A Chat with the Chairman

By on 28 August, 2015 in Fun, Greg Thornton with 1 Comment

“The arts are not a frill. The arts are a response to our individuality and our nature, and help to shape our identity. What is there that can transcend deep difference and stubborn divisions? The arts. They have a wonderful universality. Art has the potential to unify. It can speak in many languages without a translator. The arts do not discriminate. The arts can lift us up.” –Barbara Jordan

Dorman Walker, Chairman of the Playhouse Board

I asked our Playhouse Board Chairman, Dorman Walker, to spend some time chatting about the Board, its relation to the Playhouse, and how he views its role in helping the Playhouse realize its mission. Here is bit of background on our gracious Chairman.

Dorman Walker is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and the University of Alabama School of Law, where he was Alabama Editor of The Alabama Law Review, president of the Bench and Bar Honorary Society, a Hugo Black Scholar and a member of the law school’s honor court.

He is Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Academy, a K-12 independent school, and Chairman of the Board of the Cloverdale Playhouse, which is now in its fourth season. He is a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Mr. Walker is married to Susan Russ Walker, Chief Magistrate Judge of the Middle District of Alabama.

Greg Thornton: This may seem obvious to you, but I think folks would be interested to know how you see the role of this board, or any board for that matter, as it relates to an arts organization?

Dorman Walker: The board’s job is to provide the right conditions for the Playhouse to flourish. We don’t make decisions about what plays are produced, or who gets the lead, or exactly where someone should stand in Act II, or anything like that. Our job is to put in place the legal, financial, administrative, and other resources that are necessary for the Playhouse to operate, and then to step back and let Emily (Flowers, Managing Director), you, Morris (Dees, President of the Board of Directors), the Artistic Committee, and the team of volunteers run the theater and school.

Greg Thornton: You were involved in the very beginnings of the Playhouse. How would you gauge its progress from the Capital Campaign through finding a space, then renovating it, and then, to its doors being open to the public?

Dorman Walker: I always knew the Playhouse would succeed, yet I’m almost astonished that it did. We started a community theater in the middle of the Great Recession when there should not have been money available. But there was, thanks to the hard work of a lot of people who shared a vision of what the empty church building at the corner of Fairview and Cloverdale Road could become. A lot of credit has to be given to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which we are so fortunate to have here in Montgomery, and which has showed people in the River Region, over and over again, just how good live theater can be. So there was an informed appetite for live theater in place. And also we have been blessed with the continued support of some very generous donors, without whom the Playhouse as we know it would not exist. We are all very proud of what the Playhouse has accomplished, from presenting always entertaining and often challenging plays – including original works, to the guitar pulls and other musical events, to the training that the Playhouse provides to future actors in our drama school.

Greg Thornton: Some boards of directors are very much “hands-on” while some serve in a more “honorary” capacity. Where do you see the Playhouse Board positioned?

Dorman Walker: We are a hands-off board, unless something has gone wrong. Some board members have theater backgrounds, but running the theater is not our purpose. We provide the resources for the theater people – including some board members wearing their volunteer hats – to make the Playhouse what it is. The Board would step in operationally only if something went awry, and fortunately that has never been the case.

Greg Thornton: There are some boards that have a say in the artistic content of their organization. First of all, is that a good thing? Secondly, do you feel that is the case at the Playhouse?

Dorman Walker: There are plays that I’d like to see on the Playhouse stage, and I think every board member could say the same thing, but that’s not how we work. We have a structure and we stick to it. So, each year the Artistic Committee, a group of people who are involved in the theater, picks the plays that will comprise our new season. And each year they have done their job wonderfully, and made better selections than I would. I’m looking forward to learning next month the plays that will be in our next season, and if Medea or Antigone or The Wasps are among them, I would not be disappointed – but again that’s a decision for the committee.

By Melissa Tubbs

By Melissa Tubbs

Greg Thornton: How do you feel the board is advancing the Playhouse’s life in the community?

Dorman Walker: Board members do that, but not so much in our capacity as Board members. What makes us a community theater is the broad cross-section of people in the community who help build sets, or run the lights, and bring food for receptions, come to see plays, and sit in Café Louisa or the Pine Bar and talk about the play they saw last night. Board members do these things, but so do a whole lot of other people.

Greg Thornton: I know that the educational element of the Playhouse is very important to you. Is that because you always had an interest in theater? Was there some desire on your part to step on a stage and let fly?

Dorman Walker: The last time I was on stage, in the 1960s, I explained the history of drums to an audience of fellow Cloverdale Elementary students. I don’t recall just why that was a part of the fifth grade pageant that year, but Miss Taylor assigned it to me. I must have rehearsed my part 1,000 times, and I think I got through it without a mistake. But the acting bug took a look at me and did not bite, at least not until it got to my daughter. She was cast in a world premiere at ASF when she was about five. The play had a lot of colorful language, much of it said by her alcoholic one-eyed on-stage mother, and we had to explain to her she’d be hearing words that we did not use at home. She went on to act in other plays at ASF and Montgomery Academy, and those were great experiences for her. Providing a similar experience to students in our drama school is one of the most important activities of the Playhouse.

Greg Thornton: Are there goals the Playhouse has fallen short of at this point? Are there some the Playhouse has exceeded? Are we at the place you had expected we’d be?

Dorman Walker: In every way but one, the Playhouse has achieved well beyond what I thought possible. I was hopeful that we might become a sort of Hyde Park, and provide a venue for important but overlooked points of view. We have had a few interesting speakers, but it turns out that the best way for a playhouse to present different points of view is dramatically, and the Playhouse has done that very well.


Page-To-Stage New Play ReadingMonday Sept. 14, 7:30.

The PlayMakers by Julie Zaffarano

A reading of the winning play in the Playhouse Page-To-Stage Series. Over 180 scripts were submitted. The playwright is from Broomall, PA.

Two playwrights and former lovers, Sebastian and Lisa, have been brought together after a four year separation to write a revival romantic comedy. While each has had some mild success in writing since their separation, neither has achieved the success individually that they had received together. They are brought back together to collaborate by a producer that wants to cash in on a reunion.

Joe Thomas Jr. Guitar Pull Tuesday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m. This Month’s Featured Artists: Steve Everett, Johnny Veres & Beth Hataway, John Whitworth.

Playhouse School Fall Classes for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12: meets weekly, mid-September through mid-November​. Registration ongoing.

Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott Oct. 22 – Nov. 1, ​Directed by Fiona Macleod. From the pen that brought you Wait Until Dark, Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder, a taut, spine-tingling thriller, tells the story of Tony Wendice, who married Margot for her money and now, after discovering she has a secret, plans to murder her. The moves and counter-moves in this treacherous mental chess match will keep you on the edge of your seat, or in the case of the Playhouse, your pew!

Performances Thursday-Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.

​For tickets and further information, call 334.262.1530 or at cloverdaleplayhouse.org

Note: Dial M for Murder replaces the previously announced The Woman In Black on ​the​ season schedule.

Greg Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There is 1 Brilliant Comment

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thank you, Dorman, for cogently explaining the different ways in which Boards function. And the way the Playhouse Board functions obviously works!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *