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Classic stage company Antaeus parts with artistic director

July 15, 2011 |  6:00 am

AntaeusJeanieHackettBillBrochtrup2005 There’s been a leadership change at Antaeus Company, the North Hollywood troupe where familiar faces from film and television often can be seen acting out their love of classic stage repertory.

Jeanie Hackett is out after eight years as artistic director or co-artistic director, Antaeus officials said Thursday; her contract was not renewed when it ran out June 30. Hackett was in New York City and could not be reached. The change was first reported Thursday by the theater newspaper Backstage.

Kitty Swink and Bill Brochtrup are the interim co-artistic directors as the company searches for full-time leadership. Swink said she expects Hackett's successor -- or successors -- will be on board in time to help pick plays for the 2012 season to be announced in October.

“People really liked Jeanie and were knocked out by whats she’s done. She really grew the company,” Swink said Thursday.

Antaeus' tax returns show annual average revenues of nearly $300,000 from 2007 to 2009, up from about $70,000 a year in the early 2000s before Hackett's tenure. Most of the increase stemmed from ramped-up fundraising. Hackett earned $36,000 as artistic director in 2009, the most recent year available.

She remains a member of the acting ensemble, Swink said. It includes stalwarts such as Dakin Matthews, who founded Antaeus in 1991 and stepped down as artistic director after 2002; Emily Bergl; Anne Gee Byrd; Harry Groener; Arye Gross; Gregory Itzin; and Jane Kaczmarek.

Swink said Antaeus projects typically “bubble up from the bottom,” as company members propose plays they’d like to explore. She foresaw no change going forward. 

Matthews named Antaeus after a mythical giant who was unbeatable as long as he kept his feet on the ground -– the point being that great acting is powered by a grounding in the classics.  One of the company’s hallmarks is double-casting –- two actors rehearse and perform each role, so that committing to a play doesn’t have to mean sacrificing far more lucrative screen opportunities that may come up during a play's run.

One immediate unknown is whether Hackett will direct “The Third Act Project” as scheduled on Aug. 13-14. The evening of staged readings of the third acts of three plays by Anton Chekhov is part of “Classicsfest,” Antaeus' annual summer series of play readings, workshops and other events, which began Wednesday and runs through Aug. 20. Swink said that while Hackett hasn’t confirmed that she’s sticking with the project, “I’m going under the assumption she’s going to do it.”


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Photo: Jeanie Hackett and Bill Brochtrup perform in Antaeus Company's 2005 co-production (with Theatre@Boston Court) of Sinan Unel's "Pera Pelas." Credit: John Apicella