Friday, May 21, 2010

Next Theatre's Artistic Director Resigns

Hate to distract from the news below (which is much more fun) but: Chris Jones reported today that Jason Southerland, who has been Artistic Director at Next Theatre for only 18 months, resigned this morning, citing a relationship with the board that "didn't click." Jones' article also cites financial troubles at the theatre, with staff members being asked to take pay cuts.

It's worrisome stuff. Next has been a major force in Chicago theatre for decades (indeed, the upcoming season is the 30th), and it wold be very sad to see them fall victim to these perilous times. Hopefully things will stabilize and improve for them soon.

However, all of this should make the opening of War With the Newts, which I'm reviewing on Monday, more interesting.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Southerland makes one of his typical self serving statements saying that he is resigning because he did not click with the board. His dishonesty, both artistically and personally, caused the quoted impasse, as well as leading to legal complications for the theater. And, he is singularly responsible for the current financial problems of the theater, just as he was in Boston at Boston Theater Works. In his short tenure, he has come close to destroying a vigorous important Chicago area institution. Knowing that he is planning to stay in Chicago is troublesome at best.

Zev Valancy said...

That's very disturbing to hear. Can you give examples of his artistic and personal dishonesty or explain how he is responsible for the company's financial troubles?

Anonymous said...

First, his financial decisions. He dawdled so long in sending out the theater's seasonal renewal mailing (it coincided with the opening of the first play of the season last fall instead of in the spring), that The Next lost hundreds of season ticket sales as compared with the prior 2008-2009 season. That caused a shortfall in five figures. He drove away some long time donors to the theater, losing another five figures. And, finally, his leadership (or lack thereof) led to the cancelling of the spring fundraiser that normally raises upwards of $20,000. Those three issues alone constitute as much as $75,000 in lost funding. And, check back a couple of years in The Boston Globe to see that his theater company collapsed from financial problems. Finally, how is he dishonest. Just check on the legal situation around the final play he helmed at Next, "Return to Haifa." Also, he was heard to exclaim loudly this past fall about how well the play that he directed "Boom" was selling despite the less than glowing reviews. It appears that "Boom" was one of the worst selling shows in the theater's twenty-nine year history, maybe the worst ever.

Zev Valancy said...

That's all pretty bad--it will be interesting to see how much of it ends up publicly substantiated. For more on the really unfortunate legal situation, see the post above.

(And Anonymous--if you have confirmation on any of this or more information, please email me.)

Anonymous said...

To continue the thread above, check out this link: which goes into a bit of detail regarding Southerland's legal issues.

P J R said...

This is quite sad for Next Theatre. From all accounts of their history and reviews this has been a very important and vibrant part of the Chicago arts world.

However, if the board of Next had done their due diligence; they would have found out a lot more from Boston than they did from whomever they contacted. Boston Theatre Works was left in financial ruins and Southerland basically ran it into the ground and skipped town. He is a much better actor than director as he has fooled many. Mr. Southerland had several "impasses" and "didn't click" with most board members at BTW over the years. All one has to do is look deep into Boston and ask questions and they story will unfold.

Ask some questions about what happened with ART at Harvard and how he left before completing his MS degree due "artistic differences with the head of ART".

The writing is on the wall.