Members of White Rock Players Club have voted to remove Ryan Mooney as the community theatre group’s artistic director.
However, the club’s newly elected board, in its first meeting Aug. 19, decided to keep Mooney on as director of the first production in the upcoming season – Death of a Salesman (Oct. 7-24) and possibly for a subsequent show, Boeing, Boeing.
Mooney said by email Monday that he is “happy to receive the support of the new board, and, at this point, have committed to directing Death of a Salesman.”
The decision to remove Mooney from the volunteer position comes at what president Fred Partridge terms a “critical time” for the club, which faces financial hardships as a result of declining box office.
The ouster was a result of a narrow 13-10 vote among members following a motion from the floor by director-at-large David Carroll at the Aug. 16 annual general meeting.
“I believe that Ryan (has) had a negative impact on our financial health and I didn’t trust his future plans were to the club’s advantage,” Carroll told the Peace Arch News following the meeting.
The motion led to a divisive debate among attending members that some later described, privately, as a “bloodbath.”
Partridge acknowledged Carroll’s motion came as a surprise.
“It’s still not entirely clear what prompted it,” he said. “The long and the short of it is that a number of people present wanted (Mooney) out, and there was a heated discussion and a close vote.”
Mooney had been the subject of public controversy since it came to light last year that he had received a one-year conditional sentence in 2009, after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 2006. Originally charged with five counts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation against two victims under 18, Mooney was arrested in Squamish, where he was working as a choreographer on a high school production.
His name was added to the sex offender registry for 20 years following his sentence.
Players Club executive members have since been at pains to assure the public that Mooney – who did not stand for re-election to the group’s board following revelations about his sentence – has had no contact with minors volunteering for their shows.
Partridge said Mooney’s record was “hinted at, but never explicitly stated” during discussion of the motion.
Mooney declined to comment on whether he believes his record has had any subsequent impact on community support for Players Club productions.
Mooney was reaffirmed as artistic director by a unanimous vote of the past board following the AGM in 2014 – after his criminal record had come to public notice.
“I think Ryan did bring an artistic vision to the club,” Partridge said. “He’d never caused us any trouble… I think if people had issues they should have brought them up in a more open manner. (The motion) did upset quite a few people.”
Partridge said the current impetus to remove Mooney as artistic director was based more on some members’ lack of confidence in Mooney as artistic director for the financially beleaguered club, which, by some estimates, may have finished fiscal 2015 with a deficit of $50,000, including close to $20,000 in unpaid city taxes.
Among issues raised in discussion of the motion were poor box-office performance of shows over the last year and some members concerns over a planned co-production with Mooney’s own Fighting Chance Productions of the musical Cats, which would have given 75 per cent of the take to Mooney’s company.
Mooney said WRPC members had approached Fighting Chance in 2011 in hopes of co-producing shows that “would mutually benefit both companies.”
Former director-at-large Rebekah McEwan, who declined to run again, said she had been disappointed with the outcome of the vote to remove Mooney.
“From my perspective, as an adult theatre club, we benefit from having Ryan’s contributions in many ways,” she said.
Treasurer Karen Doolan resigned her position following the AGM, and appointment of a new treasurer is to be voted on.
Partridge said members at the AGM had received an informal review and report on club finances by an accountant.
“We’re still digesting that,” he said, acknowledging it had been difficult to replace the value of work done by treasurer Gwenne Farrell – who quit following revelations of Mooney’s record.
“This kind of drama is distracting… The real issue is that we need more people to come out and see theatre. At the end of the day, that’s all we want to do.”