NYS

Professional theatre for family audiences

April 2, 2010

Hon. Joseph Fisch State Inspector General State Capitol

Albany, NY 12224

Re: Report of Investigation of New York State Theatre Institute

Dear Inspector General Fisch,

On behalf of a majority of the Board of Directors of the N ew York State Theatre Institute, I am submitting this response to the pending Report of Investigation of the New York State Theatre Institute, dated March 2010, and prepared by the Office of the Inspector General. I wish to thank your office for granting us the extensions of time to respond.

NYSTI's Board, the Artistic Director, her family, all of our actors and productions crew, and our staff, have shared one fundamental mission - - our commitment to creating the best theatre production, and the best educational programs, on shoestring budgets. It is not by happenstance that NYSTI has achieved international acclaim and countless awards, which your Report has recognized. These achievements have come through the tireless dedication of these professionals,. and of all who. have worked for the agency, whether as Board, staff, or independent contractors. As we address the contents of the Report, we stress that as a Board, we are indebted to our Artistic Director, whose vision and talents have made NYSTI such a great artistic success and educational program for our students.

As explained below, the Board cannot speak to the specific financial transactions referenced in the Report. We have therefore afforded the NYSTI staff the opportunity to address matters in the Report that are more within their sphere of knowledge. Their response accompanies this letter.

37 First Street, Troy, NY 12180

(518) 274-3200 0 Fax: 274-3815 • e-mail:nysti@capital.net www.nysti.org

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NYSTI'S History and Statutory Mission

Before addressing specific aspects of the Report, we wish to clarify certain historical events that will help to put your criticisms, and our responses, in a proper historical context.

NYSTI was originally conceived and brought into being through a Master Plan that was envisioned and developed by the office of SUNY Chancellor Ernest A. Boyer and Patricia Snyder. The Master Plan was conceived, between 1974-76, prior to the presentation of the Institute's first season of plays in 1976-77.

When the Institute was reconstituted as a public benefit corporation in 1992, the rights and privileges of all employees were preserved and continued within the statute. The Master Plan was also transferred, since the programmatic substance of the statutory mandate did not change. That statutory mandate of the Legislature was as follows:

§ 9.01. Legislative findings and declaration

The legislature hereby finds and declares that the legislative findings set down upon the creation of the empire state youth theatre institute pursuant to chapter eight hundred twenty-six of the laws of nineteen hundred seventy-four, continue to be valid and hereby reaffirms and restates these findings:

1. The arts are a motivating force in our schools and in our society. They are a sensitizing experience for a fuller life and a complement to the skills of reading, writing and mathematics.

2. The use of creative arts for children and youth within the educational structure has been shown to increase student success in all disciplines and to encourage emotional growth.

3. Teachers should be experienced in the use of arts and theatre techniques in reaching and working with children and young people, as well as be prepared in the use of

community cultural and human resources. .

The legislature further finds that there should be a state theatre institute dedicated to bringing arts in education to the children and young people of this state.

It is further found that such state theatre institute should embody a model theatre and education program for the children of New York state and should symbolize the

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commitment of the people of the state of New York to the maintenance and development of theatre and education for children and young people while making programs of such theatre institute accessible to the general public.

It is further found that such state theatre institute should establish affiliations with public and private schools, institutions of higher learning and arts centers to assure delivery of its services to young people throughout the state.

It is therefore found and declared that these findings can best be met through the establishment of a public benefit corporation to be known as the New York state theatre institute corporation and the powers and duties of the corporation defined in this article are necessary and proper for the achievement of these ends.

Authority of the Artistic Director

The Report criticizes the NYSTI Board for vesting too much authority in the artistic director. That decision, however, was made by the Legislature. The intent of the Legislature is perfectly clear from Article 9 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, which states:

The producing director shall be the chief executive officer of the corporation, and shall, subject to the direction of the corporation, have general supervision over the administration, artistic standards and operation of the corporation's projects and facility.

The responsibility vested by the State in the producing artistic director is underscored by the fact that no board of directors existed when NYSTI was created in 1992. On the effective date of the NYSTI statute, the Division of Budget (DaB) assumed temporary oversight ofNYSTI and the producing artistic director. From 1992-99 with no board in place, the producing artistic director administered NYSTI under direct DaB supervision. Policies and procedures established during this period with DaB assistance were continued when the NYSTI board quorum was finally achieved by Governor Pataki's appointments on December 15, 1999, after seven years of oversight ofNYSTI by DaB, which continued unti12005.

After the Board was constituted, it was informed of the various NYSTI program components and the attendant policies and procedures. On October 30,2001, the Board approved a motion to affirm NYSTI's agreement with United University Professions (UUP) and Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees as to the operational guidelines for all NYSTI employees. The Board minutes

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for that meeting are also noteworthy in the Board's recognition ofNYSTI as a unique theater. The minutes state, "Furthermore, if an employment situation arises that is not explicit in either the UUP contract or the SUNY Policies, the precedent ofNYSTl's operational policies established through the State University of New York and the standard practices ofthe theatre industry will prevail as NYSTI was created as an amendment to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law." (Appendix 1)

Thus, your criticism that "The NYSTI Board of Directors permitted Snyder, over a long period, to exercise virtually unfettered control and final decision-making over nearly every aspect of NYSTl's activities ... " is not entirely accurate. The artistic director ofNYSTI is responsible for the artistic vision and overall effectiveness and quality of the NYSTI program. The Legislature, SUNY, DOB, and the Board all recognized that the artistic director must be allowed latitude in artistic and administrative matters, and that as a theatre, some of its decisions would have to take theatre industry practices into consideration.

