should know what happened.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Dude
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Has anyone stopped to think that maybe the police already did give the theater staff the opportunity to cooperate but maybe the staff/management hasn't come through on cooperating?

It sucks because ultimately it is the children who will suffer. But, hey, who else would have been able to embezzle except someone/people on the staff or management in the first place? If it involves enough money for the police to be this involved, then they should have the undivided attention of the staff/management until the investigation is complete.

Remember, too, that trust from the city and the people of Palo Alto is on the line. At this point, theater management should welcome a full and complete investigation, just to prove to people that nothing is being covered up. With no money, you have no theater. If there is any hint people are hindering a police investigation into stealing money or that the staff/management is being anything less than totally cooperative, you can close the door on the theater for at least awhile.

People will forgive incompetence. But the public is not tolerant of people stealing public money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Supporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:12 pm

The Police obviously have a very good reason to close the theatre. But, why can't the theatre program under production be moved to the Cubberley Theatre, Spangenberg, Lucie Stern or any number of schools with multi-purpose rooms?




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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:32 pm

It's not really feasible to move a whole production a week before opening. Even if the other theatres weren't booked up and being used, the Children's Theatre is its own entity. They would have to have all their staff, sets, costumes, box office, resources, etc., somehow moved to another place. It sounds like the city can't even keep the staff on duty anyplace until the investigation is over. The cast and crew have rehearsed in that theatre and trying to put it on in some other venue just wouldn't work. Unfortunately, a postponement is necessary, and it's not fair to get the kids' hopes up that anything else could happen. It all really sucks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian Glasscock
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Hey there,
Pat and Michael were some of my greatest mentors. I cant imagine any of staff doing anything intentionally, it must of just been an error!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:22 pm

OMG, someone has robbed the piggy bank? Hard to believe. Am awaiting more to this story.....
The prices were right for tickets to the potential rising stars of the stage. There were many, many sold out shows. You were able to see great entertainment, made possible through the directing staff (who put in MANY MANY tireless, overtime hours and who also spoon fed the aspiring actors and actress' along the way).
The Children's Theater stage was the BEST learning tool for my children. It helped over come some shyness and gave them some self confidence, along with meeting new friends.
I know I am not alone in wishing a speedy reopening of the Theater.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by C me around
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:25 pm

This shines a new light on the old stage saying "BREAK A LEG"...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob Vaughan - Master Electrican - West Bay Opera
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Moving a production is a difficult task, especially a week from opening.

First you have to find a suitable venue that is available, then you have to move the scenery and lighting and possibly adapt it to the new space.

Lucie Stern is busy all year, and West Bay Opera will be loading in our production of Cosi Fan Tutti on Sunday.
Haymarket is lacking in technical facilities, having been neglected by the school district for the last 20 years.
Spangenberg or Cubberley are possible options, depending on availability and technical requirements.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:58 pm

The Children's Theatre has been a sick, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] weird organization for years. It's remarkable that something like this took this long to surface.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Children'sTheatreRegular
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 24, 2008 at 11:06 pm

How depressing this is... I am not in this show, but am in many. I have friends in the show, they are crushed about this delay. I love Pat and Michael and all the other staff, they would never do anything bad. I hope the next show will be ready when my school play ends. How sad,how sad...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adam
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 24, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Thank you, Paul, for your usual reasoned comments.

If the theatre is closed for "several weeks", (3rd or 4th week in Feb?) opening as scheduled will not be possible. So opening at Spangenberg, Cubberley, or ?, does not have to meet the original schedule. Delaying until Feb. 8 or 15 may give time to move.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NO!
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 24, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Pat and Michael were awesome! I can't believe the Theatre is closing, I spent a majority of my life there (as did my mom!)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 12:58 am

Who gave Lynn Johnson the right to decide to close or open a theater? She is not a prosecutor or a judge and even they are constrained by the First Amendment. Typical of her cluelessness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 1:34 am

I am very upset.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:00 am

Truth, according to the SF Chronicle, the City Manager ordered the closure, not the Police Chief. Web Link

It looks like the Chief announced it, but the order came from the City Manager. I believe the Theater is run by the City, so he would have the authority.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patty
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 25, 2008 at 6:18 am

Little comment on the fact that this appears to be another case of a city-run operation where employees are apparently engaged in criminal activity. It's been two years since the utilities scandal. We'll have to wait for the results of the investigation, but it looks like the city hasn't learned much since then.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:23 am

Looking forward to the future, and trying to think positive thoughts, I'm wondering whether a good solution to this kind of problem will be to have all financial aspects of the theatre handled by and in City Hall. The burden of running the theatre fell on a small, dedicated, but overwhelmed staff, and there may have been too much confusion and/or opportunity for taking advantage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by "Fiona" from The Giver
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:42 am

As a cast member, I'm very disappointed to hear this. We will lose precious rehearsal time and forget all the hard work we've done so far. I think there's no reason we can't continue rehearsing, especially the week of dress rehearsals!

Note from cast member's mom: Go ahead and seal off the box office and other places where records are stored to do your investigation. Let the show continue as planned! The kids tried out for this play knowing when the performance dates would be, and it's not practical to move them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:34 am

Funny, They can not, will not close the city or Fire Department. City is open for Frank. Took 15 years to slow Emily down. City open the whole time. But they can close the Theater and shut the KIDS down WILLY-NILLY..
When will you have enough. When will you stand up. When will you stop THEM.
Now the only reason I could see or there should/could be to do this. THE BUILDING IS UNSAFE???? Was a fire trap in the past. Years ago... STILL???????
I would think anything else could be dealt with.
More of FRANKS WILLY-NILLY politics of keeping you The Citizens in the DARK. No one is exempt from the Blunders of the CPA not even the CHILDREN..


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:42 am

I like the part about FRANK NOT being reachable?? Go FIGURE???

I would think that he would be there with the Police Chief. Give the order then run for cover... Hey just like the Fire DEpartment??

Now if you ran the City would you be there to answer questions.
Stand up to the public or fall back into the SMOKE????
I guess he just mailed in the NO COMMENT.... Maybe he was having a operation. So the whole city/deparment stops or can not run/work???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:52 am

Dude
Incompetence,wasteing the public's funding over and over again is stealing. It is a crime...

Storm Drains,Fire Engines,Sandbags,Flags,Utility scams, Reserve Ladder trucks.Run away Public Safety buildings,BRANDON, A city attorney who does not know or will not follow the law, etc,etc
These have also hurt the CHILDREN....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:55 am

Fireman. You would be a lot more effective if you stopped ranting and made coherent ideas and sentences. It's impossible to follow your trains of thought.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:15 am

While the Children's Theater is in the domain of the Police Department's control during an investigation, the decision to close it should have been made by the City Manager--not the Police Chief. The City Manager should have made the decision based on the recommendation, or request, of the Police Chief.

Perhaps it happened that way, but this press release makes no mention of the City Manager's role.

Sad that nothing works in this City the way it is supposed to.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Want to see it done
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:23 am

As a parent, I am very in favor of the "Show must go on" idea. Too much work by cast and crew have been put into the current show and while I understand that the investigation must be very serious for the city to have taken the steps they have, I believe we can still pull together to get this show in stage as scheduled.

1) We need a yahoo group or something to be able to communicate with all who want to see this happen.

2) I don't know who the current director of this production is, but you all must be pretty far along if you are dress rehearsals. If Pat and Michal are under investigation, someone call Jim and see if he would take over.

3) Yes, let's find another venue. Let's brainstorm ideas and act on them.

4) The costumes must be pretty much complete and organized by Alison as usual.

5) We need to figure a way to know about the tickets that have already been sold and a way to handle more ticket sales. Maybe someone on the Board can help us with that if we can't have Rich to help.

6) We need to know who volunteered to bake brownies/make lemonade...the usual stuff.

I think it can be done.

My child is not in the current production, but I want to see this succeed for all the hard work those who are have put in.

Maybe we arrange to meet this afternoon at the usual rehearsal time or tomorrow (Sat.) when parents can come and help plan too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:24 am

I am prepared to offer Pat and Michael my full support. Unless they have been pushing drugs to the kids or otherwise harming them, I think these two have been a fabulous force for the kids positive development. At this point, we don't even know if they have been accused of anything or what they might be accudes of, but as of this moment I am behind them. Does anyone remember "The Music Man"? Prof. Hill was certainly guilty of the crimes he was accused of, but the good he did to the community far outweighed the damage he did. Financial mismanagement? Who wants to take up a collection to pay the city back any lost money? Let's get more facts about this investigation, but let's support the folks at the theatre in the mean time. Let the police do their job with our support too, but let's not forget how much good these folks have done for us and our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:24 am

> I'm wondering whether a good solution to this
> kind of problem will be to have all financial
> aspects of the theatre handled by and in
> City Hall.

