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Richard Stein resigns as Laguna Playhouse director

In 17 years, he helped build the theater into a top-flight professional company.

June 29, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Richard Stein resigned suddenly this week after 17 years as executive director of the Laguna Playhouse, saying in a statement Thursday that he "longed to spend more time on the artistic side" of theater and couldn't do that while handling his job's business responsibilities.

Stein, 54, was a key figure in the playhouse's transformation from a respected, $800,000-a-year amateur theater, founded in 1920, to one of Southern California's front-rank professional companies, with a budget of more than $6 million and annual attendance of more than 100,000.

Artistic director Andrew Barnicle, Stein's longtime sidekick in running the theater, said Stein told him Tuesday that he was resigning, a decision that for Barnicle "came out of the blue."

"Certainly this is a big change," Andrew Donchak, president of the playhouse's board, said Thursday. "He had a lot to do with building this place to the level it's at now. He had some things he was thinking about doing on the artistic side, as opposed to the business area. We're sad to see him leave."

Barnicle, who arrived in 1991, a year after Stein, will divide executive responsibilities with Bob Crowson, the theater's chief financial officer, while a national search goes forward for a new executive director.

Stein could not be reached for further comment before deadline Thursday.

"I couldn't be more proud of my years here," he said in his statement. He typically directed one play each year, among them Neil LaBute's "The Shape of Things," Arthur Miller's "The Price" and the U.S. premiere of "The Master of the House" by Israeli playwright Shmuel Hasfari. He also helped Barnicle make play selections, including those for the 2007-08 season.

Stein leaves the theater with one long-term dream unfulfilled: carving a second stage for more adventurous plays out of an office building the playhouse owns next door to its 420-seat house. Donchak said that $5 million to $10 million has been raised for the project but that the overall scope won't be known until a current architectural and engineering phase is complete.

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