Matthew Cameron Clark Ousted as Art Director at Boise Contemporary Theater 

The former artistic director and founder sent out a letter amid a growing controversy over his departure

click to enlarge matthew_cameron_clark.jpg

Lila Streicher

Matthew Cameron Clark has been with the Boise Contemporary Theater for 23 years. He is the theater's founder and artistic director, and has been a key part of the theater's success, but in June, the BCT Board of Directors dismissed him from his post. He isn't sure why, and leadership has not yet disclosed its reasons.

Clark recently sent out an open letter that he said sets the record straight. While he was let go in late June, he said he tried to reach a severance agreement with the board, which did not occur. In response, he penned the letter.

“It’s hard to know fully because there was so much secrecy around these decisions,” said Clark. “The idea that my refusal to fire Dwayne [Blackaller] and that I came back to them with funding to cover his job for three months—it seems absurd.”

The board asked Clark to fire Blackaller, the associate artistic director, in mid-June as part of a restructuring effort to hire a development director. Clark raised funds to keep Blackaller on board, but he said that when he approached the board with his plan and money, the board removed him for "insubordination."

Clark said he had disagreements with the Board of Trustees in the past about transparency and the overall direction of the theater. Clark said he likes to put on lesser-known plays, while the board often aimed to be more like the Shakespeare Festival. While he has tremendous respect for the Shakespeare Festival, Clark said the two organizations have different goals.

“I founded the company so there would be a place for newer work,” he said. “We’ve grown remarkably over the years.”

Additionally, Clark said he took issue with the way board meetings involving decisions that would affect the staff were held privately.

“It’s easier to control the direction of something if you keep other informed opinions out of the room,” Clark said. “I was always respectful in the end because it is the board’s right and responsibility to oversee the company.”

While Clark’s perspective is that the board is operating secretly, Board of Trustees President Will Fowler said that’s how most boards operate and there was never any ill will toward Clark.

“We have a ton of respect for Matthew, and he has built a legacy,” Fowler said. “We honor and respect the work he’s done.”

Fowler said he and the board are, however, disappointed in his choice to publicly air his grievances. He added that founders splitting from their organizations is a common occurrence, though that doesn’t make it any easier.

“We want to find a way in which we can continue to honor and respect Matthew,” he said.

Fowler added he hopes Clark will be able to work collaboratively with BCT in years to come.

He did contend with one of Clark’s points that he had artistic disagreements about the direction of the theater. Fowler said the board has no say in artistic decisions.

On transparency, he said that sensitive discussions such as personnel or salary often take place in executive session, a closed meeting of members. However, Fowler said that staff is always made aware of decisions that potentially affect them.

“We were as collaborative as possible,” Fowler said. “I believe, as does the rest of the board, the organization will be stronger in the long run.”


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