The end of the Ann Ciccolella Era at the Austin Circle of Theatres.
Ciccolella Checks Out
Turn your calendars, local theatre fans: The Ann Ciccolella Era is now over. The woman who steered the Austin Circle of Theatres for the past eight and a half years put in her last day as executive director Tuesday, August 31. It's a departure that has the ring of history to it, in part because she's only the fourth executive director ACoT has ever had, in part because her tenure spans a third of the umbrella's history, in part because she's the only director of ACoT many in today's theatre scene have ever known. Small wonder then that so many folks were eager to pay her tribute as she prepared to go.
Theatre folk turned out by the dozens for a farewell to the outgoing director last Friday at the home of Mary Furse and former ACoT board president Bill McMillin. Though the casual party had no formal tributes scheduled, that didn't stop the testimonials from flying. Old friends and new praised Ciccolella's generosity, her determination, her devotion to the community. So many nice things were said that it got to be like a funeral -- except that the subject of all the praise was alive and able to hear it all.
The idea that the event had its memorial side wasn't lost on Ciccolella, either. In fact, she had arranged for the evening's entertainment based on her experience at a funeral recently: music by some of her favorite singers. So, for much of the night, guests crowded into the Furse/McMillin den to hear delicious renditions of Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, and lots and lots of Stephen Sondheim (the favorite of guess who?) from Linda Nenno, Kara Bliss, John Howrey, Amy Stinson, and the incomparable Karen Kuykendall. (As for those scurrilous rumors that this columnist also took part, performing a Noel Coward pastiche that poked fun at various figures in our theatre community ... well, I think it much more likely these gossipmongers were hoodwinked by Allen Robertson in a skull cap and glasses or perhaps an unusually anemic Blake Yelavich!)
Ever conscious of the bottom line, Ciccolella made the event to be a fundraiser. It pulled in $1,100, a tidy sum with which to end an era.
Wednesday, September 1, marked the start of ACoT AC (after Ciccolella), and the umbrella had a new ED in place and primed to lead it to Y2K and beyond. His name is Russ Wiseman, and he has a master's from Texas Christian University; teaching experience at Elmira College in New York and at Trenton State College, where he was assistant professor of theatre, scenic designer, and technical director; and administrative experience at Rochester Civic Theatre in Rochester, Minn., where he was executive/artistic director, and Temple Civic Theatre, where he was managing/artistic director. Welcome, Russ, and just a bit of advice: In your new job, you'll be dealing with some, shall we say, extreme personalities. Be especially patient with the managing director at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center. We hear she's new and just came from a job she held for eight and a half years. Call ACoT at 499-8388.
In last week's comments about changes at the State Theater Company, I erroneously reported that Don Toner had announced at a company meeting that Guy Roberts would be the company's new associate artistic director. In fact, Toner did not make such an announcement at that meeting and while Roberts has been approached about the position that was named, he is still in negotiations with the State's board of directors. I regret the error.