Julie Crosby's Departure From Women's Project Theater Instigates Resignations, Online Petition

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17 Jul 2014

The majority of the advisory board and several members of the board of directors have departed Women's Project Theater following the abrupt exit of producing artistic director Julie Crosby, the New York Times reports.

While Crosby told the Times, "I was definitely pushed out," Arlene Scanlan and Casey Kemper, the board's leaders, told the New York daily that Crosby departed during debate about how to address the theatre's fiscal problems rather than being forced to resign. Scanlan and Kemper said in a statement that they were acting in response to "serious financial losses in recent years, which forced the board to ask that spending be reined in to protect the future of the theater."

Crosby, who has a background as a company manager for Broadway shows and a general manager for touring productions, was hired in 2005 as managing director. The Times reports that she is widely credited with getting the theatre into the black. She became artistic director in 2006, and ticket sales had nearly doubled by 2010.

Crosby said that the Women's Project faced an annual operating deficit of $700,000 to $800,000 during its last fiscal year, ending June 30, with an average annual budget of $1.5 million.

The mission of Women's Project is to produce plays written and directed by women. It was founded in 1978 to address underrepresentation of women in theatre, a topic of frequent discussion in the industry.



Crosby told the Times she was advised by the Board to reduce the number of productions and that the board suggested a coproduction with another theatre for a play that would have been directed by a man.

"I said I would not support a male director or cut the staff," Crosby told the Times. "We are a developmental theater, not a commercial theater."

The Times reports that Scanlan and Kemper rebutted Crosby's version of events by email; additionally, Scanlan said that Crosby was a valued artistic director and the board never suggested using a male director and was unaware of the suggestion.

Scanlan said in her statement that the board unanimously approved Crosby's proposed budget and plans for the new season June 3. "However, within 24 hours, Julie informed the board that she would be departing, which came as a complete surprise to all of us," the statement said.

An online petition demanding that the board of directors' chairwoman and chairman resign in the wake of the controversy has been signed by about 600 people, including Pulitzer Prize winners Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage, and James Bundy, dean of the Yale School of Drama. 

"I'm certain that many things may have been suggested, but Julie was in control of the season, the number of productions and whether or not they were co-pros," Scanlan told the Times in an e-mail. "She was given complete control on all of that so if anyone suggested anything and she said no, then it was put aside. No one tried to second-guess her until she created an $800,000 shortfall, at which time we asked her to be more conscious of spending."

Women's Project Theater has cultivated some of the best-known women in theatre, including Nottage, Eve Ensler and Anna Deavere Smith.

Visit wptheater.org for more information.