The Board, therefore, did not allow the artistic director unfettered authority. In fact, Board minutes reflect that the Board was very engaged and active, and exercised much more oversight than exits in many not-for-profit agencies. What the Board did was afford the artistic director the same authority and responsibilities with which most executive directors or presidents of organizations are entrusted - the authority directed by the Legislature in Article 9. As chief executive officer, the artistic director runs the agency, subject to the policy direction ofthe Board.

The authority vested in Ms. Snyder is consistent with the historical intent and actions of the Legislature, the State University, and the Division of Budget. We emphasize that the primary intent of the Legislature was to produce the best theater and educational programs for our youth. It is noteworthy that the Legislature gave the chief executive officer responsibilities to an artistic position - the producing director.

NYSTI's Staffing, Activities and Funding

There are other facts that cause NYSTI to differ substantially from other state agencies. For example, in addition to 33 fulltime employees, NYSTI "jobs in" an average of 100 part-time free lance artists, technicians and other specialists each year. They are brought in because of specific talents on specific projects.

Also very important is the recognition by the State that generated revenues (ticket sales, grants and private donations), which supplement NYSTI's state budget allocation, are not considered

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state funds, and do not have to be accounted for in the same way as state appropriations. In fact, the Office of the State Comptroller determined in November, 2007 as follows:

"After further review, we've determined that the accounts that you file do not fit the definition of 'state funds' and therefore will no longer need to be filed. Because the NYS Theatre Institute is a public authority and you are collecting donations and ticket revenues that aren't used for any state purpose, these are not state monies and shouldn't be included in state financial reports ... " (Appendix 2)

In 2003, a management audit was conducted by the Office of the State Comptroller (Appendix 3, Report 2002-Q-16), the objectives of which were to "determine whether the Institute has developed policies and procedures that provide an adequate level of internal control over its basic financial operations and to determine whether Institute employees follow the established written policies and procedures." In the Comptroller's report, the auditors found NYSTI in compliance with its policies and procedures on matters of revenue, payroll and purchases and found no significant discrepancies.

Interference with the Investigation

The Report claims that NYSTI acted to mislead and thwart the investigation. This is simply not so. NYSTI responded to inquiries from the OIG within the limits of staff availability and collected massive amounts of documents at the Inspector General's request. Your own Report refers to 50,000 documents obtained principally from NYSTI, and more than 30,000 transactions being examined. NYSTI granted the OIG unlimited access, on-site, to its files. Every witness associated with NYSTI who was asked by your office to be questioned appeared voluntarily, and without subpoena. To the best of our knowledge, no witness refused to answer any question.

Nepotism

The OIG Report is particularly critical of what is described as nepotism, resulting from the artistic director's hiring of family members. There is much here that requires explanation.

The employment by NYSTI of persons who were or in the future would become members of the artistic director's family has its origins in the very early productions by NYSTI. For example, during the time that NYSTI existed as a public benefit corporation from 1992 to 1999 without a Board of Directors, and over a decade before the State adopted a nepotism statute, William Severin Snyder was already working for NYSTI. Mary Jane Hansen and Shannon Johnson both

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performed and worked at NYSTI, but were not family members or related in any way to Patricia Snyder at that time. Subsequently, Mary Jane Hansen (in 2004) and Shannon Johnson (in 1999) married sons of Patricia Snyder.

The so-called anonymous letter brought the issue of "nepotism" to everyone's attention in January, 2006. The letter was sent by an anonymous writer to all Board members, to numerous newspapers and to a great many government officials. The Board was already well-aware of the familial relationships and considered that the family members' contributions to the attainment of NYSTI's mission were both extremely valuable, and generous. No negative reactions were received from any other recipients of that letter. The Board Chair visited and corresponded with several government officials who were indicated recipients of the letter, including several Legislators and the Governor's office. None of those officials raised any issue about the socalled nepotism accusations.

The reality is that the Chair and the Board were unaware of any "nepotism" laws that would prevent the artistic director's three family members from continuing to perform and/or serve NYSTI. Perhaps we should have been, but we were not. It was always our direction that the best cast and crew were to be used, and decisions were not to be made based upon familial relationship, and familial relationship did not require that the best person for the job be rejected.

Later in 2006, all Board members were required to take a Public Authority Board Member seminar on duties and responsibilities of such a position. There was no mention of any prohibition on continuing the service of someone who, after being hired, becomes a family member. In fact, the issue of hiring family members at all was never discussed at the seminar. When the statutory amendments passed in 2007, they were not brought to the attention of any Board members by any State entity, official or Legislator, and the Board and its Chair were unaware of this legislation. The Board and the Artistic Director first became aware of this new legislation from the Inspector General's report. Thus, NYSTI used theatre industry practice, of hiring the best actors, the best writers, and the best technicians, within our budget, and did not disqualify or reward anyone due to familial relationship. The Board was aware of the hiring or contracting with members ofthe Snyder family.

