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Off-Broadway Troupes Change Creative Lineups

Three Off-Broadway theatres have announced changes in their artistic staffs in recent weeks. Theatre for a New Audience has hired a new executive director; the artistic director of Second Stage will be temporarily replaced; and the Public Theater has changed its working arrangement with the person who has overseen musical projects for many years.

Theatre for a New Audience (TFNA) is losing its most recent home at 111 W. 46th St., which it has rented from the American Place Theater (APT) for four years. As Back Stage previously reported ["Roundabout to Move into American Place's Spaces," Aug. 18], APT leased the three-stage venue for $5 per year, due to a special 30-year arrangement the building's owners struck with the city as they were erecting the building. Now that agreement is drawing to a close, the building has been sold, and APT learned the new landlord has a new deal with the Roundabout Theatre.

APT's imminent ejection from the space puts TFNA on the verge of homelessness. That is quite a shock to a company that only last season saw a production ("The Green Bird") move from its small Off-Broadway space to Broadway.

With the need for a new performance space now the company's paramount concern, TFNA has hired M. Edgar Rosenblum as its first full-time executive director. Rosenblum, who was also executive director of the Long Wharf Theatre during a particularly fruitful period, was also president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), founding president of the National Corporate Theatre Fund, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Arts Alliance.

Rosenblum will spearhead a major development program for TFNA, to facilitate the ownership of a permanent performance space and to expand its production schedule. He will work with Jeffrey Horowitz, who was the founder and continues as artistic director of TFNA.

Linn-Baker to Second Stage

Second Stage, a 20-year-old company that recently opened a new performance space at 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, announced this week that Mark Linn-Baker will take over artistic director responsibilities from Carole Rothman for eight months next year.

Rothman is taking a sabbatical from January through August to study and spend time with her family. In recent years she has overseen Second Stage's renovation of, and move to, its new 296-seat theatre. It launched the space with Lee Blessing's one-person play "Chesapeake," starring Linn-Baker, and followed that with the New York premiere of Stephen Sondheim's first Broadway commission, "Saturday Night" (which never made it to the Main Stem due to the death of producer Lemuel Ayres), and with August Wilson's "Jitney."

Linn-Baker is best known for starring in the television show "Perfect Strangers," but is also a stage actor with extensive credits as well as a founder and producing director of New York Stage & Film (NYSF). Two of that company's productions have won Tony Awards on Broadway: "Tru" by Jay Presson Allen earned a Best Actor Tony for Robert Morse, and "Side Man" by Warren Leight garnered a Best Play Tony and a Featured Actor Tony for Frank Wood. NYSF also co-produced "Chesapeake" with Second Stage.

Rothman, in a statement, expressed her approval of Linn-Baker, saying, "With Mark we get the best of both worlds: a fresh voice and someone who already knows the character and the quality of the work Second Stage is committed to producing." Linn-Baker was just as complementary about Second Stage, saying, "I am excited to work with a team of people who maintain such high artistic standards, and yet are not afraid to try something a little surprising."

Gone, but not gone

At the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, Wiley Hausam no longer holds his position as the maven of new musicals—and yet, as Public spokesperson Carol Fineman told Back Stage, "He's left, but he hasn't."

After seven years at the Public, Hausam has officially quit his staff job to become a consultant, but Fineman said the difference would not be apparent to any outsiders. Indeed, the theatre made it clear there's very little difference even within the institution.

"Wiley still does the 'Songbook Series' at Joe's Pub," on Monday nights, Fineman said; Tom Morrow, another Public press representative, said, "When we have a musical project, he'll still be doing that."

Fineman said that the Public—original producers of "A Chorus Line" and "Two Gentlemen of Verona," the musical that beat "Follies" for the Best Musical Tony in 1971, as well as "The Wild Party" on Broadway last season—is "not producing any musicals at this time."

That could change, since the whole 2000-01 season has not been announced, and Fineman said there are "a few in development, but I'm not sure what the next step will be in the process." If they do emerge as projects for this year, she reiterated, Hausam will oversee them, no matter what title he wears.

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