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Curtain rising slowly on South Coast Repertory's next leadership era

November 10, 2010 |  6:28 am

SouthCoastRepBartletti South Coast Repertory is running behind schedule in choosing a new artistic director, but that’s understandable. Succession at the top is a drill the Costa Mesa theater never has run before.

In February, founders Martin Benson and David Emmes, who launched the company in 1964, announced they would be stepping down after 46 seasons, outlining a gradualist transition that would include naming their successor by the start of the current season.

But the season is into its third month  and there’s still no heir apparent to the two artistic directors, who intend to remain active even after the choice is made by continuing to direct plays and have a say in what gets staged in the seasons ahead.

BensonEmmesBoster The selection won’t come until January at the soonest, SCR spokeswoman Soyia Ellison said Tuesday, meaning that the Benson-Emmes tenure will extend to its 48th calendar year.  The delay stems from having more good candidates than expected, she said, as well as scheduling difficulties arising from the fact that the applicants and the interviewers on SCR’s selection committee “are all pretty busy people.”

The hope now, Ellison said,  is to have a new artistic director on board by April, when play choices for the 2011-12 season will be solidified. The list of contenders, she said, has been winnowed from 70 names initially to about 10 or 12 contenders. 

There’s no terrible hurry, she said, because “our guys aren’t going anywhere.”

It's perhaps worth noting at this juncture that when South Coast Rep opened its first permanent home in March 1965 (after touring with "Tartuffe" the previous year), the play on the boards was "Waiting for Godot." This time, we're reasonably sure that the awaited personage eventually will arrive.

In other news of theatrical comings and goings, Seattle publications reported recently that Brian Colburn, former managing director of the Pasadena Playhouse, recently got bounced from his executive post at the Intiman Theatre. In an unusual development for the nonprofit arts world, where keeping mum is the rule of thumb when unexpected high-ranking personnel switches occur, the Intiman's board president was quoted as saying that the theater had suffered "management missteps" and that "operational oversight has fallen short of Intiman's high standards."

Colburn made L.A. headlines last year after the New York Times quoted him making what seemed to be an unfavorable comparison between the Los Angeles theater scene and Seattle's: “One of the reasons I came to Seattle was because there’s a theater scene here unlike most other cities. There’s probably as much theater here as in the city of Los Angeles, but the population is one-sixth the size."

In a subsequent letter to the Los Angeles Times, Colburn said his remarks had been misconstrued and apologized for any offense taken.

-- Mike Boehm

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 Photos: South Coast Repertory; Martin Benson (L) and David Emmes. Credits: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times (top); Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.