The actors of Chicago's American Theater Company have up and left, in protest of changes proposed by their new AD. Apparently what once was an actor-driven (and actor-founded) tightly woven ensemble has become just another 501(c)(3) with a Board.
The Trib's Chris Jones reports:
In many ways, this parting of the ways is an extreme manifestation of the tensions that can exist between longtime ensemble members who come and go—but also have strong (and emotionally intense) views on their theater—and the visions of those formally charged with day-to-day artistic leadership, especially when that leadership is new. Such issues often intensify when it comes to the choice of material, the selection of directors, and which ensemble members are hired as actors.Maybe this is a naive question, but...How do a bunch of actors who founded the company get overruled by their own board of directors?
American Theater Company now has an annual budget of about $1 million. A majority of the board of directors has lined up behind Paparelli, who was hired about 18 months ago, said member Jeff Morof, a Chicago attorney.
"The bottom line is, we brought PJ in a year and a half ago, and we knew he had a different artistic mission and wanted to diversify the company," he said. "The board has made it very clear that this is the direction in which we want to go. Change is never easy."
The unhappy ensemble members now have to form their own, separate organization in a different building from the one many of them helped construct, with their own hands, on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and West Byron Street.
In Jones' telling, the AD may have some worthy goals in changing the company--such as culturally diversifying the acting ensemble and play selection. But still, kinda makes you wonder whether you and your actor buddies really want to start your own theatre. (Or maybe the problem is being too successful.)
Reminiscent, by the way, of the last days of the old Jean Cocteau Rep, whose core actors splintered into the current Phoenix Theatre after the new leadership morphed it into the current Exchange.