In Marley's time running the resident professional Equity company, a Tony Award Honor for Outstanding Regional Theatre was earned, a theatre school was solidified and the resident creative, technical and acting troupe gained a reputation as world-class.
"When I walk out of my office for the last time, it will be 21 seasons and 22 years," Marley told Playbill On-Line Jan. 13. "I spent the first year putting together staff and creating the National Theatre Conservatory — doing the legal work and the work with the educational powers that be to set that up as a wholly owned and operated graduate school not part of another university."
Why is Marley exiting?
"I set my alarm clock at 7 AM in 1964 and I wanna turn it off," said Marley, who will be 68 years old at the end of his tenure in 2005.
He said he will remain a consultant to the DCTC board and (if he or she wishes) to the new artistic leader. The man who showed Denver the world via hundreds of works will see some of the world himself after 2005: He intends to travel and is "looking at some beach front property," although he also expects to stay close to Denver. What is Marley most proud of in the past 20 years?
Marley said, "Without any question, the assembling of the resident company is the thing I'm most proud of: that assembling of that core of actors and directors and designers and writers and managers and technicians into the ensemble we've been able to create. Over half the company has been with me from 10 to 35 years. I moved 66 of them from California when I came. Not all of them are still in the company, but a good number are."
Marley is the third artistic director for the company, which presents on a handful of stages in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where Donald Sewell is chairman and founder. Sewell and the board knew of Marley's plan to exit in November 2003, but staffers learned Jan. 13.
Marley said there have been "enormous" economic pressures in recent years. "I have successfully managed a downsizing of the company by almost $2 million in the annual budget, without destroying the resident company," he said. "I would consider that my biggest administrative accomplishment — one that I loathed, detested and hated."
Season budgets began being trimmed starting with the 2002-03 season, he said, adding, "I was perversely proud of the fact I was able to hold the company together with $2 million in cuts."
DCTC, the resident Equity producing organization in the DCPA (where touring shows also visit under the umbrella of Denver Center Attractions), is not in a deficit situation, Marley said. In years when there has been a deficit, the board of trustees have "funded the deficit" and he says he has always felt supported by his board.
Marley assumed leadership of the Denver Center Theatre Company in 1984, as a successor to founding artistic director Edward Payson Call (Peter Hackett was an interim artistic director) . By July 1, 2005, he will have completed 21 eclectic seasons that included 243 productions, 75 of which were world premieres. Several of these premieres have transferred from Denver to other venues across America — from the Music Center in Los Angeles to New York's Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres — and to Europe and Asia.
Among major or high-profile works seen during Marley's run as artistic director were Tantalus with Royal Shakespeare Company, The Laramie Project, Black Elks Speaks (which Marley directed), Waiting to be Invited, Taking Leave (a play by Nagel Jackson about Alzheimer's disease), Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver, Love, Janis, Lost Highway, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and Mark Harelick's The Immigrant (and its musical version). Marley's Denver staging of Desire Under the Elms played China.
The board, Sewell and Marley now begin a search for Marley's successor.