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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

13th Staff Departure from Shea's

Kevin Sweeney, director of Marketing and Communications says good-bye

Kevin Sweeney, whose last day at Shea's is reportedly tomorrow

If Shea's has become especially uncommunicative during its current period of turmoil, one wonders if matters will be getting better or worse with the departure of Marketing and Communications director Kevin Sweeney. His last day is, reportedly, tomorrow, Friday, September 23rd.

Kevin came to Shea's in 2019, from Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, where he had been Marketing Director. He was credited with helping to build the success of that LORT theater, during his ten year tenure. A Boston native, Kevin has lived and worked in WNY for nearly 30 years. He has been successful in multiple leadership roles in media.

Kevin's departure makes for a total of either 12 or 13 staff members from Shea's (depending upon who is counting) over the past year. This comes in the shadow of allegations of a toxic work environment and a near mutiny under the leadership of Shea's President Michael Murphy.

Murphy continues to enjoy the support of the remaining members of the Shea's Board of Trustees, despite 25 members of the shrinking staff, complaining about his leadership. Five trustees have departed from the organization. Murphy has been moved into a revised and ambiguously devised role at the theater, leaving Robert H. Brunschmid, Director of Operations, to mind the store, so to speak, while Murphy attends to fundraising and other external affairs.

While Murphy has been notably invisible from the community in recent weeks (he attended neither the opening of "Once on this Island" at Shea's 710, nor Curtain Up!), he has been meeting with the "Cullen fellows," a leadership development initiative in the arts, funded by the Cullen Foundation. He reportedly greeted the group at its last meeting, by saying he wanted "to address the elephant in the room," which he identified as himself. He then said very little, except to lament that he could not say more. He did, reportedly, attend a performance of "Church and State" at Ujima last weekend; a co-production of "The Color Purple" with Shea's, Ujima, and Second Generation is in the works.

Rumors of Sweeney's imminent departure have been circulating for days. Brunschmid reportedly announced the departure at a meeting of the "All for One" co-producers this morning.

The crisis communication at Shea's in recent weeks had been notably slow and opaque. At a time when media were expecting vigorous communication and an effort to get ahead of the story -- "tell as much of the truth as you can, as quickly as you can," as the textbooks say, Shea's became a fortress of silence. The board evaded communication with the Buffalo News for nearly a month, before approaching them with a pre-packaged statement, boasting that all was well in the state of Denmark. It gradually became apparent that the trustees had solicited external help and did not seem to be using Sweeney's talents to handle their crisis communication.

Shea's has posted a job opening for Human Resources manager. Given the continued human resources issues at the highly regarded performing arts center, one begins to wonder if the staff might be better served by a labor union.

Shea's has not responded to requests for comment.


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