It must also be emphasized that not all hirings attributed to Ms. Snyder were her responsibility. Since the Inspector General's Report, the Board has received several letters from prominent Directors stating that they, not Patricia Snyder, selected William Severin Snyder, Mary Jane Hansen Snyder and Shannon Johnson Snyder as actors and music specialists. Those letters are attached hereto as Appendix 4. As a Board, we believe that those decisions were made based upon artistic merit, and not to benefit Ms. Snyder or her family.

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The Board is particularly concerned that it might be illegal to bar Ms. Hansen from further employment by NYSTI because of a change in her marital status while employed at NYSTI. NYSTI inquired about this issue with the Office of Human Resources at the University at Albany after Shannon Johnson married George Snyder in 1999. Ms. Johnson was employed by NYSTI as advertising director and assistant house manager before she got married. University officials stated quite definitively that if Ms. Johnson was qualified for the job before she was married, she was no less qualified after her marriage. Similarly, we are concerned that the statute was not intended to have retroactive effect, to require that NYSTI cease employing persons who proved their artistic value and contributions to NYSTI long before the statute went into effect.

It should not come as a surprise that a theatre family has talented theatre members. It has been a great benefit to NYSTI that the Snyder family has had such a commitment to the success of NYSTI. We have been the happy recipients of many generosities and the beneficiary of their noteworthy talents.

The Board has nonetheless directed that a hold be placed on any new engagements of William Severin Snyder, Mary Jane Hansen Snyder and Shannon Johnson Snyder, pending a comprehensive legal and Board review of the new statute, Attorney General opinions, and ethics rulings, and their application to NYSTI.

Expenditures and Reimbursements

The Board cannot speak to the details of any of the contracts entered into by the Artistic Director, or to the reimbursements to or from NYSTI for her expenditures. We have directed a review of those transactions, and if any payments to the benefit of the Artistic Director have not been properly documented or explained, we will direct appropriate corrective action. We do, however, have certain comments.

We have never had occasion to question the integrity or honesty of the artistic director or her family.. Ms. Snyder and her family have always been very generous to NYSTI, and we believe that even if there were failures in documentation, the amounts involved pale in comparison to the generosity we have received over the years. Their generosity and hard work would not excuse any wrongdoing or improper reimbursements, but we do not accept simply on the basis ofthis Report that there was intentional misconduct. We will examine these matters further, but of course are limited in doing so by the failure of the Report to provide the evidence that supports most of its conclusions.

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Third, as to many issues raised in the Report, such as the allegations of wrongdoing in connection with Ms. Snyder's reimbursement payments that were made during the course of the OIG investigation, we find the Report to be too speculative. Here again, reasonable explanations existed, and the amounts involved were negligible. When a small and overworked staff has to deal with so many matters, sometimes things innocently do not get done when they were supposed to be done. Your office examined over 30,000 transactions, but just a few were identified that fell into this category, or other categories of alleged wrongdoing. The fact that these payments were reimbursed during the investigation may just show that the investigation caused the staff to look at their records, not to falsify them. As stated above, NYSTI staff are reviewing expenses and reimbursements and are taking corrective action where appropriate.

Fiscal Controls

As previously stated, the Division of Budget promulgated the NYSTI Policy and Procedures Manual which was reviewed most recently by the Office of the State Comptroller and no recommendations were made for corrective actions. NYSTI is compliant with the requirement for annual independent financial audits by a certified public accountant. Nevertheless, NYSTI is conducting a review of internal procedures and safeguards.

The Report is critical of the controls over the use of the New York City office, which is consistently mischaracterized as an apartment. While it is true that we did not have written procedures, we have always intended, and believe, that the office was used for legitimate business purposes. We are, among other things, a theatre production company with national and international relations. Sometimes this means that the office, and its use as sleeping quarters, has been offered to visitors under different arrangements, but the Board has always considered the objective to be the furtherance ofNYSTI's mission, not for anyone's personal gain.

Nonetheless, due to budgetary constraints, the Board has determined to terminate that office's lease.

Conclusion

The Board of Directors of the NYSTI believes that it has carried out its responsibilities under the law as set forth in Article 9 ofthe NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.

In 2003, a management audit was conducted by the Office of the New York State Comptroller the objectives of which were to "determine whether the Institute has developed policies and procedures that provide an adequate level of internal control over its basic financial operations and to determine whether Institute employees follow the established written policies and procedures." In the Comptroller's report, the auditors found NYSTI in compliance with its

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policies and procedures on matters of revenue, payroll and purchases and found no significant discrepancies.

NYSTI is compliant with the requirement for annual independent financial audits by a certified public accountant. As a Board, we cannot speak to the details of any of the contracts entered into by the Artistic Director, or to the reimbursements to or from NYSTI for her expenditures. However, as discussed below, we have directed a review of those transactions, and if any payments to the benefit of the Artistic Director have not been properly documented or explained, we will direct appropriate corrective action.

The OIG Report is particularly critical of what is described as nepotism, resulting from what it claims is the Artistic Director's repeated hiring of family members. The reality is that the Chair and the Board were unaware of any "nepotism" regulations, statutes or restrictions that would prevent the artistic director's three family members from continuing to perform and/or serve NYSTI. It was always our direction that the best cast and crew were to be used, and we depended on the expertise of the Producing Director to achieve professional results.