There is no reason that the city of palo alto should be operating a children's theater -- particularly since it is clear that it can not manage it properly.

> The burden of running the theatre fell on a small,
> dedicated, but overwhelmed staff, and there may
> have been too much confusion and/or opportunity
> or taking advantage.

And where was the management of this operation? Isn't the city manager ultimately responsible for this operation, just like the utilities--where 10% of the staff was either disciplined or fired because of fraud, failure to perform, or other inappropriate behaviors?

Since this investigation has been going on for months, perhaps it was known to the city council? Perhaps this was another of the many reasons that the city manager resigned?

And where was the city auditor? Seems like she should have audited this operation somewhere along the line. This also calls into question the outside profession financial Audits of the city!

First the utilities fiasco, now the children's cheater -- palo alto definitely needs a house cleaning at city hall.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Agree with Bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:26 am

I agree with Bill, Fireman needs to get his thoughts straight!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

Bill
I think it is impossible to follow how this City works, is run.

Where was Frank when this was released to the PUBLIC. He was unable to be reached.
Why close the theater. If its money ,have a cop or city attorney{ Steal,oops} watch it. Do not pay any more bills and have a legal type person collect the money at the door and control the other funds for that event?

Is this theatre or show too big for the CPA to take over control. So the show can go on?? Or is it that the CPA had control and failed to manage the issues.. Were these people out on the Golf course with the rest of the gang.. Utility Department workers

When thing are so screwed up they are hard to follow. This type of issues have been going on in this city for many,many,many years. Maybe that is why it is so hard to follow.
What is there to follow, you do not know because you never get the story or the one you do get is a cover up.
I think the biggest one is that thing are so screwed up that you fail to thing it is real. Who could mess things up so bad.??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:46 am

What would you like Straightened out.
The city
The storm drains
The Fire Department
The Utility's Department
The City Manager
The Assintent City Manager {15 years is a long time to get a way with something?}
The Public safety building
The fiber optic issue
The condition of the streets and sidewalks
The problem of where all the funding has gone?
The Willy-Nilly flag issue for the Firefighters kill in the line of duty.
Franks property taxs or his bonuses for doing such a ----- job
The City Counsel who hears you the Citizens?

Kind of hard to keep so many issues over so many years straight.
They start to forget what story they told you/sold you last>>


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:00 am

This investigation is long overdue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:13 am

Just remember everyone, today is Friday and the City doesn't work every other Friday for its unusual schedule. Today just may be the day they don't work and it may be no coincidence that this happened Thursday afternoon before a Friday off.

Don't know this for sure, but put it in the mix.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:14 am

> This investigation is long overdue.

Care to elaborate?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug the Tax Slave
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:18 am

People who have access to public money will always be careless and will always justify actions that to most in real business would consider criminal.

It is for this reason that the government should be in charge of as little as possible.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jacob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:20 am

All of you stop complaining and let the police do their job. When they are done, this Palo Alto tradition will re open it's doors. Look at all the major investigations the police department has completed. Although a few have not been successful, this police department has taken care of us and knows what it is doing. Get in touch with reality. The reality is that people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds commit crime. When crime happens, the police need to do their job. Reality has once again struck Palo Alto and some Palo Altons can't deal with it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:22 am

> This investigation is long overdue.

Care to elaborate?

Have you seen their offices. Michael and Pat can't locate the cup of coffee they poured five minutes ago without the help of the staff and the kids. Kudos to Pat and Michael for their life long service but their time is past and the organization needs...well, organization.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A-Little-Sunlight-Is-The-Best-Cure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:30 am

> Look at all the major investigations the police
> department has completed.

We'd love to, but they are all shrouded in SECRECY! The city manager's sandbagging incident, the Lee & Kan beating, the 911 Operator who was caught using records improperly and then there is the UTILITIES SCANDAL. Barely a word from the police about what went on. We have no way to know if they ever completely investigated the Utilities or not.

Sorry .. but police worship doesn't fly .. what's needed is sunlight!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paly77
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:37 am

This is really sad news from the town, and neigborhood that I grew up in.
Spent many hours, and dollars attending countless shows that my childhood friends were in (circa late 60's & early seventy's)!
Now there is news that one part of the public theater system is corrupt, which is not surprising.
With this in mind, I now have to look into the value of moving myself, and son back to PA! Are there other city offices that have the same corrupted values?
The bigger question is why in PA?
I thought Palo Alto was the city for the wealthy? There should be no need for this kind of human actions, or is this how some of the residents obtained their wealth!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:40 am

I want two things right now:

1) I want the police to reveal what crime they are investigating and who they think the perpetrators are, and

2) I want that theatre re-opened immediately, perhaps with a new custodian if needed during the investigation, but re-opened.

After that I would like to have a nice tea with Pat and Michael.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cole
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:41 am

Paly 77 wrote:
...I thought Palo Alto was the city for the wealthy? There should be no need for this kind of human actions, or is this how some of the residents obtained their wealth!

I don't think that this is an intentional or malicious crime. This is a crime of negligence and a touch of pride and narcissism.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alum
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:42 am

Thank you Aaron. It is not a surprise at all that funds could be misplaced (under 50 years of newspaper clippings!!!) Contracts not filed properly, accounting not accounted for, I believe it without a second thought. Whether it was intentional ebezzlment, we will see, but the place has deteriorated over that last decade, and sold out in so many ways it's been horrible to watch. There are a good number of folks that went through the system and are appalled at the disorganization and the outdated, institutionalized, methods that are practiced over there. Nothing personal, but it's time for 3 of the 5 staff to retire and for the whole place to start living up to its real potential. It needs to be updated from top to botttom. The core values are there and crucial to provide to the community, but the way it's managed is abrasive, negligent, and has to me at least been embarrassing for years. Product aside (the kids and production value are great for community theatre) it's time for a reckoning.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:46 am

Alum...
Your response is dead on. Thank you.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:48 am

Just a week or so the Weekly was carrying articles about the collapse of the Pacific Art League, staff quitting due to harassment from the Board, and a nasty recall of the Board.

This week, the Weekly is carrying a story about a criminal investigation of the Palo Alto City Government's Children's Theater.

Seems that not all is bliss in the world of art here in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PACT alum
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

The Palo Alto Children's Theatre has been an outstanding asset to the community and its children for 80 years. I've known Pat Briggs for over 40 years, since she was first hired as Director, and there is no more dedicated employee in any City in this nation. No one from the Children's Theatre staff has been out playing golf on City time!! Instead, they spend endless hours guiding and challenging Palo Alto's young people to value themselves and others, and I'm certain that Pat and Michael both dedicate many more than the "standard" 40 hours a week to their vocation. And that's what it is for them -- a calling, not a job.

If financial irregularities have occurred under their watch, I'm confident that its the result of poor bookkeeping and lack of adequate staff, not personal enrichment. It's terrible that the current production will have to be cancelled and the children and families participating will be so disappointed, but let's give the process a chance to work.

Above all, don't let rumors tarnish the good names of these dedicated workers nor diminish the accomplishments of the unique institution which is the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.


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Posted by looking for the truth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:11 am

> The core values are there and crucial to provide to the
> community, but the way it's managed is abrasive, negligent,
> and has to me at least been embarrassing for years.

How come this is just coming out now? The Children's Theater crowd always shows up in big numbers to coerce funding from the city council. How come they are willing to take public money, but not to tell the public where there management issues associated with the administration of public money?


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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:14 am

jacob;
Its the not doing anything,unseccessful part that is the problem.
Then it keeps happenning over and over for years and years.


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Posted by Alum
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

And who would take notice of an enlightened group of 20 and 30 somethings, many of them working successfully in theatre all over the country, when 400+ parents are concerned with if their child will go on stage or not? Squeaky wheels.

It's nothing new, and it's all been said before. Letters have been written, suggestions made, solutions and help volunteered even and it pales to the numbers that would rather have a place there kids can participate in theatre than not. The threat of anything new, of change of what works on the outside is what brings the numbers out in support of the organization.

