"It is with mixed emotions that I leave P.S. 122," said Russell in a statement. "P.S. 122 is a terrific institution that has seen world class artists cross its doors before they became household names. I am gratified and proud to have been a part of this important part of performance history. However, the time has come for me to look for new challenges and I leave the Space with a committed staff and board to carry on."
P.S. 122, a former school building equipped with quirky but viable theatre spaces, was formed in 1979; Russell came on board at artistic director in 1983. Under Russell's guidance, the complex became an Off-Off-Broadway institution. P.S. 122 does not develop new work, per se, but acts as a sort of artistic petri dish, nurturing the art of both emerging and established artists and theatre companies. As such, Russell's role was not unlike that of a curator of edgy downtown theatre.
Over the past two decades, monologuists such as Eric Bogosian and Spalding Gray have chosen P.S. 122 as the place to develop their new pieces. The English talents Eddie Izzard and The Right Size (The Play What I Wrote) both presented early work at the First Avenue building, only to find themselves on Broadway a few seasons later. Richard Maxwell, the current darling of the below-14th-Street set, can be said to owe his career to Russell, who presented his Obie-winning play House in 1999.
Performances artists, those ardent and willfully peculiar soloists who blossomed in the '80s, thrived at P.S. 122. Once controversial figures such as Holly Hughes, Tim Miller and Karen Finley were all seen within the theatre's walls.
Other artists and theatre groups which have found a home at P.S. 122 include John Leguizamo, Mac Wellman, Ain Gordon, Rinne Groff, Deb Morgolin, Mike Albo, Blue Man Group, Reno, Ron K. Brown, Danny Hoch, Sarah Jones, Elevator Repair Service, Jennifer Monson, Penny Arcade, Doug Varone, Ron Athey, Ann Carlson, Will Power, Improbable Theatre and Marga Gomez. Matt & Ben, the long-running hit currently playing at P.S. 122 is a new venture for the company: a purely commercial enterprise that merely rents space in the building.
The P.S. 122 board is forming a search committee to hire a new director.