The Board has directed that a hold be placed on any new engagements of William Severin Snyder, Mary Jane Hansen Snyder and Shannon Johnson Snyder, pending a comprehensive legal and Board review of the new statute and its application to NYSTI.

The Report is critical ofthe controls over the use ofNYSTI's New York City office. While it is true that we did not have written procedures, we have always believed, that the office was used for legitimate business purposes. We believe a theatre production company with national and international relations and ties needs a presence in New York City. However, due to current budgetary constraints, the Board has determined to terminate that office's lease.

The Board is in full support of the Chief Executive Officer of the corporation and its employees and believes that their actions for the past 28 years have always been intended to be in the best interests of the Theatre Institute and the young people whom it serves.

Finally, we accept the recommendations set forth in the Report. We will be review issues raised in the Report with the artistic director and other staff, and will determine what courses of action are appropriate.

We will obtain a legal opinion on the Public Officers Law implications, and will adopt and implement necessary formal policies relating to conflicts of interest, nepotism and self-dealing, and if necessary and available, arrange for further training on these issues.

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We will develop and implement new mechanisms and safeguards to ensure the propriety of all expenditures.

We have directed the termination of the lease for the New York City office.

Respectfully submitted,

The Board of the New York State Theatre Institute

EXHIBIT "1"

IfNYSTI does not receive $200,000, Dr. Snyder stated NYSTI's budget will have to be reconfigured. Additional concern is $61,000 owed to NYSTI for mandated salary increases negotiated by GOER and UUP may not be forthcoming. The Board may need to explore reducing NYSTI employees levels of employment.

. Dr. Snyder distributed a budget and outline of the proposed renovations for creation of a scene shop in the building at the comer of Division and 2nd Streets. The estimated cost of $200,000 will be covered by the balance of the grant made possible by Senator Joseph L. Bruno. NYSTI will obtain three bids for each portion of the project and anything over $15,000 must be advertised. The plans must be approved by the City of Troy Planning and Historical Committees

which may make additional requirements. .

A motion to approve a $200,000 budget for the renovation of the scene shop was made by Margaret Soter and seconded by Dora Myers. The motion was unanimously approved. Thesefunds will come from the grant arranged last year bySenatorBruno.

The next three items on the agenda were informational.

Samuel French will be licensing. eight plays developed by the NYS Theatre Institute, and

NYSTI will receive a portion of the royalties from the authors. .

NYSTI is participating in the New York Times Arts & Leisure weekend with its production of Ladies of Song. A copy of rue announcement which appeared in the TImes was included in the Board briefing book.

A copy of a review of The Frog Prince/Peter and the Wolf audio book which appeared in Chicago Parent Magazine was included in the Board briefirig book.

The program from the Yaddo Artists Retreat Benefit for the Yaddo Garden Association was included in the Board briefing book, NYSTI presented a staged reading of a play written by Katrina Trask at this event.

. Upon a motion made by Eugenia Sperrazza, seconded by Joan Wolfe and approved unanimously, the Board affirmed the UUP Agreement and SUNY Policies of the Board of Trustees as the operational guidelines for all NYSTI employees. Furthermore, if an employment situation arises that is not explicit in either the UUP contract or the SUNY Policies, the . precedent ofNYSTI's operational policies as established through the State University of New York and the standard practices of the theatre industry will prevail as NYSTI was created as an amendment to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Laws of the State ofN ew York.

It was suggested to invite' a representative from the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to a Board meeting for an information session ..

A question was raised regarding Board Meeting attendance. The Chairman said that a policy of participation via conference call was approved at a previous meeting.

EXHIBIT "2"

Mail :: Inbox: Sole Custody Reporting for NYS Theater Institute

Page I or I

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Hi Ben,

I took a closer look at the two bank accounts that you file each year with OSC. After further review, we've determined that the accounts that you file do not fit the definition of 'state funds' and therefore will no longer need to be filed.

Because the NYS Theater Institute is a public authority and you are collecting donations and ticket revenues that aren't used for any state purpose, these are not state monies and shouldn't be included in State financial reports. You will· not need to file anything this March.

Sorry for the confusion,

Melissa Clayton

OSC Accounting Operations 474 .. 5507

.. '

This communication and any attachments are confidential and intended solelyfor the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed. Please notify the sender immediately if you have received this communication by mistake and delete this emailfrom your system. If you are not the intended recipient, you are requested not to disclose, cPpy, distribute or takeam; action in reliance on the contents of this information.

http://www.webmail.logical.netlhorde/imp/message.php ?actionID=print_messase&index= 1184

11129/2007

EXHIBIT "3"

ALAN G. REVES! COMPTROLLER

110 STATE STREET ALBA}fY, NEW YORK 12236

STATE OF NEW YORK

OFFICE OF '{BE STATE COMPTROLLER

March 27, 2003

Ms. Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder Producing Artistic Director

New York State Theatre Institute 37 First Street

Troy, NY 12180

Re: Report 2002-Q-16

Dear Ms. Snyder:

To assist the N ew York State Theatre Institute (Institute) in managing its financial operations, we have reviewed the Institute's policies and procedures governing basic financial operations to determine whether they provide a sufficient level of internal controls.