I know that if the Artistic Director and Managing Director positions were available, you'd have dozens of people clammering for the opportunity to polish off this jewel and show people they've been jaded by what is familiar and blinded by the theatre lights for some time. Which is not to say that we can't look back and recognize some great things that happened there, but if you are familar with working as an artist, dedication and passion demonstrated by massive amounts of overtime (paid or not) is par for the course. You don't make a difference in children's lives without it. You don't thrive as an artist without it, and yet anyone who has worked there could tell you a dozen ways to make it more efficient, leaving more time to mentor the kids that participate more responsibly.If the status quo is a good thing, and no one can remember a time when it was different, why change? I get the sense the community is about to get an earful from the voices that are drowned out at those City Council Meetings.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:52 am

Alum - can you please explain who is responsible for the "product" when you wrote "product aside (the kids and production value are great for community theatre)" if not the people you are eagerly disparaging? Maybe they focus on the product and don't have enough resources for the office/financial activities. I know the ticket prices are wonderfully reasonable, and they are certainly having to fight for the city support they have. A more positive view of the "big numbers to coerce funding from the city council" that "looking for the truth" describes would be to say that the people of Palo Alto care about the Theatre so much that they are willing to fight for it and it is a valuable institution.


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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:52 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Lisa Yuen
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 25, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I am PACT alumni. I have been performing for over 14 years in NYC (Broadway, Off-Broadway and National Tours) and have nothing but love and gratitude for Michael, Pat and Allison. They have dedicated their lives to nuturing children and theatre. It is a shame that the theatre is closed and my best thoughts and hopes are for Michael, Pat, Allison and their theatre.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted by Lisa Yuen, a resident of Los Altos Hills
"...and my best thoughts and hopes are for Michael, Pat, Allison and their theatre."

________________
That line of thinking is part of the problem. It is not "their" theatre. It belongs to the the community and people of Palo Alto. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ernest
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

It's wonderful to see that so many people care about this; the Palo Alto Children's Theater is important for the community and important for the kids. I also agree very much with "Want to see it done," and think that we as parents and community members can make this work. Some things we can all do in the short term:

1) Call City Manager Frank Benest on whose authority the theater was closed and let him know how important this is to you; he is expected back in the office on Monday: (650) 329-2392. He is not an elected official (and is retiring in June), but he still may be sympathetic to public opinion.

2) Attend the city council meeting on Monday evening, January 28th (this Monday). 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, first floor of the Civic Center at 250 Hamilton in Palo Alto. "Oral communications" are heard at the beginning of the meeting, and can be on any topic; express before the council your support for the theater and the importance of re-opening it swiftly.

3) Join this Yahoo group and use it as a tool to connect and plan: Web Link Let's work toward organizing an interim structure to keep the current production moving toward its February 1st opening night. We have a huge wealth of talent, contacts and energy in this community -- all we need to do is organize it.

4) Directly contact the other parents and volunteers with whom you're personally acquainted.


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm

If the staff has been placed on administrative leave, how can the show go on? Who will work with the children from The Giver? This is going to be tooo much for the children to have new people working with them when the show is already in dress rehearsal! The children must be protected by all this mess...


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Posted by Warren
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:21 pm

I think someone should ask the kids involved if they want to move forward without the staff. They have come so far I would think their answer would be yes. If they are in dress rehearsals it means that much of the work has been done. There are people who direct the "Outreach" programs who could be brought in. These people are not strangers to the kids. I think the bigger mess would be for us to throw up our hands and let the kids down.

Don't forget that the kids involved are involved with every aspect of the production. They are by no means helpless. So far, cast members and stage managers have already posted here. Between the enthusiasm of the kids and parents volunteering, I could see it working.


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Posted by PandP
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

One has to wonder whether the closing of the Children's Theatre is not Benest's last hurrah. It is well-known that he has had it in for the Theatre and its staff from day one. In spite of all the positive-sounding rhetoric that he now spews out about the value of the Theatre to the community at large, HE has never been a fan. Is this his final stab? If so, it comes at a horrible time. Only last week, it was announced that Michael L. is very (very) ill. Obviously, criminal behavior has its consequences. However, the timing of the police announcement, the severity of the language used in characterizing the investigation, the sudden nature of the Theatre's closing, and Benest's history with the Theatre makes one think (if I may be allowed to quote Shakespeare) that "something is rotten in the State of Denmark."


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Posted by PACTfan
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

The current programs will be happening....
Please call the Children's Theater for information


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Warren, are you talking about 10, 12, 13-year-old kids moving forward without the staff? There are some teenagers in the play, but that are kids too! They cannot just go on by themselves, and a new staff will be real hard for them to work with in this stage of the production.


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Posted by Patty
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Many here are letting their (justifiable) love for the Children's theater and what it does cloud their judgement. Too many posters say, just open the theater and go on: nobody associated with the theater could have done something bad because it's such a good institution.

Wake up! The police are investigating "embezzlement". That is an intentional FELONY CRIMINAL ACT - not the result of sloppy bookkeeping or negligence.

The police wouldn't risk undertaking a major investigation that necessitated closing the theater if they didn't think they had something. It's sad that the people working on the current production will be disappointed. But have some perspective: we can't ignore criminal activity just for the sake of "The Show Must Go On."

Let the investigation proceed. The long term future of the CT will be much more secure once any corruption has been rooted out.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:40 pm

So the entire Staff has been place on leave? They were all in on the crimes? It is beginning to come into sharper focus:

Perhaps someone bought unauthorized doughnust for the staff using theatre funds, and since everyone on the staff had at least one, they are all guilty? Was there coffee with the doughnuts? Are they druggies because caffine is a "Performance Enhancing Substance"?



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Posted by Alum
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm

If you are a parent, or a teacher or have had any experience with children you know they are capable of wonderful things. Kids can put a great show on in the backyard by themselves, with a budget of what's lying about the house. Run a theatre for better part of 75 years and that's how your plays get produced. With a lot of stuff around the house and talented kids. That is not at all to say that for years great things haven't been possible in large part attributed to the dedicated staff, doing what they are passionate about and more importantly what they are PAID to do.

The question at hand, and the source of my lack of surprise that something like this is coming to light, is the lack of attention to the required part of the job that includes tracking the money that you "fight" for. Now of course until the details come out this is ALL speculation and whether it's negligence, or actually criminal, or all a mistake, the point I'm attempting to make is that if you have walked into the office in the last 15 years, at any point in time it is not impossible to believe that that side of the operation has long since gone to the wayside and COULD be the cause of this type of event. Now, of course that leads to the question of checks and balances and if blame needs to be placed, where should the bulk of that lie. The city would have to be silly knowing the kind of support the theatre and the staff there has in the community to make this kind of a move without some information that clearly we are not privy too and I'm inclined to not take sides, only to state that this would be a great opportunity to clean up and change the business side of things over there and by doing so, improve all aspects of the PACT experience.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Right on again Alum.


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Posted by Adri (cast member in The Giver)
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I think that I speak for most of the cast when I say that I really appreciate how much all of you care about this. I also just received a call from the Theater saying that although we do not have rehearsal for the next few days, they hope to have the show ready in time.


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Posted by Kayla (stage manager)
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 25, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Like Adri said, they just called and we have no rehearsal today or tomorrow. But they expect to have us back in hopefully soon.

Everybody who suggests opening on another stage has positive thoughts, but this would be way more difficult than it seems. The Giver is staged in the round, meaning the chairs are all around the audience. Being on a proscenium stage would completely alter the blocking of the show. In addition, there is a lot of scrim work involved, which would all have to be cut. If there are no speakers behind the scrim, whole new blocking has to be written and microphones have to be used for voice overs.

I am not so sure everybody would ever want to continue without Mike Miranda, he has been an amazing director. He had to step in because Michael is very ill and he has been doing an incredible job. Him being also the technical director makes putting together missing sound cues and such more difficult if he is gone.

It's a nice idea, but it's a hard show to move. Better just to wait for it to reopen.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2008 at 4:50 pm

All administrative offices are closed!!!

How convenient that the city manager decided to close the theater before his long weekend, leaving parents, children and the entire community on hold with no one to answer our questions!

And, why the theater has to be closed right now if the investigation has been going on for so long?

And, why parents have not be notified about this long term investigation?

BTW, will any of this be addressed on Monday's City Council Meeting?



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Posted by observing parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Just out of curiosity, how much of the operations of children's theatre are public/city of Palo Alto and how much private/non-profit/for profit?


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Posted by councilwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Parent, there doesn't appear to be a "normal" council meeting on Monday. The council is interviewing candidates for commissions.

Web Link


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:13 pm

If you do a google search for Palo Alto Children's Theatre non profit, you can read all about it and how it works.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Here is a link: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 5:18 pm

There's a new article on this matter in PAW online from about an hour ago that goes into more detail and has the latest information.


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Posted by Becky Trout
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Becky Trout is a registered user.

Hello all,

I'd be most interested in talking with anyone in the show.

Please give me a call at 650 326-8210 ex. 226.

Thanks!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

An updated news story, covering a link between a burglary at the theater and the current police investigation, can be found at
Web Link


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Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:06 pm

I can't believe how big a deal this is. It really shows how important the theatre is to this community. The theatre is basically my 2nd home and i would hate to see this go on for to long. People at my school keep coming up to me and asking questions about it. It is really odd for this to happen. Thankfuly the show is going on with rehearsals. It really means alot to see how many people are involved in getting the theatre back and runing.


