Feeling Unsupported, Michael Bush Resigns Charlotte Rep's Artistic Director Post

News   Feeling Unsupported, Michael Bush Resigns Charlotte Rep's Artistic Director Post
 
Charlotte Repertory Theatre's producing artistic director Michael Bush resigned Nov. 10, leaving North Carolina's major resident theatre without a rudder in a time of financial difficulty.
Michael Bush
Michael Bush

Bush, who came to Charlotte Rep from New York with artistic ambitions, saw his hopes dashed on the rocks of an audience and board that didn't support what he thought was right for the community.

"The artistic quality of Michael's product has been nothing short of superb," Mike McGuire, president of the Rep's board, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, during these challenging economic times, we failed to attract a sufficient audience to support the increased costs."

Bush, who came to the Rep in June 2002, said in a statement: "I've come to love Charlotte audiences and find them generous in their appreciation of the quality of the work. Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that there is just not enough support to do the work I was brought here to do."

It was announced in recent weeks that a 2004 staging of Hamlet was being canceled, as is a holiday run of the one-actor show, Fully Committed.

Bush will continue with the theatre to direct All of the People, All the Time, playing Nov. 15-Dec. 7 at Duke Power Theatre, Spirit Square. "There is no question that Michael Bush took the Rep, in a very short period of time, in the direction we wanted to go artistically," McGuire said.

New works (Let Me Sing, All of the People, All of the Time), star-spiked shows (the pre-Broadway The Miracle Worker starring Hilary Swank, the recent 20th anniversary Pump Boys and Dinettes with Emily Skinner) and stagings of recent and classic plays were part of Bush's short tenure.

McGuire said that while the trustees will continue to advance the artistic direction of the Rep, the board felt more financial management oversight was necessary to better balance the artistic product with financial accountability.

The trustees are currently evaluating options for the artistic leadership for the rest of the 2003-2004 Rep season.

The rest of the Rep's 2003-2004 season includes All of the People, All the Time by Patrick Cook, Darwin Ortiz and David Roth Nov. 15 - Dec. 7; A Tuna Christmas by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard Nov. 29-Dec. 21; TBA Feb. 7-22, 2004; Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon April 17-May 2, 2004.

For more information about Charlotte Repertory Theatre, the Central Carolinas' only fully professional LORT Theatre, visit www.charlotterep.org.

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The Oct. 17 announcement of the scotching of the ambitious Hamlet, a co-production with Syracuse Stage, was the first indication the theatre was going to have a rocky season.

"All of us remain clearly focused on our vision," said Mike McGuire, in an October statement. "However, like all of the major arts groups in the region, and most professional theatres across the country, we have seen our usual sources of funding diminish during the economic downturn of the past few years. We needed to make changes this season that will position us for continued success in the future. After careful deliberation, the Rep's board of trustees and staff agreed to changes that will in no way compromise the artistic quality of the productions."

Why cancel Hamlet?

"Certainly a part of our mission is to produce the classics," Michael Bush said at the time. "Unfortunately, due to production requirements, they become very expensive. It became clear that the fiscally responsible decision at this time is to postpone the production of a major classic for the time being."

The Rep also announced the following changes, all of which, the troupers said, will contribute to improving the Rep's financial picture in a time of company deficit:

  • The New Year's Eve Gala has been canceled, allowing resources that would have been devoted to the event to be directed instead toward the Rep's signature fund-raising event, the Spring Gala (exact date to be determined).
  • "In-The-Works," the Rep's new play festival that was planned for April 2004, has been canceled for this season.
  • With the exception of A Tuna Christmas, the scheduled run for each show during the 2003-2004 season will be shortened by one week. There was hope that the Rep staging of The Miracle Worker starring Hilary Swank would move to Broadway with Barry and Fran Weissler producing, but the commercial players dropped their plan.

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    Michael Bush is a Charlotte native who spent the 22 years prior to his work at the Rep with the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) in New York City. For 11 years, Bush served as MTC's associate artistic director where he oversaw all ongoing artistic activity for the company's eight-play season devoted to new work.

    MTC's Musical Theatre Program, which was designed by Bush in 1993 to develop work by emerging composers and lyricists, has produced such shows as A Class Act (2001 Tony Award nominee), The Wild Party, The Green Heart and Time and Again.

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