Back2:round '

The Institute was established in 1974 as a public benefit corporation to provide educational theater experiences for children and families across the State. The Institute is funded by a $1.7- million General Fund appropriation, along with revenues from ticket sales, private donations, product sales, and leases offacilities to outside groups. The Institute has 33 staff, and its payroll is handled through the payroll office of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. Its expenditures for other than personnel services are administered through the SUNY Research Foundation at the SUNY Central Office. The Institute, which is overseen by a 13-member Board of Directors appointed by the Governor, has a four-fold mission:

• Produce professional theater of the highest artistic standards for family and school audiences;

• Use those productions to provide provocative and innovative arts in education programs;

• Exchange theater, culture, and humanity with the people and artists of other nations; and .. Develop new plays and musicals for family audiences that speak clearly to a changing world.

Review Scone and Objectives

The objectives of our review were to determine whether the Institute has developed policies and procedures that provide an adequate level of internal control over its basic financial operations and to determine whether Institute employees follow the established written policies and procedures . . Our review covered the period of Aprill, 2002 through January 22, 2003.

EXHIBIT "4"

14 March 2010

David W. Morris, Chairman Board of Directors, NYSTIC 43 Brookside Drive Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Dear Mr. Morris:

As the Chairman of Board of Directors of the New York State Theatre Institute, you may find it useful if I were to share my perspective on the process of selecting designers for productions in the professional theatre generally, and at NYSTI specifically. Having served as the Associate Artistic Director at NYSTI for twenty-five years until my retirement late in 2006, and having directed more productions for the Institute than any other director, I believe rnyrnslghts may be helpful. With your indulgence, I will address a few other matters in this letter as well.

The primary creative team for nearly all professional theatre productions consists of three people: the producer, the director, and the playwright. This "triumvirate" collaborates closely on the selection of the actors for the cast and the main designers; the latter includes: scenic designer, lighting designer, costume deslgner, and sound designer. Occasionally, a specific production may require others as determined by the needs of the show, but those four are the essential ones.

Most commonly, when a producer agrees to mount a playwright's work, the two of them will first agree on a director appropriate to the project. Following the director's employment, the three discuss the physical needs of the production, its style, and its budget, and then they consider potential designers based on a variety of factors such as prior experience with them, appropriateness for the show's needs, reputation, salary expectations, availability and so on. Once the three have agreed on prospective designers, contact is made and contracts are offered.

In the not-for-profit regional theatre of which NYSTI is a part, the situation can vary significantly from the commercial theatre. In regional theatres, many producing artistic directors rule with what can be called a dictatorial iron fist. Gratefully, at NYSTI this is not the case. Whereas some artistic directors may dictate and monitor every artistic choice made by the directors they hire, at NYSTI, Patricia Di Benedetto Snyder extends great artistic freedom to the experienced directors she hires. In my experience directing more than thi.rty productions for NYSTI, Dr. Snyder always solicited my opinions - no, not opinions, more than that - my requests for various designers. I believe that she trusts her directors to know what is best for the production and gives them the freedom to succeed in the pursuit of their vision.

This is not to say that directors are granted carte blanche. As a responsible producer, Dr. Snyder always operates with an eye on budgetary reality, and also oversees each production artistically as' an advocate for NYSTI's audiences. Furthermore, with her vast knowledge of theatre and the artists working in it, Dr.

Snyder, on some occasions, suggested that I take a look at the work and portfolios of prospective designers who she thought might be appropriate for a show I was directing, and whose work process might be compatible with mine. I was grateful for these suggestions and worked with some excellent designers whom I might not otherwise have met. Likewise, in a few rare instances, I suggested designers to Dr. Snyder whose work I had seen and thought they would be a good fit for NYSTI.

In sum, the selection of designers to work on a given project at NYSTI is and has been very much a give-and-take situation - and much more so than at most theatres. In the case of a less experienced director or one who is new to NYSTI, Dr. Snyder wisely and responsibly guides selections more closely, but that is simple common sense and diligence on her part. With experienced directors, Dr. Snyder does not insist that a director use specific designers, but does offer knowledgeable and highly appropriate recommendations, and carefully considers the suggestions and requests

of the director. .

This same confidence and freedom extends to the casting of actors in NYSTI productions. As is both her right and responsibility as producing artistic director, Dr. Snyder offers her recommendations and suggestions for the casting of potential actors, and does so with a keen eye on the imperatives of budget, casting across a full season of productions, as well as her appreciation forthe needs of each individual show. However, in my experience, Dr. Snyder places the greatest weight on the directors' casting requests and agrees to them whenever possible and practicable.

We have now reached the point in this letter Where I must ask for your indulgence. As you know, I am also a playwright. My employment with NYSTI was as the associate artistic director, not as a writer. As such, I wrote plays on my own time and submitted them for consideration to NYSTI. Admittedly, because I fully understood NYSTI's history, its mission, and its acting company, I enjoyed an advantage of being able to write plays that were particularly suited to NYSTI's needs.

As one example, NYSTI produced my play, "Sherlock's Secret Life." I knew that NYSTI enjoyed particular success with mysteries, sought out mysteries to produce, had produced a few Sherlock Holmes mysteries in the past, and was having trouble finding another good one to produce for its school and family audiences. So, I wrote one and submitted it - completely on spec - to Dr. Snyder for consideration. She scheduled a velY casual reading of the play around a table with members of the company performing roles. Dr. Snyder and the company liked the play, and she and the Actors Company of Pennsylvania at the Fulton Opera House decided to produce it as a co-production, and it played at both theatres.

