Walnut Street Theatre President’s Salary Breaks $1 Million

And that was in 2020, when not much theater was happening. Plus, rave reviews for Fat Ham on Broadway.

walnut street theatre president bernard havard, who salary has topped $1 million

Walnut Street Theatre president Bernard Havard, who salary has topped $1 million (photo courtesy 6ABC)

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Walnut Street Theatre President Bernard Havard Broke the $1 Million Salary Threshold

There’s been a lot of talk of late about how much money people make.

Yesterday, it was all about Jalen Hurts and his record-breaking $255 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Before that, we learned that controversial Philadelphia sheriff Rochelle Bilal questionably tried to double her own salary to $285,000. And who can forget Philadelphia’s eight richest people, whose combined wealth is estimated at $68.9 billion? And all of this money talk — and the fact that it’s Tax Day — got me thinking: I wonder how much Bernard Havard makes these days.

If you’re not immersed in the Philadelphia theater world, you might not be familiar with Havard. He is the longtime president of Walnut Street Theatre, which is currently closing out its season with fare such as a musical based on Jimmy Buffett songs. Wasting away again, indeed.

Now I didn’t just pull Havard’s name out of a hat as the subject of today’s column. Havard and his salary have long been the subject of controversy and consternation for some. In 2021, Philadelphia theater artists protesting wage inequity and a lack of diversity and inclusiveness at Walnut Street Theatre handed out fliers decrying Havard’s salary (back then, it was known to be about $745,000, as of 2019’s IRS documents) at the theater’s opening night for, ugh, Beehive — The 60′s Musical. Last week, when a colleague of mine came across an older article I wrote documenting Havard’s salary back in the early 2010s, he declared, “What?! The head of Walnut Street Theatre made $604,000 in one year?!”

The latest news might shock those protesters and my colleague. According to the most recently available IRS documents, Havard’s salary has topped the $1 million mark. In 2020, his salary was $1,012,027. Add to that other forms of compensation that added up to $34,642, and you’ve got a grand total of $1,046,669 in total compensation for 2020. Not bad considering the state of Philly theater in 2020, which was pretty non-existent thanks to COVID.

In 2021, before anyone knew Havard’s salary had jumped to more than $1 million, American Theatre, the primary national magazine covering the theater world, asked some tough questions about Havard and the theater in a piece titled, “Is It Finally Time for Change at Walnut Street Theatre?” The lengthy story noted that while Havard was sitting pretty, some people at Walnut Street Theatre were making minimum wage.

That article also questioned the mission of the theater in the wake of 2020’s racial reckoning in the United States. Walnut Street Theatre had long been accused of failing to hire Black directors, with activists releasing the graphic above to illustrate their point. The American Theatre story also noted that while the theater had released some “lofty rhetoric” via a 2020 statement about racial inclusivity and equity and the importance of telling Black stories, their programming didn’t really reflect any changes and that the Walnut Street Theatre was back to “business as usual.” So, yeah, Beehive: The Musical and Margaritaville.

But back to salaries, I tried as hard as I could to find a local arts executive (including at huge operations like the Kimmel Center and Philadelphia Museum of Art) whose 2020 compensation came close to Havard’s. Couldn’t do it.

A spokesperson for Walnut Street Theatre did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. But it’s worth noting that the theater claims to have the largest subscription base of any theater of its kind in the world. So maybe the board of trustees (of which Havard is president) is more than happy with Havard’s slice of the pie.

Fat Ham Gets Positively Rave Reviews on Broadway

Two theater stories in one day?! That might be a record.

Fat Ham, the Pulitzer-winning show by South Philly playwright James Ijames (you can read my recent interview with him here), is absolutely tearing it up on Broadway, where it opened last week. The New York Times calls the play, a loose adaptation of Hamlet, “hot and sizzling” and says every single cast member is “excellent.” Variety deems Fat Ham “a Broadway feast.” And Entertainment Weekly sums up Fat Ham as “the juiciest parts of Hamlet smothered in comedy and pathos.

In more good news, you don’t have to go to New York to see the show. I mean, you most certainly should, because, well, it’s Broadway! But the other option is to wait until November and see Fat Ham at the Wilma. The Broad Street theater just announced its upcoming season, and Fat Ham is opening.

More Problems at Temple

Is it just me, or have there been a lot of negative stories about Temple lately? You can add one more to the heap: Three women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a Temple Owls coach, some involving claims of hidden cameras and sexual assault.

By the Numbers

$384,000: Back wages and penalties Ambler-based swimming pool contractor GSI Pool must pay after a Department of Labor investigation found that the company failed to properly pay the workers — most of whom were here from Mexico on work visas — or meet certain federal standards. If and when I ever need a swimming pool, I’ll definitely be calling someone else.

7th: Ranking of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River (think: Poconos) on a new report of the country’s ten most endangered rivers. No, the Schuylkill and Delaware aren’t on the list.

$1 billion: Opioid lawsuit settlement money Pennsylvania expects to receive. But some disagree over how to spend that money.

And from the Double-Up Sports Desk …

In Phillies news, what was scheduled to be the first game of a three-game series in Chicago vs. the White Sox yesterday got turned into a doubleheader starting at 4:10 today because of threatening weather and high winds. (Okay, it was snowing.) The second game will kick off half an hour or so after the first one concludes. The Phils are starting Zack Wheeler for the first round, followed in the second game by Bailey Falter.

That new contract between Jalen Hurts and the Eagles makes him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Oh, and there’s a first-ever-for-the-Birds no-trade clause.

The Inky’s EJ Smith wrote about how the contract will affect the team’s salary cap and quarterback contracts around the league. Oh, and did you know Hurts employs an all-female management team?

Wondering where all your Sixers news is? Since they’re in the playoffs, they get their own story.

All Philly Today Sports Desk coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.