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:15 pm

That's right, Carolyn, and the important thing to know is that even though this is difficult, many, many people care about the Theatre, and we'll all work together to make sure things work right for the kids.


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Posted by ssquared
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 10:54 pm

The cookies, lemonade, hot dog burglary/embezzlement.

Will someone please tell me how much money is involved, what with tickets selling at $4 and $8. I'm not advocating that thieves should not be apprehended, but let's put things in perpective please. With city employees receiving large bonuses, even when the Council is unsatisfied with their performance, isn't the fuss here a joke? I don't think that even one bonus will equal this entire theft.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:14 pm

> We were surprised as much as you are," Friends board member Cy Ashley Webb said Friday.<

How can a member of the Friends of PACT be surprised by the investigation, if there was a theft last year? Is this a continuous investigation since the theft happened?

>Johnson said the investigation has been ongoing for several months. Nothing new had happened this week to trigger the closure, she said.<

So, what trigger the city manager to close the theater?

And, why this information about the theft last year did not surface at first when the theater was closed? And how much was lost in the theft? Do Friends of PACT has this information?


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Posted by Lindsey
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:09 am

I completely agree with all of the other people involved with The Giver. I don't understand why the entire theater needs to be shut down for this investigation and I am upset by this. We have been working very hard on this play and they should not just stop rehearsals in the right before tech week begins.


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Posted by ShowMustGoOn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:14 am

PanP is quite correct I believe in thinking that what has gone down here is really nothing more then Frank's last ditch dig at the theater and those that run it. He is not, nor ever was, someone who has cared for what the theater is, what it stands for in the community, or any clue about what the people who work there do.

Unlike Pat and Michael who have given their lives (quite literally in fact, it turns out)to the theater, the community and to the children - Mr. BeeNest has given the city pretty much nothing but grief. One can only think "Good Riddance" once June rolls around and Frank leaves his post.

If there is a plus to any of this it's that Mr. Frank BeeNest has been a blight on the community for a thankfully shorter time than Pat and Michael have been shinning examples of what makes Palo Alto such a fine place to live.

I am sure all who work at the theater will be found innocent - of whatever it is they are actually being accused of - and Frank - as usual - will be at a lose for words for another inept blunder.

Thanks.


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Posted by wait-till-the-fat-lady-sings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 6:29 am

> I am sure all who work at the theater
> will be found innocent

Then the police have a lot of explaining to do.


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:03 am

I think the point is that the city doesn't know how much money and losses are involved, or who is responsible, but as you see in the artlcle, the potential is there for a large loss, and if the theatre were open, there could be ongoing theft, coverups, malfeasance, even framing someone else. It's not fair to the kids, but if crimes have been committed, they have to be properly investigated. If the city didn't follow through and more wrongdoing continued, we would blame the city for being criminally neglectful.

There's also a possibility that the extent of the original crimes were not realized until recently because of the disorganization of the theatre, or that crimes have been going on throughout the year, as it was realized that the opportunity still existed. As you can see from the article, we're not talking about a few dollars, we're talking about anything up to $200,000, maybe more, plus expensive equipment.


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:15 am

Also, I have no idea how city bookkeeping works, but there might even be a potential for someone to embezzle straight from the city, which could be a loss of millions. It's not something to be made light of, or ignore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by suzan
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 26, 2008 at 9:09 am

If there were possible "financial irregularities" related to the school district, would you close the schools??? This is absurd. There are some City staff people who have wanted to stop funding the only city funded childrens' theatre in the country. They have been looking for an excuse for several years..The theatre staff works miracles with a modest budget--never requiring families to pay for costuming kids to be in elaborate productions, lobbying the City to keep fees low for educational programs at the theatre. Seems to me that there would not be much money left over to "embezzle" !! The staff reuses almost every scrap of clothing or scenery it can in an effort to keep costs down and do as many productions as possible with its resources. Sad that someone burglarized equipment which the Friends worked hard to provide. But to hang this cloud over the head of the theatre staff and to penalize kids is as cruel as it is absurd. The City Manager is not going to change this community's mind about the value of the theatre and the need to fund the arts in Palo Alto. An apology is due for the way this has been handled.


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Posted by A Dissenting Voice
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:26 am

I hate to throw cold water on this Pat and Michael love fest, but they have long outlived their usefulness to the theater. 30 years of children's theater has made them angry and bitter. They are NOT a positive influence on the children any more. In the many shows my children have performed at the Children's Theater, they have proven themselves tired, frustrated and no longer capable of showing the children the love, respect and mentorship they deserve. I would welcome a change at the Children's Theater.


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Posted by Albert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

> I would welcome a change at the Children's Theater.

Thirty years is way, way, way too long to be at any job. People stop seeing themselves as employees, but see themselves as "institutions of one".

There are several other key people who have been at City Hall far too long, creating problems such as this one in other departments too.

No matter what the outcome of the police investigation, there needs to be a management change at the Children's Theater, and one that overlooks all City Departments -- ie, a new City Manager.


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Posted by Laurel Watson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

Would someone in the PA police department start thinking about the children? My daughter has waited for years to audition and was devastated to hear her callback cancelled. Plus the kids can read the headlines in all the newsracks and don't understand.

All this for a computer printer and some coins? Call in the FBI and Department of Homeland security, probably some kids joking around if the doors were so easy to get into.

My thoughts go out to Pat and Mike, everybody is very worried.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:38 am

Dissenting Voice, my children have been in recent productions, and I've only got positive feedback from them about Pat and Michael. One of my children is very opinionated and he is good in perceiving people... and again, I have never heard he saying anything negative about either of them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:06 pm

There is an old historic precedent for moving a show. In 1969, Paly's production of The Pajama Game moved from Paly's tiny theater to the enormous Spangenberg Theatre, as part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the city. Of course an upgrade/replacement of the Paly Theater was promised then, but hasn't been scheduled yet.


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Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:08 pm

No that it has been established that PACT can't keep show videos safe, could the city facilitate children associated with the shows obtaining copies?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Karen
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Can somone please explain to me why Palo Alto taxpayers are funding this youth activity? Other youth activities pay for themselves, by and large.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Laurel, you are right! Kids have been reading headlines and are also here on the net and they are not sure what is happening...

There is nothing wrong with children researching and learning about EMBEZZLEMENT, INSIDER JOB and CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION.... but it is real bad for them to learn about this from a place they spend their time and about the people they look after!

I am amazed by the fact that the CITY MANAGER decided to close the theater without taking the children as the first priority, without contacting the parents from the children in THE GIVER.

Children were at the theater in a dress rehearsal on Thursday while the police/city was closing the theater. The rehearsal was scheduled to end at 6:00 pm.

If the investigation had been going on for a while, and if there was no new evidence (according to the article above), why not wait until the children were OUT of the rehearsal to close the place.

Why not contacting the parents from the children from THE GIVER? Why not contacting also the parents who took their children for the audition for the next play? Why close the teather when children are inside??? I would have prefer to talk to my 10-year-old about an investigation to have he/she learn about this from anyone else from the city, or from the news.


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Posted by We'll-Never-Know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 1:15 pm

> I am amazed by the fact that the CITY MANAGER
> decided to close the theater without taking the children
> as the first priority, without contacting the parents from
> the children in THE GIVER

And this is why this city is so screwed up. The theater, its property, books, and who knows what comprise a crime scene. If the investigation is based on "thefts", then how does one establish a list of stolen items if the crime scene is open to the public and additional equipment is now "walking off" because "who would know"?

The City Manager probably did the right thing, but given the tendency towards secrecy of his Administration, it's quite like we will never know the details of the situation.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

But again, why he could not wait till there was no children inside the building?

He could have waited to close the building after the Thursday rehearsal, or he could have done it earlier in the day when there were no children inside the building. Parents could have been contacted in the meantime.


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Posted by sadness
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Everyone is jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. First, Pat and Michael are the most dedicated city employees giving their entire lives to the children of Palo Alto.
Many Sundays you will find them catching up on paper work or fixing the garden for upcoming events on their own time. They have taught many of us many lessons on how to work with children with interesting personalities, how to be fair and accommodating to all-- and above all, how to build community.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Remember, it is easy to destroy, but much harder to build something. EVERYONE should stop and ask themselves to really consider character as well as how damaging rash accusations are.
I am disappointed in our city today.


