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Patch moves to Old Globe

South Coast dramaturge will be the resident artistic director at the San Diego theater.

February 10, 2005|Don Shirley | Times Staff Writer

Jerry Patch, the veteran dramaturge at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, will move south to the Old Globe in San Diego, where he has been named to the newly created position of resident artistic director.

Old Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien has extended his Old Globe contract through the 2007-08 season -- but he's taking a pay cut. Patch will have the final say on assembling the Old Globe programming, said the company's executive director, Louis Spisto.

The word "resident" in Patch's title recognizes that O'Brien's high-flying career frequently takes him out of San Diego. The recipient of Tony Awards as a Broadway director in 2003 and 2004, O'Brien is currently staging "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" on Broadway and will co-direct the movie version of the "Hairspray" musical that won him his 2003 Tony.

"It has been clear that this is a huge strain," O'Brien said. "I didn't want to say, 'Love you, kid. Bye,' and turn my back on my home, but I do want to be responsible. The paradigm has changed. I don't think a functioning director should run a major theater. It compromises your assignments and your ability to be creative and faithful to the organization."

Regarding his pay cut, he said, "Now that I'm getting royalties from musicals, I don't need to pull down the salary I was making [at the Old Globe]. I don't believe people should be fleecing a nonprofit." He and Spisto declined to be specific about the size of the cut. Tax records report that O'Brien's 2003 salary was $195,361.

Although the Old Globe has become a leading source of new musicals, the appointment of Patch could raise the theater's profile as a center for new plays. Patch played a key role in developing such renowned plays as Donald Margulies' "Sight Unseen," Howard Korder's "Search and Destroy," Margaret Edson's "Wit" and Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain" at South Coast.

"He's one of the outstanding dramaturgical minds in the American theater," said David Emmes, South Coast's producing artistic director. "I've never met anyone with his insight into new plays."

In addition to his work at South Coast, Patch was the artistic director of the Sundance Theatre Program from 1990 to 1997 and taught at Long Beach City College for many years.

The Old Globe has "never had anyone coming into play from the dramaturgical end as opposed to the directing side," O'Brien said. "We've got the classical end covered, but we've never been able to get a major grip on contemporary writing styles."

However, Patch cautioned that the Old Globe won't immediately assume South Coast's reputation for new play development. "South Coast has built a better structure to support new work than any other theater in the country. The Globe doesn't have those resources. The money is not in place."

Spisto emphasized that Patch "will oversee the day-to-day artistic process" on all productions, not just new plays. "Jerry is quite knowledgeable about the entire canon."

When he worked on classics at South Coast, Patch said, he relied more heavily on other members of the company's literary staff than he did with new plays. At the Old Globe, he said he would call on Old Globe artistic associate Dakin Matthews and Darko Tresnjak, director of the theater's summer Shakespeare repertory.

Meanwhile, Spisto said, O'Brien "will continue to bring us the large-scale projects and terrific directors."

"My favorite sport is collaboration," O'Brien said. "I want a producing hub around which various directors can satellite."

Craig Noel, 89, who ran the Old Globe from 1947 until he became executive director upon O'Brien's arrival in 1982, has also held the title of artistic director since 2002.

But last month he told The Times that the theater had too many artistic directors. His title now will be founding director, Spisto said.

Patch, 62, said he will discuss all artistic decisions with O'Brien, Noel and Spisto.

The idea of multiple artistic directors, he said, is not unusual for him; South Coast is jointly run by Emmes and Martin Benson.

Said Emmes: "Instead of the David and Martin show, it'll be the Jack and Jerry show."

Emmes added that "as much as we will sorely miss" Patch, "we can only wish him well. It's a unique opportunity for him to run his own shop."

As to who will lead that work at South Coast, "we are in an assessment mode," Emmes said.

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