It has been months since Dwayne Blackaller and Matthew Cameron Clark were ousted from Boise Contemporary Theater. Their terminations shook the Boise arts community to its core. Some have called for explanations from the BCT Board of Directors while others have offered support.
A throughline for them both has been gratitude—for their friendship, opportunities and supporters—and Blackaller and Clark sat down with Boise Weekly for a short but emotional exchange to discuss what's in store for them. Blackaller told Clark how grateful he is to have a friend who will lobby for him, even at the risk of losing his own job.
In return, Clark offered a brief affirmation of that gratitude: "Onward, Dwayne."
BW: How has the response been from the community?
DB: In my experience, and I know it's been similar for Matt, but for me it's been overwhelmingly positive and supporting, so I've been very lucky to feel this much appreciation.
MCC: The response from the community has been overwhelming and has been wonderfully supportive. The messages range from just people reaching out to say 'make sure you keep me posted about what you're doing next' to people that are very upset about what happened, but all of these messages have been supportive.
BW: Have either of you gotten more clarity on why this decision was made?
DB: Not from the board, certainly. You know, that's what the students have asked for. I think that, you know, the board from my perspective just clearly wanted to go a different direction with leadership, including Matt and me.
MCC: I do think it's important to say, because there's been so little information provided by the board, and out of fairness people have responded to my account of what happened with questions about 'that doesn't fully make sense, it feels like there's got to be something else.' But I can tell you, there's no secret scandal.
BW: The board president said he hopes you two can collaborate with the theater in the future. Is that a possibility?
DB: That entirely depends on what the company does. I think Matt's done a nice job telling the artists in the community that our job is to make good art—if BCT, further down the road, is comprised of people who do that well. For the record, I think that Ben Burdick is a good guy. It just entirely depends on what BCT becomes, but at this time, not really.
MCC: It's not a closed door for me, either. With the current Board of Trustees, I have no interest in collaborating with BCT. I would love to collaborate with Ben or any of the other BCT artists who are still there down the road.
BW: So, what's next?
DB: Starting in January, I'll be starting a theater for young audiences in the city. I'll be working with professional artists to create plays for young people. That will include, of course, student artists and learners, as well as professional artists.
BW: Is that something you've been thinking about for a while, or is that new?
DB: It's certainly something I've been thinking about for a while. You know, Matt, when he started BCT years and years ago, the reason it was successful is because he very clearly articulated a need that wasn't being filled in Boise... there still is no Boise-based theater for young audiences and, as you know, there's a huge, growing demographic and a huge need for it.
BW: Can we expect a Nighttime Survival Guide illustrated book?
MCC: It's at the top of our list for projects moving forward. We've been talking about a little retreat to do some writing on that project. We've been talking about it for years.
DB: It'll be nice to have it finished. My goal is to have that finished sometime this winter.
BW: In a way, this whole ordeal represents new opportunities.
DB: I think so. I don't want to speak for Matt, but the two big takeaways for me is, one, I started work with that organization, and the bulk of what I did was arts and teaching the arts. That was what I did that I quite loved about the job. By the end of my tenure with BCT, a lot of it had become administrative. It is freeing to step forward and work with the people I love like Matt and members of the community. The other big learning takeaway is, I really do question the way non-profit arts organizations are created and sustained in America. I'm really unconvinced that we're doing a good job, giving lay people, largely from the business community, power over those organizations.
BW: With the way Boise is growing, is there an increased cultural need for new arts programming?
MCC: I think that was clear in recent years at BCT—that the growth of the city was leading to growth of the company, and a growing momentum toward expansion and new capacity in terms of the kinds of productions we were able to stage because of the growth. So, with our newfound freedom, you know, both of us love Boise and want to continue to make art here. Yeah, there's an audience.
DB: The outpouring of support has been so good for my soul. Sometimes when you're sequestered in the basement, plugging away and trying to keep an arts organization going you don't hear it. An unexpected side effect has been how energized I am.