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I don't know if it's a good idea to assume anything about anybody. It's possible that an employee exercised bad judgement, and it's possible that the city auditor was the one who caught the financial discrepancy, and that's what started the investigation. I'm hoping we can all calm down and wait for solid information. The city is being responsible for itself, and since we don't know all the details, we'll need to be patient and do our best too. It's all very unfortunate, but it's reality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Understandably traumatized but...
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Laurel
I'm sorry about the traumatic effect on your daughter and others who are caught up in this. However, what a unique opportunity you have been presented to use as a life-long educational lesson to teach your devastated daughter about life's disappointments.

If she is traumatized about this and is treated as a victim of these unfortunate circumstances, how will she be equipped down the road to handle really serious issues?

Since you indicated she's waited years to audition, I assume she's fairly young and therefor it might be difficult for her to parse this information in a positive way. The challenge then is breaking it down in an age-appropriate way.

Life is filled with disappointments and one thing I feel we as parents do not do a very good job of teaching our children is the art of resiliency - particularly in this geographical area.

So -- at the risk of sounding pedantic (and believe me I can use my own advice) give her a hug, comfort her, and provide her some perspecive on life's bigger issues.

Respectfully.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tricky Dick
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Here are the quotes from the above posts that stand out in my opinion:

"The theater reported a printer, cash, coins and checks stolen on June 18, 2007, but additional equipment was also discovered missing, Friends of the Children's Theatre board member Dan Conway said Friday."
-- Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly update, Friday, January 25, 2008
"Only last week, it was announced that Michael L. is very (very) ill. "
-- Posted by PandP, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm.
"Michael is very ill ..."
-- Posted by Kayla (stage manager), a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, 21 hours ago.
"Pat and Michael who have given their lives (quite literally in fact, it turns out)to the theater ..."
-- Posted by ShowMustGoOn, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, 14 hours ago.

So, Frank Benest decides to make public a seven-month-long police investigation of the Children's Theater just after it was announced that the theater's assistant director is seriously ill [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Frank put all theater employees on administrative leave, thus tarring them all with guilt by association.

Frank made public a police investigation that was not public, thus possibly compromising the investigtaion.

Frank will no longer be city manager at the end of June.

Too bad.

We won't have Frank to kick around anymore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sad-day
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2008 at 4:16 pm

>"Frank will no longer be city manager at the end of June."

>"We won't have Frank to kick around anymore."


And we could not be more thrilled...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Can
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm

> Life is filled with disappointments and one thing I
> feel we as parents do not do a very good job of teaching
> our children is the art of resiliency - particularly in
> this geographical area.

Excellent post.

Most of the parents on this thread have demonstrated very little common sense. The person who posted this, and other ideas, seems to have her head squarely on her shoulders!

Wish there were more parents like you in this town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by laurel watson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:28 pm

It is extremely disappointing to see the snide comments about children needing to be disappointed to learn some life lessons and the assumption that everyone who does these productions is from a wealthy home. This theater has always been inclusive of all abilities; whether you were disabled or rich or poor all were welcome in the Palo Alto childrens theater. How many other productions do you see someone signing in the corner?
Please ask yourself whether allegations of this nature at the Century 12 movie theater would necessitate closing down the theater and having a blue gloved detective team come out to investigate. Ive had a vehicle stolen and had to go down in person to fill out the police report at the station.


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Posted by Julian
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:42 pm

laurel, the problem is that the city pays for this operation. It is, in a way, an internal investigation of itself. There are criminal possibilities that involve the city legal structure. If the Children's Theatre was run on the basis of particpation fees, and private donations, it would probably not be in this situation.

Most of the youth activities in Palo Alto, that I am aware of, provide for those who truly cannot affort the entrance fee. I think you are way off base on your accusations.

The Children's Theatre was allowed to suck off the public tit for way too long. It was their downfall, in the end.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 6:22 pm

I hate to say this, but all of you are being incredibly close minded. Most think that the show must go on, and Pat and Michael are innocent. The rest of you think that Pat and Michael should be kicked out, and that it is a long awaited change. None of you are willing to stop being biased. I have a child who has done shows at PACT, I have heard many things. They say that Pat and Michael can be mean people who are very grumpy, but they also say that they are amazing directors who have made this a wonderful program and strengthened the community. I think that it would not hurt to have "new blood" at the Theater. I have heard that Mike Miranda (technical director) and Emika Abe (front office program assistant) are very good directors. But I also think that while Pat and Michael are a little out of their time, the are still good directors. I sincerely hope that you will open up your minds and listen to what others have to say, not just argue your point.


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Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Did the city have to shut the theater down because they were not making enough profits on the hot dog and brownie sales? Benest had since last July to reorganize the theater if he was that worried about "financial crimes".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PACT Alum
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:40 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Although I have many fond memories of being in plays and working on Palo Alto Children's Theater productions, I never remember feeling comfortable around Pat. Even back in the 60's and 70's, Pat was very hard on many of the kids and always chose favorites, particularly boys. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] She generally wouldn't budge from her old-fashioned ways of thinking about production and casting, and it took her decades to allow the girls to work on the technical aspects of the plays. In addition, her office was always a huge disaster. She lost precious cast photos that were already bought and paid for, and could never find or would never share any of her important materials or resources. Michael came in around the 70's and was a little nicer than Pat, but also favored the boys as well. It's amazing how long he has lasted in partnership with Pat. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Sorry to sound so negative, but these were my experiences at the Children's Theater. Other than these things, I must add that I learned invaluable lessons about the craft of theater, as well as culture and history, which I will always carry with me for the rest of my life, and the kids of the Children's Theater deserve to continue with production despite these shady occurrences.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:11 pm

PACT Alum

If the theater allowed Pat to be the sole decision maker on casting, why wasn't something done by the city a long time ago so that she didnt have so much power over the theater?


A fundamental principle in accounting is to have checks and balances, with no one individual in sole control.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Justa Kid
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I am curious to know wether people in Palo Alto think it is ok to steal money from, say, the City of Palo Alto, for the Children's Theatre, if that's what happened?
I hope my friends get to put on their play, but I wouldn't think it was ok for them to steal money to do it. Do you think so?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marilyn
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2008 at 9:07 pm

I am astonished at the awful things people are saying about Pat and Michael and deeply disturbed that so many people are using this very public opportunity to complain about them. These are very dear people who have given so many, many years to the Palo Alto community and our children. Can any of us say the same? Can any of us come close to doing what they have done? My children grew up going to the Children's Theatre almost every day - they are wonderful people today, and they are who they are because of Pat and Michael. Please stop this nonsense.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2008 at 9:24 pm

I agree with Marilyn that this discussion has derailed. Although my child has been in several PACT productions and is in the current play, I believe we should let the investigation move forward and reserve judgement until we hear the facts. Whether or not this was the correct approach should be discussed with the City administration who should be held accountable. This is not the venue to take cheap shots at people who have dedicated more time and energy to our children than most of us will ever know.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:14 pm

I got no dog in this fight. But it's interesting to see people complain about "cheap shots." Seems like the many posters above, saying that these people were saints and how dare they be accused, etc., -- they introduced the question of character. They opened the door for others who clearly have some simmering resentment of these community icons. And now people want to put the lid back on. Quite the drama we have playing out; maybe this is just the opening act.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Marilyn,
I believe they are refer to as "Wolves At The Door"

They are probably also the types known as "Valtures Waiting Carrion..."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm

refer to - referred to
Valtures -- Vultures

sorry for the bad grammer and spelling.... heat of the moment, don't ya know....


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Posted by renee deutsch
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 1:22 am

Hello everyone,

This feels like a remarkably unpleasant dream. My sons grew up in the Children's Theatre and I served on the Board for fifteen years. The whole idea that anyone on the staff would be involved is so ludicrous that I suggest we shall just forget it was ever mentioned. It sounds as if the Friends will have to go into action again. From the Hague, the Netherlands, I am sending love and support to Pat,Michael and the Friends' board. Renee Deutsch.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2008 at 6:16 am

We need to put a stop to this investigation immediately. I like Pat and Michael, and I know neither they or anyone associated with them would never do anything wrong. Let's close our eyes to this whole mess and move forward as if nothing had ever happened.

Frank Benest should be let go before his resignation becomes effective in June for allowing this farce to sully people we all know are completely above reproach, and the police should be informed in no uncertain terms that the Children's Theater and everyone associated with it are completely off limits in the future.


