Michael Ross, managing director of Center Stage from 2002 to 2008, will return on July 1, 2016 to join the theater’s leadership team with Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Current managing director, Stephen Richard, announced his retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Last month, Center Stage embarked on a $32 million campaign to push both the building and artistic programming forward. Richard launched the capital campaign in November.
“At the time that the board renewed Stephen’s contract in 2013, he indicated that he wanted us to be somewhat flexible about his departure date. When he learned that Michael might be interested in returning to Center Stage, he asked us to consider moving up his retirement date,” said Terry Morgenthaler, Center Stage’s board president. “We know how extraordinary it is to be able to have a seamless leadership transition in the type of theater that has attracted talents like Stephen, Michael, and Kwame.”
“Stephen has been a wonderful partner to me and a great servant of Center Stage—we have achieved much together. His retiring, although a great thing for him, is a sad day for me. But my sadness is coupled with the great happiness in knowing that Michael Ross will rejoin his beloved Center Stage. Michael is an extraordinary human being and I am genuinely excited about working with him,” Kwei-Armah said.
Ross returns to Center Stage after seven years as the managing director of Westport Country Playhouse. Under his direction, Westport Playhouse was named the 2013 Theater Company of the Year by the Wall Street Journal. Ross was also responsible for launching the Playhouse’s award-winning Community and Educational Engagement Initiative, opening up the Playhouse campus to hundreds of partnerships and events each year. While at Center Stage, Ross played a role in bringing Kwei-Armah’s Elmina’s Kitchen to the theater for its U.S. premiere.
“Many of the initiatives that we will be pursuing in the campaign were ideas that Michael was intensely interested in when he was with us previously,” Morgenthaler said. “Michael absolutely has the experience, drive, and relationships to help Center Stage realize its vision for the future.”
“While I physically moved to Connecticut seven years ago, a big piece of my heart remained in Baltimore and with Center Stage,” Ross said. “It’s an honor and a complete joy to once again have the opportunity to work with Center Stage’s extraordinary staff and board, and this time to do so with Kwame, a man I so passionately admire both personally and professionally. I look forward to inheriting and building on the great work Stephen has done and to making sure Center Stage continues to be a vibrant and important force in the community.”
It has been a defining period under Kwei-Armah and Richard’s leadership marked by record-breaking sales, expanded national giving, the planning and conception of the new Center Stage building, and achievement of the first two-thirds of the $32 million Campaign for Center Stage.
“What a great time to be at Center Stage and a wonderful way to bring to a close my full-time career. Working with Center Stage staff, our marvelous board, and especially Kwame’s passion and brilliance has been a joy. Handing the reins (back) to Michael Ross is the perfect conclusion,” Richard said.
The Campaign for Center Stage, of which the theater has already received more than $21.5 million in gifts and pledges, will make possible a redesigned 400-seat Head Theater, new lobby and entrance plaza, a new 99-seat theater configuration, and a dedicated education and community programming studio. While the building at 700 N. Calvert St. is under construction, Center Stage will have a temporary residency at Towson University, where As You Like It and Detroit ’67, the final two productions of Center Stage’s 2015-16 Season, will be performed. Center Stage is also planning community programming at various locations in the greater Baltimore region while its building is closed for the renovations.
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