Former NAT leader charged with felony theft

Mary L. Beaver, the former administrative director of the now-defunct New American Theater (NAT), has been arrested and charged with felony theft, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

The complaint, filed Sept. 18, alleges Beaver stole anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000 from J.V. Pro, a Rockford manufacturing company where Deputy Chief Greg Lindmark says she’d been employed for about two years.

According to court documents, the alleged thefts began in June 2004.

Beaver was released from police custody after posting 10 percent of her $5,000 bond the day of her arrest. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 26.

In 2003, the theater begged the community for $200,000 to avoid closing its doors in the wake of declining attendance after a number of key players took their show elsewhere after the firing of Artistic Director Richard Raether. Days later, Beaver resigned amid the grave financial crisis. Although Beaver appeared to step down voluntarily, former NAT President Stuart Cohn is quoted as saying she was “let go,” in the local daily.

During the 2003 upheaval, Cohn credited Beaver with single-handedly saving the theater from a $400,000 debt nightmare.

Raether and others loyal to the NAT spirit landed on their feet when they founded the Artists’ Ensemble.

When NAT abruptly called a press conference last December to announce it was curtains for the 35 year old playhouse, those in town long enough to remember those turbulent days begged the question, “Did Mary Beaver have anything to do with this?”

Then-NAT Board President Ron Clewer responded: “Since we reorganized, the first few years, we saw a change in our organization. I cannot say it was related to her absence or not. …The issue there is truly employment, and I cannot comment on it.”

In 2004, however, NAT filed an objection to Beaver’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Their objection claimed NAT as a creditor, and that the theater had not been notified of the filing. No reference to any financial obligations to NAT was indicated by Beaver. NAT claimed Beaver’s bankruptcy case had not been filed in good faith.

Beaver’s bankruptcy case was later dismissed. It is unclear how much may have been owed to NAT, or whether it was ever repaid.

Sources have said for Beaver’s role in NAT’s demise to be fairly evaluated, about $50,000 worth of pro-bono auditing of NAT’s accounting would be required.

from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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