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Posted by puzzled
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2008 at 6:37 am

I'm not clear on the last two posts. The city has closed the theatre to investigate a crime. Children are reading these posts very closely, and we adults are responsible for teaching them, at the very least, to be law-abiding citizens. Let's not give them the wrong idea that it's OK to break the law, interfere with a criminal investigation, or enter a site that's been closed by law enforcement officials. If the grown ups in Palo Alto (and those outside who are vitally interested in it) would behave like grown ups, our kids would have good role models and learn to deal with difficult situations. Stomping our feet and having tantrums doesn't do anyone any good, and neither does denial, rushing to judgment with no evidence, or just general impatience and intolerance of good legal procedure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2008 at 6:57 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by puzzled
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:41 am

Wow. I guess Judy thinks some people are above the law. How do you intend to shut the investigation down?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by puzzled
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:46 am

I just reread Judy's posting and it's mind-boggling. Beyond the unethical reasoning is the idea that you've decided certain people have committed crimes in the first place. I would take exception to that if I were the individuals you're naming. I'm surprised PA Weekly would let what is amounting to slander and libel appear on their site.


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Posted by Spencer
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:25 am

I am shocked. As a regular actor at the Children's Theater, it's hard for me to believe that any of the staff would ever do such a thing. They are all wonderful people who have worked very hard and will be able to continue to, I hope. There is an urgent need to reopen the theater as soon as possible because there is a show opening on Friday and many kids, including me, tried out for another show last week. Unfortunately, the only way it would be at all possible for the show to go on, would be to have our dedicated staff back. My best wishes go out to Pat, Emika, Allison, Rich, Mike, and especially Michael.


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Posted by renee deutsch
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:26 am



May I suggest that one of the most important lessons life has taught us, which we have to teach to our children, is that the wisest way to react to authority of any kind is to question it. Renee.


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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:42 am

I hope and expect that Judy's tongue is firmly planted in cheek ;-)

I hope and expect Renee's point is that both the authority of the City Manager and that of the Theater's managers should be considered skeptically, since things aren't always as they appear. But both, being legitimate, should be given the benefit of the doubt till time passes and facts come to light.


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Posted by laurel watson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:53 am

I hope everyone who supports the theater will come out Monday night to the PA city council meeting at 250 Hamilton. Perhaps the Council is unaware how much concern there is over this issue.

If Beenest had line authority over the Theater he could have done an audit or setup an asset protection system, such as labeling the camera or printer months ago. Why come in at night with police in front of the students?

Also, some of the personal comments appear quite rude and defamatory. Since the kids are reading this forum can you stop?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 9:04 am

Laurel makes a good point. Perhaps she can lead by example and refer to the PA City Manager by his proper name and show him appropriate consideration as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by renee deutsch
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 9:26 am



All right, Sparky, I can live with that. Sorry I cannot attend the council meeting on Monday, but I trust the Friends will make themselves heard. Renee.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:53 am

Does anyone know how is Michael Litfin's health?

I read on the paper that he is very ill. Does anyone know anything about this? I hope he has a good group of friends to be with him in this difficult time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 11:46 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I just want to say that Michael has very good friends outside the staff and he's not alone. I really don't think spreading rumors is helping anyone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 12:10 pm

You may call him what you like JBG, of course. I am not a fan of the CM, nor his defender. I merely point out that those who want to keep this forum as an example "for the kids" would do well to lead by example.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2008 at 12:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Wow... I am so sorry to hear about Michaels' health problems! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] A man who dedicates so many years of his life to our community and our children. This is sad! :(


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2008 at 12:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2008 at 1:13 pm


> [Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
> Posted by Appalled, a resident of Another
> Palo Alto neighborhood, 25 minutes ago

The censorship on the web site is appalling. There was nothing in this post that called for its being deleted.

Shame on you--Mr. Censor!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 1:42 pm


Where is Gary Baum... The legal voice of the City


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 1:47 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The rest of the Theater Staff is under orders not to speak with each other.... [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by just one voice
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Pat and Mike and the rest of the theatre staff work incredibly hard. Their efforts provide benefits to the children of palo alto who have the opportunity to participate in productions, both at the theater and at their own schools through the outreach program. Pat and Mike have their weaknesses but no one has ever questioned their dedication to continuing the traditions of the childrens theater. It is very sad that Mike is ill and the timing of this could not be worse.

Pat and Mike and the theatre staff are city employees and I believe the city has full financial responsibility for the actions of its employees. To call in the police and shut down the theater seems to be an extreme action. I think city owes us, the taxpayers and supporters of the theatre, an explanation.

It does seem that the theatre is in need of professional arts management and community supervision. Perhaps a good outcome of this would be the establishment of a managing board of directors of the childrens theatre who could provide a level of supervision and leadership to help this valuable community asset grow through the next 75 years


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ?
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

JBG, I think that it is kind of you to want to share what you know with others, but seeing as you are being edited out it seems that the city does not want you saying this. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2008 at 2:58 pm

I just re-read the article and it does say that Michael is battling cancer and recently underwent chemotherapy. I hope this whole ordeal will he will find extra-strength to continue fighting.

And I agree with Just One Voice, the shut down of the theater seems to be an extreme action. And I also agree that the city owes us, parents, children, taxpayers and supporters of the theatre, an explanation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Does the city own and maintain this site?
It is very strange how certain posts are edited and some deleted.
Between this forum and the shutdown of the theater, evidently there is little respect for the First Amendment locally.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 3:44 pm

>"JBG, I think that it is kind of you to want to share what you know with others, but seeing as you are being edited out it seems that the city does not want you saying this."

I am not sure why it was edited -- the city does NOT own the Weekly.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I feel that there is no more important time than now to do so. Since the City Manager and/or Police Chief has ordered that the Theater Staff not speak to each other.
-- This is the most upsetting and troubling factor to all of this, and the most disgusting as well --

Therefore, if as many others as can be made aware of the issue know then at least they might take it upon themselves to do what the City Manager has made impossible for those that (perhaps) care the most about Michael (and the theater).....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek Wood
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 3:50 pm

JBG - From this forum's terms of use:
-------------
* You agree to be respectful of others

* You agree not to disclose personal information about another person

* You acknowledge that although we do not have any obligation to review, monitor or screen the content that is posted on PaloAltoOnline.com... we are the sole judge of whether the content you post meets these Terms of Use, and that we may edit, remove or lock content you post on PaloAltoOnline.com at our sole discretion for any reason.
---------------

Furthermore, have you no sense of decency? Michael Litfin's personal health details are none of anyone's business, including yours. They are in no way relevant to the public interest in the investigation at the Children's Theatre. People should NOT know.

Furthermore, would you want personal details of a medical situation you had to be trumpeted aloud for public consumption? Although I don't know you, I'd hope for your sake that no one would do that to you. Conversely, I *do* know Michael Litfin very well, and the same goes - actually, no - the same goes double. So as a friend of his for over 20 years, I ask that you knock it off. Now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Richard James
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Dear Residents and Participants of the Children's Theatre, for those of you who don't know me I am the director of the City's Community Services Department where the Children's Theatre program resides. I know there has been great consternation as to when the theatre will reopen and thanks to some incredible support from Palo Alto Police, the City Manager's Office and my own staff we are going to reopen the theatre tomorrow, Monday, January 28.

There will be a rehearsal of "The Giver" at 3 p.m. Because we've missed a few rehearsals this past weekend it will call for some hard work and dedication on the part of our actors and stagehands to pull this off for a Friday opening, but we have the appropriate supervision and talent in place to make a good go of it.

I would greatly appreciate it, if you are reading this entry, to contact the families you know who are part of the production. We will be calling actors, stagehands and parents tomorrow morning, but your help in contacting participating families could be just the thing we need to make this a reality.

Additionally, the Briones Elementary School production currently in rehearsal will continue as scheduled. We will provide information on all other productions and classes later this week.

Thank you for your patience. With great appreciation. . . . Richard James


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Appreciative
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Nice going Richard. Thank you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Thank you Richard for the posting! I can contact all the parents in the play via e-mail, but I need to know if the rehearsal will be at 3:00 pm or at the regular rehearsal time at 3:45 pm, and if in fact there will be a rehearsal tomorrow (since there is no rehearsals scheduled on Mondays). I also want to know is if Mike or anyone else from the theater staff will be there tomorrow. Thanks. I will check back in about an hour.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent of a Giver actor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Thank you, Richard. Given that this is dress tech week, there is dress rehearsal scheduled for tomorrow from 3:45-7:00pm.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Richard James
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Figure on the regular rehearsal time of 3:45 p.m. but that will be confirmed by Michael Miranda tomorrow morning. . . . Thank you!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Richard, I sent an email to all the parents. Thanks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Asher in The Giver
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:25 pm

YES! The Giver is pretty much back on track, given that we have a Dress Rehersal tomorrow. I'm so greatful that all of you have been sympathetic towards us actors and I apreciate your support. The Children's Theater is a huge asset for Palo Alto, and I hope that all of the people who auditioned for Beatrix Potter, as well as the people in the school plays will get back on stage as quickly as we did.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by renee deutsch
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:37 pm



Hello Richard, I am glad to hear that the wheels have been set in motion again, but you can not blame me for doubting that the incredible support came from the police or the city manager's office.It seems far more likely that pressure from the Palo Alto community and the truly incredible courage of the Theatre staff have, as usual, done the job. Renee.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BeHappyWithWhatYouHave
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Dear Paly 77,
Quoted above... "I thought Palo Alto was the city for the wealthy? There should be no need for this kind of human actions, or is this how some of the residents obtained their wealth!"