Subsequent to those premiere performances of the play, NYSTI produced it a second time. In addition, NYSTI produced an original cast audiobook of the show which won a prestigious national Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association. Dr. Snyder arranged for Samuel French, Inc. to read and consider the play for publication and inclusion in their catalog. French published the play - which they would not have

3

done without Dr. Snyder's intervention - and the play has subsequently been produced by several professional and amateur theatres across this country and in Canada. Through all of these events and productions, I have remained the author and owner of the rights to the play. NYSTI rightly benefits from royalties which are thoroughly earned and deserved, but I retain ownership. It has come to my attention that there have been claims to the contrary, and I want to put those misrepresentations to rest. I own the rights to the play and earn royalties from it.

Because I have related the story of how NYSTI came to produce "Sherlock's Secret Life," it is appropriate for me to discuss how NYSTI selects plays for production each season. Let me hearken back to the situation as it exists with many other producing artistic directors: in many cases, season selection is a simple matter of decree, i.e. the producing artistic director chooses and announces the season independent of any outside input. This selection by fiat couldn't be more different from the process as it exists at NYSTI.

Dr. Snyder requests play title recommendations from NYSTI's entire constituency, from schoolteachers and parents, and from theatre artists both within and outside the NYSTI company. New plays that have been submitted by playwrights are read and evaluated. Lengthy lists of suggestions are studied, discussed, and culled. Shorter lists are created and company members are asked to read the plays and provide comments about the plays' suitability for the NYSTI company and its school and family audiences.

On occaston, Dr. Snyder has asked writers if they would be interested in writing a play about a certain topic or adapting a play from a certain piece of existing literature. Dr. Snyder understands the academic needs of the schools of New York and does her utmost to fill those needs. For example, NYSTI and the Rensselaer County Historical Society applied for and earned a grant for the creation of a new play about Troy. The two organizations commissioned me to write the play that I called "The Heart of Troy," which was produced as a fully-staged reading and NYSTI produced as an audiobook

- earning finalist honors for an Audie Award.

If you would like me to comment further on any of these matters, please do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.

Ed. Lange

(former Associate Artistic Director, NYSTI) 35 Parkwyn Drive

Delmar, NY 12054

518-439-0139

March 15, 20lO

David Morris

Chairman, Board of Directors New York State Theatre Institute 37 First Street

Troy, NY 12180

Dear Chairman Morris,

As a 27 year veteran of the New York State Theatre Institute (NYSTI), I feel compelled to address the continuing allegations of nepotism levied against Dr. Patricia Snyder. I am in a unique position and feel qualified to address these issues as I have served as an actor, teacher and director for the Theatre. In these roles I have worked along side and supervised members of Dr. Snyder's family. I have also cast andrecommended these artists for employment both at NYSTI and in the private sector. Contrary to the allegations that she shows favoritism by employing members of her family, it should be noted that Dr. Snyder has also employed members of my family several times.

As students and eventually .as young professionals, my daughter, Annie, and my son, Ben, received exceptional training while enrolled in NYSTI educational programs. Dr. Snyder takes pride in the quality of training offered through the Theatre Arts School, Summer Stage and Internship Programs and as such she frequently employs program alumni. This was the case for both of my children. They had trained for several years in the Theatre Arts School and Summer Stage programs, had worked as apprentices and teaching assistants and were eventually employed as teachers. Dr. Snyder frequently employs alumni oftheNYSTI Internship program. Many of these young people have returned to NYSTI after having established themselves as theatre professionals in New York City and beyond. Mary Jane Hansen was an alumnus of this program for several years before becoming a member of Dr. Snyder's family.

I recently directed the NYSTI production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. One of my responsibilities as director was to cast the show, thereby granting employment to the actors chosen. I cast Ms. Hansen in the role of Vera Claytliorne because I believe her to be one of the most talented actors that I have had the pleasure to work with. I also cast her-because she was the exactly the right actor for the role and the

production. -

Will Severin and Charles Eble of 100% Sound were contracted as Sound Designers for And then there Were None. Additionally, I asked Mr. Severin tocompose original music for the production. I did so because Mr. Severin is an excellent composer with a thorough understanding of the mystery genre. I know his work and 1 admire it.

At no time did Dr. Snyder encourage me, either directly or through implication, to cast Ms. Hansen or to request music from Mr. Severin for the production. The decision was entirely my own.

As I stated earlier, I greatly admire the work of these two artists. I have worked with and recommended both of them for employment at NYSTI and in the private sector. Depriving Ms. Hansen and Mr. Severin employment at NYSTI based on the fact that are members of Dr. Snyder's family would be unjust. It would also deprive the students of NYS of two excellent and committed professionals. In questioning Dr. Snyder's hiring practices, I would encourage you to evaluate the quality of the work performed by the employees. I believe you will find the workof these artists to be exemplary.

