A new CEO for ARTSCenter Stage; some bad luck for a pair of former Austin actors.
CEO for ARTS
Cross another item off the big to-do list for ARTS Center Stage in its big campaign to create a performing arts center out of Palmer Auditorium. The company's board of trustees has found its first president and chief executive officer, i.e., the person who will shepherd this massive project through the rest of the design process, the actual physical metamorphosis of Palmer into the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts, the raising of the other $50 million or so needed to make the makeover complete (plus any funds that ARTS might want to raise for an operations endowment), then, once it's built, run the thing. Not a job for just any old arts administrator. Which is why the ARTS board did what an awful lot of Austin arts companies have done of late: It conducted a nationwide search. After looking at several highly qualified folks from across the land, the board selected David W. Fleming, an administrator with more than 20 years' experience in the field programming and managing arts centers, raising cash, and generally being a heavy-duty cultural guy. For the last eight years, Fleming has served as president of the New Brunswick Cultural Center in New Jersey. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del., for 12 years. He co-founded and is now president of the Consortium of Eastern Regional Theatres, is a volunteer consultant and board member for the League of Historic American Theatres, and was key in founding Delaware's $22 million Arts Stabilization Endowment. Fleming starts work at ARTS in July.
Austin Exes' Ups & Downs
For a pair of former lights of the local theatre scene, the last month has been a real "good news/bad news" point in their stage careers. For Starla Benford -- star of Sonnata Blue, a 1990 solo work by Sharon Bridgforth, and Blanche in the 1986 production of A Streetcar Named Desire at Capitol City Playhouse -- the good news was a job on Broadway, playing one of the Weird Sisters in a new production of Macbeth starring Kelsey Grammer. The bad news: The production was roundly panned, and word came down this week that the production was closing after only 13 performances.
For Dan Sullivan, Sky Masterson in the 1997 Zilker Summer Musical production of Guys and Dolls and a member of the Naughty Austin musical comedy troupe, the good news was a 16-week gig with travel to exotic locales via a job on a round-the-world cruise. The bad news: Just 39 days into the cruise, the owner ran out of money and canceled the rest of the trip. And not only did he cancel the cruise, he refused to pay the crew or fly them home once the ship docked in Tahiti on May 23. The crew retaliated by arresting the ship, so that it cannot leave Tahiti until the entire crew has been paid and given flights home. According to Tahitian law, crew members are protected as long as they continue to live on the ship. But they can't leave and get a job elsewhere, and they can't work in Tahiti without visas, so they're stuck there with nothing to do but wait it out, hoping the owner will accede to a judge's order that they be paid. But as of June 15, 23 days after the ship docked, the owner was still holding out, and Sullivan and his fiancée were still stuck in the beautiful-but-expensive Tahiti. Friends seeking to contact Sullivan can do so by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Blake Yelavich for the tip on Dan's current situation.