Russo voluntarily withdrew from the production and resigned from the theatre's Board of Directors following complaints that his production's set "contained major elements that were extremely similar to those used" in a Long Wharf/Hartford Stage production of the play, according to a letter posted on the TheatreWorks website.
Hartford Stage artistic director Darko Tresnjak, a Tony winner for A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, directed the 2012 Long Wharf/Hartford Stage production, which had scenic design by Alexander Dodge, costume design by Fabio Toblini, lighting design by Matt Richards and sound design by Lindsay Jones.
The complete letter from the TheatreWorks Board of Directors follows:
Dear Patrons and Friends of TheatreWorks,
We want to express our sincere apologies for the cancellation of some of the performances of Bell, Book & Candle.
As most of you know, TheatreWorks New Milford is almost 50 years old. We are a small, not-for-profit, non-professional theatre and our mission is not to make a profit, but to provide a service to the community of New Milford and surrounding areas. Our Board of Directors are all volunteers. We therefore must place a good deal of trust in our directors and designers to provide the best possible productions.
Joseph Russo, the director of this production, has directed a number of productions at TheatreWorks in recent years. He indicated that he saw the production of Bell, Book & Candle at Hartford Stage in 2012, which inspired him to stage it at TheatreWorks.
In his zeal to mount this production, Joe designed and built a set which contained major elements that were extremely similar to those used at Long Wharf/Hartford Stage. He was unaware that these actions constituted an infringement. Those of us at TheatreWorks who are responsible for the artistic decisions were unaware of these similarities until we received notification from Long Wharf Theatre and Hartford Stage.
The Board of Directors of TheatreWorks takes full responsibility for this oversight, and we have taken the following actions:
1) Our production has been completely re-staged and re-designed, under the direction of actor/director Matt Austin and will reopen on Friday, December 18th for an 8PM performance.
2) Mr. Russo has voluntarily resigned from the Board, and has sent an apology to Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Alexander Dodge and Darko Tresnjak, the latter two being the respective designer and director of The Hartford Stage/Long Wharf production of Bell, Book & Candle.
3) TheatreWorks has also personally apologized to all of the aforementioned injured parties.
4) We are putting in place a new policy to review all of the design elements and staging of every future production before the production begins rehearsals.
The Board would like to extend a special thanks to our cast of Bell, Book & Candle, who were integral in the re-mounting of this production. In addition, we would like to thank Mr. Dodge, Mr. Tresnjak, Michael Stotts, General Manager of Hartford Stage, and Joshua Borenstein, General Manager of Long Wharf Theatre for their graciousness, understanding and forgiveness throughout this situation.
Again, we are very sorry for this incident. It has been a hard lesson for us, yet we are very grateful for having learned it. We are also grateful for all of your patience, support and kindness throughout.
Thank you again, and we hope you can join us as we re-open Bell, Book & Candle on December 18th as a humbler and wiser organization.
The Board of Directors of TheatreWorks New Milford
* The current mounting, which has been re-staged by Matt Austin, is described as such: "Gillian Holroyd is a sensual, free spirited gal, restless in life and unlucky in love. She also happens to be a witch. When she learns that her handsome neighbor, Shep Henderson, is engaged to her old college rival, she uses every trick in the book to stop the wedding. But when, in the midst of her magical maneuvering, she finds herself falling for him, she's left with a difficult choice: you see, witches who fall in love lose their powers. But perhaps love still has a trick or two up its own sleeve in this delectable and delightful romantic romp."
Performances continue through Jan. 10, 2016. Click here for more information.