Orcas Center hosts second community conversation event

Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the Orcas Center has been undergoing its own metamorphosis over the last year.

During the center’s second community conversation on July 24, attendees were introduced to the new, interim Executive Director Jim Bredouw and given his reasoning for volunteering for the position.

“I want to thank the board for giving me the opportunity to try to do what I can. It was a leap of faith for the board, I think, to accept my offer and I admire their courage to do so. Hopefully, they’re happy with their decision in a few months’ time,” Bredouw said. “What I want to bring to the Orcas Center, in one way, is no different than what every other ED wants to bring: They want to do good productions and they want the very best to occur on the stage. They also want to keep the doors open and the lights on, and they’re frequently not always the same set of priorities – those two priorities.”

Over the last year and a half, Orcas Center has dealt with a handful of controversies, from the departure of longtime employees to the hiring and ultimate resignation of a new director who didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the creative artists of the community.

Tom Fiscus was named interim director in spring, following the resignation of Brian Kemp, who served in the position for almost a year. Bredouw began his tenure on July 16. The center is still seeking a permanent executive director.

“I first just wanted to give some gratitude. Tom Fiscus stepped into this role – and I can guarantee you it’s a next-to-impossible job,” Bredouw said, adding that it’s his goal to find a successor. “I very much appreciate his work and what he’s done with a very unfortunate circumstance with just being left with no leader. He’s done a great job and we appreciate what he’s done.”

In other center news, the facility’s annual Whale of a Gala was on July 21.

“Some of you were here, many of you weren’t … We only had about two-thirds of the participants we had last year,” Bredouw said. “We were a little freaked out, candidly. But, we ended up raising more than we did last year, so it went very well.”

Bredouw acknowledged employees and volunteers at Orcas Center, including new Marketing Manager Laura Kussman, Executive Director Assistant Margie Doyle and Business Manager Annie Moss Moore. He said the main catalyst for his volunteering to fill the interim director position for six months was performer, sound technician and OC volunteer Jake Perrine.

Bredouw explained: there are people who have ideas and there are people who know how to make it happen, then there’s the 1 percent of people who can put it together.

“Jake is one of those people. He knows how to make things happen from nothing. That, to me, is an extremely valuable asset,” he said, adding that Technical Director Robert Hall is an essential part of the puzzle as well. “I can’t think of two larger theatrical personalities with more levels of knowledge on the island, and I think they need to be rowing in the same direction.”

Over the years, volunteers have been a necessary part of the center’s success. Bredouw said that 30 years ago, when the center began, there were hundreds of volunteers. That number has drastically declined, he explained, primarily because people have felt unappreciated or wronged by center management.

“It doesn’t have that same kind of beginners’ enthusiasm it had for understandable reasons … To be fair, over 30 years, an organization’s going to offend almost everybody at least once. You can’t write-off a building that’s had 15 different administrations and a couple of hundred employees,” he said. “We rely very much on our donors, our volunteers and a lot of our volunteers, of course, are the actors and the set people that work in shows for pennies.”

Doyle agreed, and added, “We really appreciate the way volunteers have stepped forward to keep the Orcas Center running during some pretty tough times.”

Bredouw also noted several projects in production at the center, including the remodel of half of the prop warehouse into a dance rehearsal studio, complete with sprung-floors; fiber internet connection at a discounted price, thanks to Rock Island and donors; and other technological upgrades.

Wrapping up the conversation, Bredouw offered a reiteration of his reason for volunteering for the interim executive director position – which he is doing without any monetary compensation.

He said he was inspired after witnessing the division that occurred at the center over the past year, including eliminating theater production manager Deborah Sparks’ position and losing the projects of Perrine and his creative partner Grace McCune.

“It was painful for me to watch. I felt it was a lot of great people at the center – Jake, Grace, Sparks. It just broke my heart because everyone had legitimate beef in my opinion,” Bredouw said. “It’s just one of those deals where there was no right or wrong side. It really hurt me to see that such a small community sort of had these two factions. I just wanted to give my thoughts to the board about what had happened.”