La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Michael Greif, perhaps best known as the director of Broadway's Rent, will leave the nonprofit theatre in southern California after its 1999 season, it was announced Sept. 28.
The official reason for his departure, expected at the end of the May-to November 1999 season, is "his desire to return to the East Coast to be closer to his family and loved ones," La Jolla board of trustees president Geri Ann Warnke said in a statement. Greif, 39, who will plan and create the 1999 season, will have served as artistic director for five years.
Greif is a graduate of University of California San Diego's Department of Theatre and Dance, where he studied in the graduate directing program. He assisted former Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff with the Playhouse staging of Big River (1984) and directed What the Butler Saw and Therese Raquin, among others, before starting as artistic director in 1995. His work as artistic director included directing Tony Kushner's Slavs!, Randy Newman's Faust, and the West Coast premiere of Rent. His current project at the Playhouse is a commissioned new play by Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters, running through Oct. 11.
Greif's wish to leave the Playhouse has been known internally since early spring, when he told the board he wished to be closer to family back east. A search committee was formed April 22, 1998, but the public announcement was delayed. Playhouse spokesman Josh Ellis told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 29) the new artistic director will likely be named by early 1999, pending search results, so "there will be a long overlap period for an easy transition; the new artistic director will plan the 2000 season."
Among those working in an advisory capacity with the committee are Playhouse managing director Terrence Dwyer, Playhouse director-in residence Des McAnuff, and Greif himself. Greif (rhymes with "wife") leaves the theatre without a deficit and a with a Five Year Plan projecting a "growth structure" for the organization, founded 51 years ago, but revived in its current structure in 1983. Greif said in a statement he hopes his successor will hire him as a free-lance director.
The La Jolla Playhouse, which offers a six-show season in a space shared with the theatre department of the University of California San Diego, was awarded the 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. One announced project for the 1999 season is a reworked version of the musical, Jane Eyre, directed by John Caird, which premiered in Toronto two years ago.
-- By Kenneth Jones