So, Paly 77... you think just because you live in Palo Alto, you are beyond this type of criminal activity??? You have no idea how good you have it, with all the City serivces that few other cities have as a "essential service". Move to your bordering cities and see how good you have it. Grow up.

P.S. Most people in the state of California have more to worry about that a production at a children's theatre. Like basic education. Get real.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2008 at 8:16 am

I'm not always crazy about our city government, but all in all, I think they're doing a decent job, particularly the police, who are great. These men and women are dedicated people and the fact is, we're as safe as anyone can be in their town and homes.

The fact is, to get this investigation done to the point the theatre can reopen, the police and city probably had to work around the clock all weekend, while we were sitting around complaining. They were effective and they still get blame from some of us. That theatre is so disorganized and chaotic, it's a firetrap and a danger just to try to walk down the halls or into the offices, but they still finished the preliminary searching and organization. I wouldn't blame the officials who have to deal with crimes for dealing appropriately with the crimes, Renee.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shelly
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2008 at 10:28 am

All this hammering back and forth is a waste of time. Until it is revealed what and who is actually being investigated, everything else is conjecture. Chill out and be patient.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly77
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2008 at 10:58 am

In response to BeHappy's comments.
First of all I do live in another city, and I have seen corrupted city governments that mirror PA.
Second of all, I did grow up by moving out of PA so I would not be supporting the wealthy land/homeowners by renting their over priced rental properties. I stand by what I said about PA is a place for the wealthy!
Yes your are right. There are other things to worry about. However, PA has a chance to make things right by making the nations only city funded childrens theater a model institution.
Our country has lost a lot of its culture to cyber space, and the insurance companies.
Maybe it is time to change things up a little, and bring in some new faces to the theater, and use the existing senior staff as limtited access consultants to ease the transition.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Children's Theatre Lover
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:05 am

Paly 77: "Maybe it is time to change things up a little, and bring in some new faces to the theater"

What an ignorant bunch of remarks - first, that people who have dedicated their lives to the Children's Theatre (they're there far more than 40 hours hours per week, often every day of the week; and, second, the lie that Palo Alto is a corrupt place).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tyler Hanley
online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:54 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Here is an updated story: Web Link

Rehearsals for "The Giver" are scheduled to resume today and the play will open Friday as planned.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Abby
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Please remember - just because the City has proceeded with the Giver, the Theatre is running on skeleton staff. All senior staff continue to be on mandatory leave.

The City is hoping by proceeding with The Giver, we will ignore the real crime - tarnishing the reputations of staff who have devoted their lives to running this institution.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by C.Ritter
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Some people don't understand the basic use for something like a children's theatre.

Fair enough.

Many wonder why such a thing would need to be financed by taxpayers.

That's even fairer.

Well, I've lived in many places and have contributed to more than a couple theatres, some public and some privately financed and I have come to a number of conclusions.

First of all, private children's theatres often become pay-to-play scenarios and they rely incredibly on the parents of those participants to make it work. If a child doesn't have money for entry or for costumes, they don't make it onto the stage.

The directors can often end up becoming paid well beyond what a city employee makes
but in essence, there is a temptation for corruption as the interest of this director is to often max profits since they are living and dying on revenues and expenses.

Often, I have seen that it is either the richest kids or the ones with the parents
most willing to donate technical time end up with the leads more than not and although there will be internal disputes just as to who should have been given a lead as long as there are actors, within this scenario it often gets even stickier when parents with the same mentality as little-league parents get involved.

In a public theatre, when it is run correctly and with proper oversight, there are tremendous advantages.

Casting tends to run on a more level playing field and the people who run these theatres are generally far more likely to choose productions and material that they actually care about. This is a higher priority making money either for themselves or for their city. Sure, there is a high motivation to keep in a budget to retain the position, but that isn't so much a factor in keeping the kids and the art as the top two priorities.

So, let's say you see no reason why you should be taxed for a children's theatre since you may have no children nor any interest in seeing any shows there.

That's fine.

Of course, the idea that your taxes go toward something that don't end up benefitting you is distasteful.

But, what you may not know is that within a certain number of scenarious, the money that is taxed from you can actually benefit you financially in other ways if it improves the community enough with ancillary benefit.

Firstly, the presence of an excellent theatre program enhances the real estate values of a community in much the same way that having a great school district will.

I personally doubt that there Is there a single real-estate agent who covers Palo Alto
that doesn't mention the Palo Alto Children's Theatre as a specific selling point. Why do they do that...because it makes the entire community a better model for quality of life.

What other ancillary benefits can a theatre program provide?

Personally, I have seen numerous examples where juvenile delinquency shoots way down when the city is able to offer numerous activity and sports programs and this cause-and-effect scenario can be attributed to something as intensive as a theatre conservatory.

It's common sense really. If you build recreational facilties, children will bring their minds and hearts to it instead of bringing those same qualities to the streets.

In addition, a children's theatre can help take the load off of certain elementary schools in the general area which in essence, helps each and every school focus more on their basic agendas. We all know that theatre isn't as important as math and english and science, but few know that programs such as theatre actually help people develop intellectually and socially in critical ways and that dramatics and music often play a part in keeping some students from dropping out before graduation.

Another side benefit to the basic publicly financed children's theatre model is that is will often work on a small but important level as a trade school of sorts. Craftsmen, Technicians, Educators, Managers and Artists all are often produced from such enlightened programs.

Well, here's to hoping that the people of Palo Alto continue to seek the benefits that their Children's Theatre is capable of benefitting them in the future once a better system of oversight is in place.

After all, closing it would be silencing a part of what once helped make Palo Alto a special and quality place to live.

But if the City does shut the theatre down for good, there will be some added benefits.
First of all, it might amount to something like a $13 dollar tax saving for every
Palo Altan and from an economic standpoint, maybe that is enough to help stimulate the local economy in ways that would make up for the various social and artistic declines that the loss of the theatre would instigate.

To my way of thinking, the question isn't as to whether the city should have a Children's Theatre, but rather....Why is it that so few cities across America have one?












 +   Like this comment
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Does anyone have any idea when we will find out what is really happening?

Also, to the few online wags who keep supporting the CM, keep in mind that an investigation and court case costs thousands and thousands of dollars for the city. If a few pieces of equipment are lost at the theater, is it really cost effective for this inquisition to go on and on?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by RitterReader
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 28, 2008 at 10:07 pm

C. Ritter - you are a wonderful writer....
Ever thought about working on a book? Say, with a magician or something?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2008 at 10:44 pm

I like Children's Theater, but sorry, Ritter, not buying it. Most of what you say is as true of private programs as a city funded one (and there are tons of private ones - just google up Childrens Theater). And I'm not sure how many people pay up for Palo Alto based on our public theater program ;-) When the real estate agents pitch it, I doubt the buyers request a breakdown of the theater's revenue sources.

Maybe the "rich" kids get the juicy roles in private programs, I don't know. And maybe the directors are "commercial." Oh well. But I am sure tons of kids get plenty of great experience in the theater, despite their less than ideal situation. And in a wealthy town like PA, I bet a group like that might even raise an endowment of sorts, that would buy it an unusual level of independence.

You mention "little league mentality" - the sports analogy works for me, too - let the city provide the venue, just like they provide playing fields - and let a private organization run the Theater as they see fit, based on appropriate fees and donations, with a budget for scholarships as they see fit. Works for other activities, works for other towns. The idea that "Palo Alto is different" usually just seems to mean that we are out of step with the more or less obvious solutions most others have arrived at.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm

The Palo Alto daily news says this is all about city overtime, please read the breaking news section.


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Posted by just an observer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 28, 2008 at 11:53 pm

concerned parent, they menton the overtime pay in the Daily News article, but it doesn't seem like that is the focus of the investigation, just a breakdown of their salaries... time will tell.


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Posted by Homer Winslow
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2008 at 1:55 am

The City shows again, like when they shot the undernourished mountain lion, that they don't have a clue about how to handle things.

Everything becomes a police matter, and the results are disastrous, tragic, and pathetic, with the current police management and city management. This was NEVER a police matter.

I suggest that the Chief, having survived the idiotic cat shoot, should stake her professional survival on this event. She should be gone soon, obviously, but let's have her put her wretched record on the line, personally, so that the citizens of Palo Alto can see what kind of responsibility is engaged here.

