With former artistic director Douglas Hughes departure from Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre in early June, the thirty-six year old theatre company has decided to reexamine their internal structure while searching for a replacement.
Hughes quit the theatre after disagreements with the Board of Trustees' leadership. The board's response has been to form a committee, Agenda 2002, to create a one year operating plan while interim artistic director Greg Leaming serves and the company searches for a new AD, and to examine the Long Wharf as an organization. According to a released statement, this will "help define and strengthen the roles of theatre management, staff and trustees."
Gregory Kandel, founder of Management Consultants for the Arts, will serve as independent advisor for Agenda 2002.
The loss of artistic director caused major restructuring in the company's 2001-02 season. Hughes had been set to direct three pieces in 2001-02: Harry Kondoleon's Play Yourself, Hugh Leonard's Da in a co production with the Guthrie Theater, and The Miser, which Hughes would have also adapted. His production of Da will not transfer from the Guthrie, nor will he direct Play Yourself or The Miser.
The high profile Cherry Orchard, which was to have starred Kathleen Chalfant and Hughes' father Barnard, had to be canceled after suffering major casting changes. Both Chalfant and Hughes dropped out of the project and the other star, David Strathairn, landed a role in the Broadway Dance of Death, beginning Sept. 18. Replacing The Cherry Orchard will be George Bernard Shaw's comedy, Arms and the Man, with Leaming directing. Also added to the season are Kenneth Lonergan's recent Off-Broadway hit The Waverly Gallery, Nov. 14-Dec. 16, to be directed by John Tillinger; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, May 1-June 9, 2002 directed by David Warren (High Dive, Copacabana); and Conor McPherson's Outer Critics Circle and Olivier Award winner The Good Thief, Oct. 17 Nov. 25, directed by Carl Forsman.
Hughes, an Obie winner for Tim Blake Nelson's The Grey Zone, has directed Long Wharf productions of She Stoops to Conquer, Playboy of the Western World and The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as Manhattan Theatre Company's An Experiment With an Air Pump, John Guare's Lake Hollywood and Mystery School with Tyne Daly.
Leaming joined the Long Wharf the same year Hughes did, 1997. He recently directed the world premieres of The Third Army, Syncopation and Abstract Expression. In 2001-02, he's slated to helm the world premiere of David Schulner's An Infinite Ache, running Oct. 17-Nov. 18, 2001. Before coming to the Long Wharf, Leaming was producing director at Hartford Stage for a year and artistic director of Portland Stage Company from 1992-1996.
Shows planned for the Long Wharf season, unaffected by the staff changes, are Sinan Unel's Off-Broadway hit Pera Palas (Jan. 16-Feb. 17, 2002), An Infinite Ache (Dec. 12-Jan. 20, 2002) and the world premiere of Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman (April 3-May 12, 2002).
— By Christine Ehren