After 18 years as artistic director of CT's Hartford Stage Company, artistic director Mark Lamos is leaving his post "to pursue a directing career in theatre and opera." He'll become a resident artist at Hartford Stage continue to direct productions there. Hartford Stage President Thomas D. Lips announced at the time of Lamos' resignation, "We respect Mark's desire to devote all his energies to artistic projects. In effect, we are announcing an evolution, a transition, but not a departure."
The resignation was announced in May 1997, but it took until Jan. 20, 1998 to name a successor: Michael Wilson, associate artist at Houston's Alley Theatre. Wilson beat out more than 100 other applicants from all over the world for the position.
Transition Committee Chairperson said in a press conference, Jan. 20: "In each visit, Michael impressed us with his intelligence, his warmth and his thoughtfulness... After we saw Michael's recent New York production of Defying Gravity, and spoke with the rich and varied group of artists who had worked with him, we knew that Michael was the leader we had been seeking."
At the Alley, Wilson directed 17 productions, including Angels in America. His latest assignment there is Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Ellen Burstyn. Wilson is an Albee Foundation Fellow and Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Said Wilson of his predecessor, "Mark did an amazing job in his 18 years of leadership... I am excited to lead the theatre into the next millennium." In May, Lamos, who will direct at least one production at Hartford in 1998-99, said, "The decision [to step down] was difficult, since Hartford Stage has been my artistic home for nearly two decades. We have a family of theatre artists, drawn from the best in the world, who regularly come to Hartford to create great theatre here. [But] I have come to a point in my career when I want to be directing all the time. The challenges confronting the performing arts are serious and require more attention, frankly, than they did when I started here 17 years ago."
Lamos is about to direct the Broadway production of Terrence Rattigan's the Deep Blue Sea, which begins previews Feb. 28 at Roundabout Theatre.
Lamos' directorial assignments at Hartford Stage have included: 1980-90: Distant Fires, On The Verge, The Great Magoo, Anatol, Peer Gynt, Hamlet and Morocco. 1991 Present: Our Country's Good, Martin Guerre (a third musical version), A Dybbuk, The Rivals and The Master Builder. His most recent assignment was the musical revue, The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm.
Lamos made his feature film directing debut with Longtime Companion, and his stage production of Our Country's Good transferred to Broadway. It was his idea to pair March Of The Falsettos and Falsettoland as a single evening, though the Hartford Stage production (directed by Graciela Daniele) didn't reach New York.
Honors for Lamos included Hartford Stage winning the 1989 regional theatre Tony, and the Lucille Lortel Award for best revival for his 1989 Measure For Measure at Lincoln Center. He's also worked at NYC Opera, Dallas Opera, Sweden's Stora Theatre and Santa Fe Opera. His current opera projects include "Madama Butterfly" for Glimmerglass Opera, "Rigoletto" for San Francisco Opera, Benjamin Britten's "Paul Bunyan" for City Opera, and "La Finta" for the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Founded in 1964, Hartford Stage's previous artistic directors were Jacques Cartier (1964-1968), who specialized in the classics, and Paul Weidner (1968-1980), who specialized in new American and British plays.
Lamos' resignation made for a busy transitional year in Connecticut theatre, since the Long Wharf's artistic director of 30 years, Arvin Brown, stepped down in June, his duties going to Douglas Hughes.
The 34th Hartford Stage season opened with a revival of Moss Hart's Light Up The Sky and followed with Lamos' staging of Shakespeare's Cymbeline (Jan. 3 - Feb. 7), revisiting a romance he directed at Hartford Stage 17 years ago. Lamos will also close the season directing Edward Albee's rarely produced Tiny Alice (May 16-June 21).
Albee's work has enjoyed many recent revivals including a 1996 Tony Award winning production of A Delicate Balance and this year's highly acclaimed production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in London. Tiny Alice, a mystery of obsession, violence and symbols, tells of millionairess Miss Alice's seduction of Brother Julian and his eventual sacrifice.
Also currently playing is ...Love, Langston (Jan. 3 - Feb. 7), "a musical and poetic celebration of Langston Hughes' works" by Loni Berry is directed by Reggie Montgomery. This production continues Hartford Stage's work with the Hartford Initiative, which encourages the development of relationships within the African-American community.
Later on this year, Lisa Peterson directs Sueno (Feb. 14-March 21), Jose Rivera's new adaptation of 17th century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life is a Dream. In Sueno a prince, imprisoned since birth, is returned to civilization where he must face reality and destiny. Peterson is currently a resident director at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum and is the winner of an Obie and Drama Desk Award. Rivera's Marisol was produced at Hartford Stage in 1993.
Following Sueno is a revival of the Tony-nominated musical Tintypes (March 28-May 2). Featuring more than 50 songs from the turn of the century, Tintypes is a combination of historical figures, vaudeville and the American Dream.
For more information or to order a subscription call the Hartford Stage Box Office at (860) 527-5151.
-- By David Lefkowitz