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Michael Wilson To Leave Hartford Stage After 13 Seasons

Artistic Director To Head to New York for Other Projects

by FRANK RIZZO

June 23, 2010

Michael Wilson, the energetic artistic director of Hartford Stage who embraced the works of Tennessee Williams, Horton Foote and new playwrights during his 13-year tenure, will leave the theater at the end of its 2010-11 season.

"I feel the strong call towards projects that may not exclusively involve Hartford Stage," he said Wednesday from the offices of outgoing board President Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford. "There are other things I need to explore for myself as an artist, and Hartford Stage deserves a leader that is engaged here full-throttle.

"It's hard to leave a place you really love, and this decision has been an excruciating one for me to make," said Wilson, 45.

He said his exit will coincide with a season that will be marked by the completion of the first phase of the Tony Award-winning theater's renovation and expansion.

In light of Wilson's departure, Michael Stotts, managing director of the theater for the past three years, is extending his contract which was set to expire this summer through Hartford Stage's 50th anniversary, which will take place in the 2013-14 season.

A nationwide search for Wilson's successor will begin as soon as possible, Harrison said, with the goal of naming a new artistic director by early next year. Jill Adams, vice president of the board, will lead the search for the theater's fifth artistic director after Wilson, Mark Lamos, Paul Weidner and founder Jacques Cartier.

Wilson said that he will be available to assure a smooth transition and that he hopes to return to make Hartford Stage his "artistic home."

Wilson's activities increasingly took him to New York, often waving the banner of Hartford Stage. Horton Foote's three-part, nine-hour "The Orphans' Home Cycle" recently completed its sold-out, acclaimed off-Broadway run, which Wilson commissioned, developed and directed. The epic co-production with the Signature Theatre Company premiered at Hartford Stage last fall.

Wilson will also be taking what is essentially Hartford Stage's 2008 production of Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" starring Olympia Dukakis to Roundabout Theatre Company in January. He is also involved in a planned Broadway production of Williams' "Night of the Iguana," with commercial producer Jeffrey Richards.

Williams has been a big part of Wilson's re-imaging of Hartford Stage since he arrived in Hartford as a 33-year-old associate director from Houston's Alley Theatre.

Through the years Wilson has also embraced the role of fundraiser and raised the community profile of the theater, forming associations with other local groups and the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.

Wilson said he is likely to sell his Hartford home, where he lives with his partner, set designer and artist Jeff Cowie.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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