Actors Guild’s artistic director announces he’ll leave by the end of the season

Actors Guild of Lexington artistic director Richard St. Peter and managing director Kimberly Shaw photographed in the theater's new officies in the Distillery District. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

Actors Guild of Lexington artistic director Richard St. Peter and managing director Kimberly Shaw photographed in May in the theater's new offices in the Distillery District. Photo by Rich Copley | LexGo.com.

Actors Guild of Lexington Artistic Director Richard St. Peter has told the theater’s board that he will be leaving by the end of the 2009-10 season to pursue a doctorate degree in theater.

St. Peter declined to say where he will be going to graduate school, as he has not finalized those plans with the school. He did say that his departure is not a reaction to Actors Guild’s recent financial troubles which came to a head in June when LexArts declined to grant the theater an allocation for general operating funds.

“I want to stress as much as I can that this is not a bad thing, not death or disaster,” St. Peter said Saturday night. “It’s just the next thing.”

St. Peter said he is not leaving immediately and expects to negotiate a departure time with the theater’s board, when a succession plan is in place.

Actors Guild board president Jennifer Miller said that St. Peter’s decision was of his own volition. She said she had been aware he was contemplating pursuing a doctorate, but was still surprised when he informed her of his plans this weekend.

She said the theater’s board has not had a chance to meet and discuss searching for a successor, but she expected it would be a little while before that effort starts.

“We don’t want to make rapid decisions, we want to make the right decisions,” Miller said.

St. Peter arrived at Actors Guild in 2004, after a national search was conducted to find a successor to Kevin Hardesty. He came from Virginia, where he studied theater at Christopher Newport University in Newport News and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He worked at Barksdale Theatre and TheatreVirginia, both in Richmond.

St. Peter arrived with a charge to increase Actors Guild’s professionalism and did so, primarily by engaging local and out-of-town actors who were members of Actors Equity, the stage actors union. Under St. Peter’s direction, the theater also staged several world premiers including Georgetown-based writer Charles Edward Pogue’s adaptation of Tartuffe, Silas House’s Long Time Traveling and Brian Hampton’s Checking In, which had its New York premier last month, under St. Peter’s direction. The theater also received national recognition for St. Peter’s multimedia production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

But the theater has also chaffed under a series of financial travails both before and after St. Peter arrived, including the current situation, which has the theater working to dig itself out of a deficit that rose to $43,220 according the theater’s last tax return.

At the moment, the theater staff, including St. Peter, is working without pay as Miller says it works settle external financial obligations.

“Cash-flow has been and continues to be a problem,” St. Peter says. “We have been assured we will be caught up.”

Despite the financial travails and St. Peter’s departure, he and Miller maintained that they believe Actors Guild is a viable institution that will survive. And considering the overall state of theater in the United States, which has suffered during the recession, St. Peter says there will be interest in the AGL job.

“Nobody else is hiring,” St. Peter said, “so anyone who is in the market will give Actors Guild a look.”

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6 Responses to Actors Guild’s artistic director announces he’ll leave by the end of the season

  1. Good says:

    The idea that this decision is not influenced by the recent developments of the theatre is bizarre when compared to the statements made by Mr. St. Peter about his plans for Equity contracts and future plans for the theatre. It would appear a lie was told in either this statement or one of the previous ones. I look forward to finding out which one soon. New leadership should prove a good thing for this organization, I don’t believe it fair to claim all of the success of an organization and none of the failure. With luck Actor’s will find a leader to take care of the group and lead it to better times. They should look quickly rather then wait for the year to pass them by.

  2. Mr. St. Peter doesn’t claim anything in this article one way or the other about his successes. Mr. Copley states some facts about how Mr. St. Peter raised the artistic level of the theatre’s work, facts generally acknowledged by all except a disgruntled few.

    As a theatre/film professional with over thirty-five years experience in LA, London, across the U.S. and Europe, I can say that my working as both a writer and an actor with Mr. St. Peter has made for some of the most inspiring and fulfilling artistic moments of my life. We did good work together. I trust, wherever he goes, we will continue to do good work together. His loss to the theatre and the loss of his vision for it is a loss to Lexington, though there are those too short-sighted to realize it. But other theatre professionals understand.

    I did wonder who would be the first petty, small-minded individual to gloat over Mr. St. Peter’s departure. Naturally, it would someone without the courage to put his name to his opinion.

  3. Robert Parks Johnson says:

    I’ve never worked with Rick St. Peter, but it seems to me that he has steered the course he was hired to pilot. AGL’s board wanted a professional equity company and found a leader who might have gotten them there with enough support. One thing Actors’ Guild’s history has taught us is that the board has to be much more active and knowledgeable than was once the case. On it’s own, a small professional staff cannot do all the work required for the company to grow. Likewise, without complete transparency and understanding of the realities of running a theatre business, a board cannot provide the support and oversight that the company requires to survive.

    That Actors’ Guild’s staff continues to work without pay to help save the company tells a lot about the courage and integrity of these people and their leadership. Like many before them, they are sacrificing their own security to serve a community and a company that they believe is worth the effort. When these hard times have passed, AGL’s future success will be part of their legacy. We who claim to love the theatre owe them a debt of gratitude.

    “Good”? Get a new screen name. Your resentment is bad for the community and bad for you. May I suggest “Grudge”?

  4. Jeff says:

    “Good” made a valid point. There have been discrepancies in the Actors Guild stories this past year. It does strike me as odd that the Artistic Director of the theatre would be leaving suddenly and it has nothing to do with the current news.

    I for one would be very sad to see AGL go, it is an important part of this community. Equity and professional ambitions are a good thing, and I believe that LexArts decisions about AGL seem suspicious at best.

    That aside it must be true that St. Peter was planning to leave before now. I doubt the PhD acceptance process happens overnight.

    Actors Guild needs a new leader, someone to care for the theatre as well as the community. St. Peter can move on to a PhD (how wonderful for him) and Actors Guild can move on to getting things running again.

    Best wishes to the staff members who are getting on with the show.

  5. Pingback: Copious Notes » Blog Archive » Discuss: What does Actors Guild need in a new artistic director?

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