This story has been updated.
After being roiled first by a pandemic-related disagreement with a labor union, followed by multiple allegations of a toxic work environment, The Public Theater of San Antonio has parted ways with CEO and Artistic Director George Green.
Board executive committee member and treasurer Norbert Gonzalez was announced as interim executive director until a national search for a new artistic director is completed.
An earlier post by the company on Oct. 10 solicited feedback “concerning the organization, its staff, and leadership.” The post announcing Green’s departure mentions the board’s solicitation of feedback from “employees past and present, artists and patrons,” and its decision not to renew Green’s employment agreement.
The post praised Green’s leadership: “During his tenure, Green has taken what was once a community theater and transitioned the organization to San Antonio’s largest, most productive professional live theater organization. Patrons have been vocal in their praise for the quality productions that TPTSA has become known for,” while promising “greater input from community voices” regarding leadership of the company.
Green characterized the agreement to leave his position as “an amicable separation.” He had been on a leave of absence from his job while the board reviewed allegations critical of Green’s leadership style and practices.
“I am disappointed that I was not granted the opportunity to review the official grievances made against me nor given a chance to address/defend them with the board,” Green told the San Antonio Report.
Board Chair Vernon Haney did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
“I recognized this must have been a tough decision for them to make. I am grateful for their four years of trust,” Green said of the board, who hired him in 2016 after a national search, with the promise of evolving from The Playhouse community theater to a professional “Equity house” company, as union-affiliated theaters are known.
A Change.org petition asking for Green’s removal was posted anonymously in early October and drew 790 signatures as of Nov. 2. Many signees voiced support for the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the union representing actors and stage managers, and respect for actors and staff in general, though their individual relationships to the Public Theater were unclear.
The AEA in September placed The Public on its “do not work” list, but did not specify why and removed it from the list last month. After the union controversy arose, some actors and staff who worked with Green locally and at prior theaters complained about him, saying he was controlling and divisive.
Several comments on the Change.org petition voiced support for The Playhouse, the name of the community theater prior to Green’s arrival, and grievances against Green date back to soon after his hiring in July 2016, when many staff were let go and replaced as the theater took its new direction.
Shane Vickers, an Equity actor and liaison, posted on Facebook Sept. 30 a screenshot of a conversation with an unnamed source who mentions that Green commented that Vickers was “on the spectrum.” The post elicited a string of comments expressing disgust at Green and support for Vickers, including a link to the removal petition.
Vickers called Green’s departure “necessary,” and said, “I am happy that the Board took the time to investigate and speak with so many people who have been affected by Mr. Green’s behavior and that they took the appropriate and decisive action for the best interest of The Public and those who create there.”
Other former affiliates of the Public Theater who requested anonymity made claims through Vickers of mistreatment and “manipulative and demeaning” behavior by Green, and urged the board to listen to the stories of people who have worked under Green at the Public Theater and at theaters in Spokane, Washington, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where Green previously worked.
“I was hired to create change and improve the quality of the theater. I feel that we accomplished that effort,” Green said, noting that under his leadership, the theater had closed its most recent fiscal year with a $100,000 profit, and that he signed a new agreement with the AEA on Oct. 9 to continue the “202ONE” season of one-person plays as Equity-approved productions.
Green said projects completed during his tenure include new a HVAC system, sewage and flooding abatement, and improvements to the foundation of the Public Theater’s historic 1929 building located in San Pedro Springs Park.
“I firmly believe every decision I made was in the best interest, as well as my fiduciary duty” to the theater, Green said. “I could go on and on about our progress and improvements but some will feel they do not outweigh the recent complaints – that I find unsubstantiated.”
Former costume designer and actor Sara Brookes said she was the recipient of an offensive sexist remark by Green at a Public Theater gala benefit held Aug. 31, 2019. Brookes detailed the event in her reply to the board’s solicitation for feedback on Greens’ leadership.
In her statement, Brookes also said that in 2018 Green had promised she’d soon receive Equity member status, but had not granted it as yet.
“He used the fact that I was working towards getting my card to obtain cheap labor with his infamous tag line ‘we get to do this,’” she said in her statement, referring to what Green called his “mantra” of appreciation for working in the theater industry.
In his official statement to the San Antonio Report, Green closed by saying, “I wish nothing but the best to every individual that has supported both myself and the company. To the staff, I leave you with love and gratitude. … We got to do this.”