Steve Campo, the founding artistic and executive director of Hartford's TheaterWorks for its 26 years, is taking an indefinite medical disability leave from the theater, effective immediately.
Senior artistic associate Rob Ruggiero -- who has been with the theater for 18 years, most of them as associate artistic director -- will take over the leading artistic role in the interim and will work on planning the 2012-2013 season.
Michael Albano, secretary of the theater's board, says that Campo, 59, is expected to return to his role with the theater.
The nature of the medical disability was not disclosed, but Ruggiero says it is not life-threatening. Campo was not available for comment.
"Steve had been struggling with some ongoing health issues for a while now and has decided he needed to seek a disability leave to address them," says Ruggiero who is in New York casting a show for Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park.
"Even though I will be directing numerous outside projects as usual," he says, "I have agreed to take a more active hand in the artistic leadership and will be meeting with the board when I return to Hartford to clarify that involvement."
Ruggiero will not be involved in the day-to-day management of the theater. "We have a wonderful staff who, under the guidance of our board, will make certain all runs as normal."
Throughout its growth, the theater has maintained a lean operation with Campo overseeing every detail as artistic director, business manager and landlord. (It owns its four-story, Art Deco building in downtown Hartford and leases office space there to businesses and other arts groups)
The theater has a staff of 12 and operating budget of $1.8 million. The 200-seat theater also has one of the largest subscription bases in the state at 6,000. It also operates an art gallery on its first floor.
TheaterWorks, like other not-for-profit arts groups, is experiencing a decline incorporate support, a significant revenue stream for the entrepreneurial theater.
The theater was also battered last month with publicity surrounding the American regional premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' "The Motherf----- with the Hat" following the playwright's objections to the theater's casting process and its response over Guirgis' concerns with the production.
The theater's next production, Philip Hayes Dean's "The Sty of the Blind Pig," begins performances Jan. 20. Tazewell Thompson directs that production as well as the next, the Tony Award-winning play, "Red," which opens in late March. Ruggiero is slated to stage the final two shows of the 2011-12 season: Donald Margulies' "Time Stands Still" and Neil LaBute's "Reasons to be Pretty."
Ruggiero, has been busy with his own career, including two Broadway productions: Matthew Lombardo's "Looped" and "High," the latter which premiered at TheaterWorks and starred Kathleen Turner. He recently staged "Sunday in the Park with George" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and will direct "Carousel" at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam later this year.
Campo has not directed a play at the theater since "The Lady with All the Answers" two years ago. With Ruggiero's outside projects, Thompson has been tapped to direct most of the productions in the past two seasons. With "Red," he will have staged five out of the last six shows at the theater.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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