Than20UforYrF' n,

n.W

Teacher! Actor New York State Theatre Institute

patricia birch

320 east 72nd street

new york city 10021 2122886261 9176026502 patbirch@nyc.rr.com

Mr. David Morris Chairman of the Board

. New York State Theater Institute 37 First Street

Troy, New York 12180

Dear Mr. Morris,

It has come to my attention that Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder, Producing Artistic Director of The New York State Theater Institute is being investigated re issues of nepotism at the institute.

I can only respond as a working director, who has been guest directing at The Institute since 1982. I have, as my bio in any program will tell, been the recipient of 5 Tony nominations; countless other awards and was inducted into the Theatrical Hall of Fame last year in the middle of working in Troy! All by way of saying, I feel totally comfortable in saying the reason I take time to work at NYSTI is that I believe in its mission, and the work is always supported and excellent! Ms. Snyder runs a fine shop!

As to the aforementioned allegations, I believe they concern the employment of Mary Jane Hansen, Shannon Johnson, and Will Severin.

Mary Jane Hansen, Ms. Snyder's daughter in law is one of the finest young actresses I have had the privilege of working with. I have requested her to be in the casts of my shows at NYSTI, and I have seen her work in others. She is accomplished and terrific. Her writing has been noted, commissioned, and came to the attention of a very good NY agent, who is now representing her. Her employment by Ms. Snyder, therefore, can only be considered something that enhances the NYSTI theater company. She enriches it when she works there which is less now because she is becoming so successful outsidethe venue.

Shannon Johnson had done less acting when I went to the Institute to do the very well received and reviewed King Island Christmas. I knew of her prowess as a singer, but had no idea that she would turn out to be as good an actress as she is. Employing her as a performer was my and only my idea. That success brought about my casting her again in

Orphan Train last season (soon to be remounted by request). Her performance in this piece is excellent. No one has ever urged me to cast Shannon. It was only I!

As for Will Severin, although we have not done a show together, I know his work well, and it is magical. He is a very very busy commercial composer, and does not need to work for what amounts to very little at NYSTI. I hope to do a show with him soon. He is as good a composer as any I have worked with.

So there it is. Nepotism is nowhere in the NYSTI picture. There is only good wellreceived work, and work devoted to increasing young audiences, so that the theater, and I mean the theater in general, will not die for lack of attendance and disinterest while the young audiences play video games.

Ms. Snyder needs to be congratulated not investigated.

Dear Mr. Morris,

By way of introduction, I am Doug Katsaros, Broadway conductor and composer, guest conductor for the Boston Pops, orchestrator and arranger for Rod Stewart, Gloria Estefan, Sinead O'Connor, Elton John and dozens of others, and multi award nominee including Emmys, Clios, Outer Critics Circle Awards and Grammys. I have also had the distinct pleasure to work at the New York State Theatre in Troy alongside the artistic director, Patricia Di Benedetto Snyder.

Now it seems that she is being investigated over charges of nepotism. For the record, in all of my time spent there, I had never seen any such thing occur, even remotely. And I win explain. The three people involved besides Patricia seem to be Mary Jane Hansen, Shannon Johnson, and Will Severin. I know Will only as a fellow composer, and although we did not work on the same projects, there is no doubt in my mind that with his talents, there would be no need to resort to nepotism to allow him to work there. It would be like being married to Meryl Streep and not allowing her to act. Ridiculous. Mary Jane Hansen and I have also not worked together, although I understand her to be a fine actress. And if my experience in Troy is any indication, and I believe it must be, there would be no basis for an investigation there either. But I can attest to the hiring of Shannon Johnson for the musical I did work on up in Troy - Orphan Train.

Shannon Johnson auditioned for me - and the Broadway director and choreographer Patricia Birch - along with dozens of other local hopefuls last year for the musical OrphanTrain ~~t I c_o_I!lposed. I was not introduced to

her beforehand, and not until much later in the rehearsal period did I find out that she was even remotely connected to Ms. Snyder. But when I heard her voice, I, along with Patricia, knew that this was the sweet soulful sound with which we could start our show. Her part was not a lead character, but one where we could best utilize her talents, just as if we were casting on Broadway. And not even a whisper of partisanship or nepotism. Indeed, that would have soured me to her right off.

In fact, nowhere during the entire NYSTI experience was there a hint of nepotism. It was simply theatre, for children and families, set in a beautiful, first class looking production, and it was such a wonderful experience that we are opening Orphan Train again there this year. What the Institute does insofar as developmental work for the theatre is the basis of what the future of theatre - and their audiences - need. This investigation is a true shame, when instead, you should be pouring accolades and funds in the direction of such a well run and culturally enriching endeavor such as the New Your State Theatre Institute. Please reconsider, and thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Doug Katsaros 631-757-2039

The Sage Colleges

Russell Sage College • Sage College of Albany' Sage Graduate School

April IS, 2008

Mary Jane Hansen

c/o New York State Theatre Institute 30 First Street

Troy, NY 12180

Dear Mary Jane:

We would like to thank you for participating in our "Teaching Day" events at The Sage Colleges on April 4, 2008. We know that your time is valuable, and we sincerely appreciate your taking time to share your expertise with our students and other audience members.

Your portrayal of Sister Helen, an iconic figure in death penalty circles, was sensitive, clear, and forceful. Sister Helen has spoken at Sage, and she would, I'm sure, be honored by your performance.

