Who’s minding the store?

Dibden Center for the Arts has been improvising as it struggles with  the absence of a full-time technical director.  

“I work in experimental theater and improvisation and I love being able to be creative with our resources. Some of the best work is done with not all the resources available,” says Isaac Eddy, assistant professor of performing arts at NVU-Johnson. 

Despite his love for improv, Eddy points out that the current situation in Dibden is from optimal.  “I think it would be a lie to say we’re fine as is,” says Eddy, “It’s such a difficult position in that they have their fingers in everything that contributes to how this huge thing (Dibden) operates. I think of them as the heart of this very complicated ecosystem. We all look to the TD (technical director.) It’s an immense job. I’ve noticed for sure the second we came back that this was going to be tough without that person. Thank goodness Joe and Mckenna were able to step up. It was Jason Eckenroth (previous technical director) who suggested this idea of hiring them both to take on the job.”

Dibden has faced hard times without a technical director over past summers. However, this is the first time Dibden will face the challenge of not having the key role filled during the academic year.

Joseph Sanguinetti and McKenna Bovey have taken over Eckenroth’s job and divided the responsibilities.

“We have two recent graduates of the program who are sharing in some of the duties,” says Bethany Plissey, chair of the performing arts department. They work twenty hours a week each. Our department AA (Loretta Biamonte) is overseeing some of the student work study contracts and just managing the administration aspects of approving their work study and keeping track of purchasing and stuff like he (Jason) would have been doing,” said Plissey. “Joe is working more of like the back, onstage technical hands-on stuff and McKenna’s doing a lot more of the administrative side of things.”

“I feel like Joe and McKenna are doing the best they can in this situation and I’m really proud of them,” says Plissey. “We’re all chipping in together. Essentially Isaac, myself and Lori (department administrative assistant) are all helping Joe and McKenna troubleshoot where we can.”

“We’re certainly very thankful for the two who have stepped up to the plate in the part time capacity and are working with the students to make things possible,” says Plissey, attributing all things going right for Dibden to the unity of the Dibden crew.

Bovey shares a similar view.

“When I first came back everything was kind of super disorganized, not well maintained, and I tried to get it all back together, but it was really hard,” says Bovey, “Bethany in particular was the person that was like our touchstone with the rest of the campus. Like getting us our contracts and making sure everything’s going well. Everybody’s been super accommodating and helpful.”

Most of Bovey’s worries are resolved for the time being. Her main concerns were with work study contracts and getting things to settle into place those first few weeks.

“We had to figure out how we were going to deal with work/study contracts,” said Bovey, “Neither Joe or I can approve hours, so we have to do it through Lori. Lori’s not going to be in the building all the time and she wants to make sure people aren’t claiming hours for time they didn’t work. She approves mine and Joe’s hours as well.”

While basic functions at Dibden are being maintained, the situation is not sustainable. “Things have been challenging since Jason left. He left a week before Brooklyn ballet. He was like okay I’m going to leave and that’s it, you’re in charge,” says Sanguinetti, “During the two maintenance weeks everyone was so cooked because we were so short-staffed over the summer. On my end of it, it’s a little more demanding because I’m working with students and constantly making sure the building doesn’t like burn down and fall apart,” says Sanguinetti, “The biggest thing that we’re having problems with in Dibden are things that haven’t been getting done over the past ten or fifteen years so it’s all kind of pilling up.”

According to Plissey, the problems Dibden faces will continue to pile up until there’s a new full-time tech director.

“There are some things that just aren’t being seen to right now. We just don’t have anybody in the position and that’s typical when you’re in a limbo state, says Plissey. “There are secondary issues things like marketing and a program planning board. Immediate needs and most urgent things are being covered. TDs usually works sixty-five to eighty hours a week and we just don’t have the ability to cover everything with what we have on hand.”

“It’s a big loss to us, not specifically Jason, I thought Jason was great but more for the position itself,” says Eddy. “We’ve had two wonderful TDs, Will Davis and Jason Eckenroth both left for multiple reasons, but I feel like it’s the way the job is structured right now. It’s really tough, it’s basically four jobs folded into one and there only so much time in the day there only so much support that we have the budget for when it comes to student work.”

What is not clear is why Dibden Center for the Arts has such a high turnover rate for its TDs.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how is best to move forward to get someone to want to stay here for a long time,” says Eddy, “We’ve been discussing over the summer and this fall about if it’s possible to change this job’s requirements a little bit so there’s more support. The hope is that we will post the listing at the end of this week or next week.

“Dibden is in trouble, and I don’t mean that we are nose-diving to oblivion, but without a tech director that position being so hard to have someone here for the long haul, that is a definite deficit to our department and school as a whole,” says Eddy.

Plissey mentioned that there are candidates already in mind who will be applying for the position, though doesn’t know exactly when Dibden will have its replacement.

Although for now they’re making it by with Sanguinetti and Bovey in sharing the position with assistance from Eddy, Plissey, and Biamonte, it is not a sustainable solution for Dibden.

“We only have the budget for forty hours a week and it’s just not a forty hour a week job so they’re doing the best they can,” says Eddy. “I hope the needs of our department are heard in these next few years.”