She must go, and the city manager soon behind.


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Posted by a PACT Alum
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2008 at 4:48 am

I'm a PACT alum and it was my second home for a good portion of my childhood (ages 8-24). I was very involved in shows year-round as well as involved in their Summer Conservatory and Wingspread programs. I learned so much from being involved in the productions and have translated that into a career where I use many of the skills learned there everyday.

I did notice when reading the most recent article where they mentioned their salaries and overtime pay. If that is what is being scrutinized, I believe that their overtime is completely legit. Throughout the year, they are there for 40+ hours a week. Then during the summer, they are there from 9am-midnight Tuesday-Saturday to maintain Conservatory classes and rehearsals, performances and Wingspread rehearsals. There are also hours put in on Sunday for performances and Wingspread rehearsals as well as additional Wingspread rehearsals on Monday nights.

I can't speak for anything else (burglary or embezzlement) but I hope that this is resolved quickly.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2008 at 9:25 am

CRitter:

I think it is $21 per resident that goes to the Community Services Department which funds Childrens' Theatre among other things. I think that real estate agents talk about low crime rates and the educational system more than the Theatre.

Anyway, I don't think abolishing the Theatre is the answer-- I am in favor of an outside auditor coming in and studying where the $1.2 million is going yearly. The City ownes the Theatre and doesn't pay rent so where is all of the cash going? The licensing fees are low and many productions are written by Michael and Pat. If you look at the Theatre,you will realize that there are financial irregularities that are not accpetable in public funding.


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Posted by justdevastated
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm

This is a nightmare, somebody wake me up...

The Children's Theatre is one the most positive, if not the most positive venue for Children I have ever known. As for the Staff, they are all incredibly dedicated, hard working long hours, 7 days a week.

The only crime here is Frank has it in for them for some reason. When Frank tried to cut Wingspread a few years ago, droves came to defend. Was this his way of getting back?

What exactly was the crime? I don't understand


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Posted by CR
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Yes, you are right. $13 per resident wasn't an accurate figure.

But $21 is even more misleading since it doesn't take into account the money that the program generates back.

The operating loss appears to be $937,000 annually and when that is divided by the 61,200 residents, the average subsidy per resident is $15.31

The low crime rate is definitely a bigger selling point to Palo Alto homes but there's plenty of neighboring communities that can boast that as well. Few, however, can boast of having such an array of after-school activities for children that are so rich in culture and heritage.

On a side issue, anyone want to know how to best increase juvenile delinquency?
Cut back on recreational, sports. library and performing art spending for children.
It's surefire.

The children's theatre is a special selling point. real estate transactions are made on such small details. Even parents who don't fully appreciate theatre see it as a way to keep their kids busy and to lower the amount of hours their offsrping must spend as a latchkey kid.

Should you start to dismantle the program and reduce the city budget accordingly,
the median income per resident will climb from $56,257 up to $56,272.31.
So, there's always that benefit.

But what else will you have gained from that other than the knowledge that you just got a little bit more indistinguishable from Mountain View and Menlo Park, that the elementary school systems must now either do away with theatre altogether or find teachers within their current systems who can put in additional hours--which would actually work to increase the amount of taxes the city would need to collect to balance their budget.



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Posted by OliviaK
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Dear all - but specifically Alum, PACT Alum, CRitter and Renee):

This is such a great response - I'm so pleased to know that there are so many alums and PACT fans out there. I've always been a little shocked that it always seemed to take tragedies for us alums to re-connect (i.e. deaths, threatened closures, ACTUAL closures, etc.). I wasn't really sure if it was necessary or possible, but I'd been thinking about starting a PACT Alums website for some time. I recently created a Facebook group for recent alums, and the membership, already at 50 before the recent events, skyrocketed to nearly 100 after all this crazy news.

So, I decided to take the plunge: I give you www.pactalums.org. It's not much, but hopefully if enough folks join, it can be a place for recent (and not so recent) PACT alums to re-connect, network, and share news and thoughts... Please check it out, join up, and send me your feedback.

Thanks,

Olivia


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Posted by Sad Friend
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Well, for Michael this sad episode is over. He passed away tonight. As troubled as things are at the theatre, I have to take a moment to remember the man and what he brought to this community. I hope this issue is resolved quickly and Michael's name is cleared. Rest in peace, old friend.


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Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 1, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I must have missed something. The theater is run on a NOT FOR PROFIT basis. In other words, its purpose, and the purpose of All the moneys given, earned, or donated to the theater is to enrich the lives of the children of this city. If it cost ANOTHER million a year, it would be worth it. As a parent, volunteer, past employee and former participant, I must insist that we are certainly getting our moneysworth! I payed something like three hundred dollars for six weeks of camp for my thirteen year old last summer! Believe me, that is a steal! And during the year, I pay more for tickets at eight and four dollars a pop (!) than each citizen does to support the theater through taxes, at least as I understand it. And for these paltry sums, we get an amazing experience for our children and our community. I think people are forgetting that hot-dog shows are perfect for babies and toddlers, my two year old has seen five plays already, three with her sister in them. Also, the 'children' at the theater can be as old as twenty-four in the Wingspread program, and younger than eight for the mini-camps. I have performed on the stage with my grandmother in the audience, who performed in the very first plays in the early thirties, right there on the same stage. I learned to paint sets and even make money at it, and to sew costumes for my kids, and to run lights and sound and don't get me started.
My point is, 'now how much would you pay?'.

The staff of the children's theater, however imperfect, disorganized, or sloppy with their door lock or their paperwork, were never given enough money to have extra for embezzling. They have spent MORE than any finite amount of overtime, more than anyone would ever believe, and mor than that, they have kept the theater and the programs going through dreadful threats to its survival, and they will continue doing so, make no mistake. I consider the theater to be like George Bailey in 'It's a Wonderful Life', and what Ms. Johnson has overlooked is no matter how 'fishy' things look, this community is well aware that our debt to the theater far outweighs any they might 'owe', and that whatever is needed, we will be there giving it all we've got, however many millions are needed, down to our last tattered copy of Tom Sawyer.

This message is heartfelt and written in a deep sorrow and furious rage, I'm pretty rattled right now, so excuse any lack of grace.

Sincerely,
Katie


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Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2008 at 1:32 am

Michael, I have a positive review of you in my mind...
I can remember when my youngest son was only 7 years old at the time. He came to try out for a play at the CT at the same time with his 8 year old brother. It was exciting! All the children (about 20 of them) were there, lined up across the stage. Each was given a sheet of paper with lines that were to be read aloud, one after the other.
My 7 year old son was positioned about in the 15th in long row of sucession to be called on to read. When you came to finish with number 14, you took one look at my son (SMALLEST and quietest!) and asked him his name, to which he then answered. You asked him "how old are you, Charles?" When he answered honestly that he was only 7, you then politely excused him from the line up. I was witnessing this at the back of the theatre rows of seating, quietly watching the interviewing. I saw the saddest face on #15.
WHAT A BLOW to him, but he knew the age limit was 8. He wanted SO badly to be in the mix with his older brother, who was well received by you and went on to play the part in the Dicken's Christmas Carrol.

Months later, when he turned 8, he was back. He tried out again on stage and was accepted. But then, he was caught running (by you)in the isle of the theatre after another youngster and both were told they were "86ed" out until they could behave. So he sat out another production.
He returned again, this time READY for serious theatre! He went on to play in more productions, very attentive to your suggestions on acting skills (and behavior!)
Years past. He so much enjoyed the stage, getting very comfortable in front of crowds. He and his brother went on to dance competetions together, did a lot of talent show competetions at numerous Jr. and High Schools, then onto Foothill stage productions under Bubba Gong.
My oldest son is working for Nickelodeon in post productions and my youngest son is working this month on the "Harvey Milk Story" in San Francisco with Scean Penn....following his dreams.
Thank you, their starting talents became their life's long ambition. I credit you for being their mentor from the start, for planting the seed from which they grew.
RIP.


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Posted by Old Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2008 at 6:42 pm

You just have to wonder why the heavy handedness with the children's theatre. How do you explain it to the little kids? It is especially sad how this turned out to be the end of Michael's life. He had to leave this world worried and harassed; didn't leave much energy for dealing with his cancer.

Joe Simitian is there anything you can do to see that any future investigating is handled in a less heavy handed way and that houses that are searched are left as they were found. I was always taught to leave my campsite cleaner than I found it. Trust in the authorities is built by kinder more sensitive ways.


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Posted by James Geffen
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2008 at 11:09 am

The children's theatre gets 1.2 million.
The storm drain committee gets 1.1 million to monitor the storm drains.