We hope that your experiences were positive and that the Sage community conveyed our attention and appreciation ..

Re~gard,S? .

'11L ~~VL---

Lis allahan

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.: LU(LU~C(i.l(?tl

I Maureen McLeod

Cc: Patricia Snyder v

45 ferry Srreer Troy, NY 12180 Tel (518) 244-2000 1'lwI'I,lage,edu

NYS

heatre 'Institute

Professional theatre for family audiences

TO: Olga Delorey /)12./ ~ FROM: Christine Saplin[{ jlcJ DATE: June 17,2008

RE: Your request for information

In a recent memo you asked if either Mary Jane Hansen or Ron Komora had been assigned to teach without a NYSTI staff member on a residency program.

In the case of Ron Komora, no, he has never been assigned to teach a class on his own. He has been assigned to a ''teaching team" which consists of a NYSTI staff member ( either a Teacher/Actor or TeacherlTechnician) and any interns that have been assigned to the specific tech area or are mentored by the particular Teacher/Actor.

In the case of Mary Jane Hansen, she has had considerable classroom experience at NYSTI. As an intern in the Fall of 1998, she was assigned to teach with various NYSTI staff: Arlene Leff, John McGuire, and David Bunce. When Mary Jane returned to NYSTI in 1999 as a Guest Artist she was given her choice of teaching teams to join. In 2003, after Mary Jane had been teaching .on residency programs for a number of shows, and I had observed her work in the classroom, I did assign her to teach a residency class with another guest artist - without a NYSTI staff member. The reason was that we had arranged to teach classes at Maple Avenue Middle School following performances of Harvey. The logistical problem was that I had to cover a minimum of 6 classes concurrently. We did not have technicians to assign - so I had the four teams - each headed by a NYSTI teacher/actor and Mary Jane's Team and a sixth team headed by Betsy Riley, a former NYSTI teacher/actor who was at that time a guest artist

There have been other occasions, since 2003, when I askedthe guest artists with teaching experience to volunteer to create their own teaching team and Mary Jane has volunteered. Mary Jane has had valid classroom experience and has developed a number of creative lesson plans.

In the past three seasons, Mary Jane Hansen has been the only guest artist member of Actors Equity who has been assigned to teach on her own as part of the NYSTI residency program.

37 First Street, Troy, NY 12180

(518) 274-3200 • Fax: 274-3815 • e-mail:nysti@capital.net www.nysti.orq

RON HOLGATE

March 11,2010

Mr. David Morris Chairman NYSTI

Dear Mr. Morris

A question has come up concerning the casting policies at NYSTI. I have directed six productions at the institute including the present one now in performance "Romeo and Juliet". As a director I reserve the right to have artistic control over casting and hiring of the production team. That includes the hiring of Mary Jane Hansen (actress) and Will Severin (composer and sound design). Both are relatives of Patricia Snyder. This fact had nothing to do with my choosing them for this production. They are extremely talented and have the added bonus of living in the area (as opposed to dealing with someone in NYC for example). This makes it much easier for me to converse with and plan their respective contributions to the production. I feel lucky to have them.

That being said you should understand the role of the producer in a production is a nuanced one, and I can tell you after being in this profession for over 50 years a good producer is something to be cherished. And Patricia Snyder is a good producer. A good producer is someone who has, yes, a business sense, but also, and more importantly, an artistic sense of what makes a team of talented people work, and create a successful production, together. There is nothing more frustrating than having a "squeaky wheel" in your show, who consistently takes your attention away from what needs to be focused on in order to voice their petty and egotistical complaints. Ms Snyder has been invaluable in fmding talented and compatible artists who understand and appreciate the mission of the NY State Theater Institute.

I hope this information clears up any misunderstanding as to my requirements and puts to rest any idea that Ms Snyder pressured me into hiring Ms Hansen and Mr. Severin for this or any other production.

Sincerely,

Professional theatre for family audiences

January 31,2006

David W. Morris, Chairman Board of Directors

New York State Theatre Institute 37 First Street

Troy, NY 12180

Dear Mr. Morris:

In the wake of an anonymous letter recently sent to the NYSTI Board of Directors and others, I feel it is incumbent upon me to set the record straight regarding the casting of actors in NYSTI productions. As NYSTI's Associate Artistic Director and the director who has staged more productions for NYSTI than any other director, I believe my comments should carry some credibility.

The casting procedure at NYSTI is standard and fairly simple. As the director of a production, I conduct auditions and callback auditions. Following these, I submit a proposed cast list to Patricia for her approval. As a responsible producer, Patricia must take many factors into consideration beyond talent and suitability for a, role: the number of actors in the cast, salaries, per diems, housing costs, and casting in our other productions to mention only a few. At times, Patricia may recommend a particular actor she thinks is appropriate for a given role, or may suggest an alternative to an actor I have proposed because of the factors above.

However, in my nearly 25 years directing for NYSTI, she has never instructed or ordered me to cast any specific actor. As the producer, Patricia would certainly have the prerogative to overrule my casting or to direct specific casting, but it is important to mention that she has not exercised that authority, preferring to leave nearly all artistic decisions to her directors.

ge

ate Artistic Director

37 First Street, Troy, NY 12180

(518) 274-3200 • Fax: 274~3815 • e-mail:nysti@capital.net www.nysti.org