Shakeup at the Criterion

BAR HARBOR — The Criterion Theatre is going through yet another changing of the guard. The theater’s Executive Director Amy Roeder, Development Director Mark Tipton and three board members all resigned in the past month.

Roeder and Tipton both joined the theater in May of last year; Roeder had been the fourth executive director of the nonprofit in the five years since the building reopened in 2015 following extensive renovation.

While no one involved is being completely candid about why the staff members and the board members resigned in such a short time frame, all seem to agree it was not because the Criterion is foundering.

“Absolutely not,” Roeder said in a telephone interview Tuesday. She said that Tipton, who could not be reached for comment, had raised more than $140,000 in outright grant money and matching grants during his tenure.

Michael Boland, a board member and former owner, said the theater is in fact a good financial and functional state.

“One has to keep in mind that while the theater may be 88 years old, this 501(c)3 non-profit we formed five years ago is still young,” Boland said, “we are still on the learning curve.”

The nonprofit owns the building outright, he said, and has “a smallish outstanding note with a local bank, that is almost entirely secured.” The theater also has a small endowment fund.

On average nationwide at such performance venues, Boland said, ticket sales from events make up just 50 percent of the annual operating budget.

“We have run a deficit every year” he said, “and the current business model, without dramatically increased donations, memberships and grants, is not sustainable in the long term. The bottom line is, no performing arts center can make it based on ticket sales alone.”

With sold-out shows from big-name performers, he said, the public can “get the perception that the place is doing super and doesn’t need financial help. We have to figure out a way to change that notion if we are going to survive another eight decades and beyond. That means volunteering, becoming a member, donating, attending and so forth.”

When they first formed the non-profit, Boland said, they were committed to making the Criterion a year-round cultural venue. He and the current board members, President Richard Cleary, Vice President Stephen Leiser, Treasurer Steve Parady, Nicholas Schoeder, Susan Raab and Justin Snyder are still committed to that principle.

Roeder said she plans to begin studying for an MBA at the University of Maine this winter. She has also gone back to work she’s done before, teaching management skills to corporations using improvisational theater. She said she has nothing but good wishes for the theater.

The new Star Wars movie is set to open at the Criterion in a few weeks; the theater also plans to bring back the Robinson Ballet’s “Nutcracker.”

“The Criterion Theatre has never been stronger, nor has it ever been as active, as it has these last five years,” Boland said. “We’re optimistic, for sure, but aware that we have a lot of work to do.”

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.
Nan Lincoln

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