In a surprise move, Martin Manulis, artistic co-director of the Center Theatre Group Ahmanson, who came to the post last January, has submitted his resignation effective July 1, 1988.
Although he had a two-year contract, Manulis is exercising his contractual right to leave after only one season. He was still sharing the post with Robert Fryer who had held the position for 16 years and whom Manulis was scheduled to succeed at the end of the 1987-88 season.
"I hadn't realized the extent of the job to be done," the 72-year-old Manulis said Monday, citing among the problems the configuration of the house, the difficulty of putting a season together, finding the talent, extending the number of playing weeks (to offset high costs) and finding ways to fill the theater for the 12 weeks of summer.
"The (Center Theatre Group) board wants to embark on a five-year plan to bring a new image to the Ahmanson," he added . "(Board president) Lawrence Ramer and I have formed a search panel which includes (board members) Douglas Cramer, Franklin Schaffner, Nick Vanoff and the two of us, as well as Bobby Fryer and Bill Wingate (executive managing director of Center Theatre Group)."
An Ahmanson press release echoes this, also stating that the committee will search for "persons with a strong theatrical background willing to make an exclusive long-term commitment to the theater."
Why didn't the challenge interest Manulis?
"Frankly it's a better challenge for a younger man," he said. "I don't see myself as a candidate. I'm not interested in making a commitment of this intensity," adding that he had not been fully aware of the magnitude of the problems confronting the theater when he came aboard.
Was it a bigger task than he'd anticipated?
"Oh, absolutely. To do it well, you have to rethink the whole thing. You can't just limp along. We did a Band-Aid job this year, bringing subscriptions up beyond last year's level--just beyond. It's no great shakes but we did stop the drop. There's an enormous amount of work to be done. It can't just be patching.
"I didn't have to declare myself this early. I could have let the board know in January, but morally I felt it was important to do it now. It seems a shame not to start (the search) right away."
Ramer, who was on a plane at press time and could not be reached for comment, stated in the press release that "the committee will undertake an exhaustive nationwide search for a candidate."