Jon Jory, 61, producing director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Tony Award-winning regional theatre known for its commitment to new American plays, resigned Jan. 18 to take a teaching position in Washington state.
He will stay on through September 2000, for the rest of the current season, which includes the 24th Humana Festival of New American Plays in February and March, but will be teaching at the University of Washington School of Drama in Seattle by fall.
The theatre community was stunned by the news, but Jory has reportedly said he wants a change for himself and felt he could leave while the three-venue organization was strong. Under his watch, Marsha Norman, Donald Margulies, John Pielmeier, Arthur Kopit, Kevin Kling, Romulus Linney, Howard Korder, Stephen Dietz, Jeffrey Sweet, Naomi Wallace, the pseudonymous Jane Martin (thought to be Jory himself) and hundreds of other playwrights received world-premiere or developmental stagings at the Kentucky resident house.
Jory will accept a full professorship with tenure at the University of Washington, where he will teach directors and actors. He will continue a professional directing career, and return to Actors Theatre of Louisville to occasionally stage shows. He remains an "artistic consultant" at ATL.
Before he leaves Kentucky, he will plan the 2001 Humana Festival of New American Plays, his signature initiative at ATL. He will also help plan the 2000-2001 ATL season, which, like other regionals, offers classics, recent and new works, comedies, thrillers, musicals, etc. In a statement, Jory said ATL is "in first-rate shape" and that "I can't stay forever." "This is the perfect time to bring in new leadership," he said.
California native Jory (son of famed American actor Victor Jory) came to the financially unsure ATL in 1969 after being founding artistic director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT. In his time, ATL's budget grew from $244,000 in 1969 to $8.3 million in 1999. He created the internationally influential Humana Festival, which celebrates its 25th year in 2001. Titles that began at Humana (underwritten by the Humana Foundation) and went on to greater recognition include Agnes of God, Crimes of the Heart, Keely and Du and Slavs!
Donald Margulies, whose current Off-Broadway comedy, Dinner With Friends, had an earlier mounting at Humana, told Playbill On-Line: "With his extraordinary work in Louisville, Jon was a leader in the burgeoning regional theatre movement of the last generation; his efforts helped define American theatre.He's worked hard."
Jory produced more than 1,300 productions at ATL, directing more than 140 himself.
His next assignment there is staging the rock musical, Hair, Feb. 1 March 4 at the Pamela Brown Auditorium, one of three spaces in the ATL complex, a few blocks from the Ohio River. The arena-style Bingham and the intimate, three-quarter Victor Jory are the other spaces.
A search committee will be formed to find a successor. Jory's university appointment is expected to be finalized by the University of Washington board of regents Jan. 21.
Jory will remain at ATL to September 2000. He will oversee the 24th Humana Festival Feb. 29-April 8.
Jory received a special Tony Award for achievement in regional theatre, one of many prizes on his mantle. He is author of two upcoming books, "Tips: Ideas for Actors" (expected in March 2000) and "Tips: Ideas for Directors" (2001).
He will move to Washington with his wife, the costume designer and dramaturg, Marcia Dixcy Jory, and their daughter, Miranda. Jory's oldest daughter, Jessica, is a junior at the University of Washington, where she studies theatre. Son Victor is a film student at New York University.
What Jory may also leave behind is one of the amusing mysteries of recent American theatre history: Who is playwright Jane Martin?
Jory has directed plays by the unseen, hermit-like Martin, who has been called a press-shy Kentuckian (she penned Keely and Du, Talking With and more). ATL executive director Alexander Speer serves as her agent. It is widely thought that Jory is the woman in question, or that he may perhaps collaborate with his wife. Others suggest Jane Martin is Marcia Dixcy Jory.
-- By Kenneth Jones