Actors Guild of Lexington Artistic Director Richard St. Peter has told the theater's board he will leave by the end of the 2009-10 season to pursue a doctoral degree in theater.
St. Peter declined to say where he will go to graduate school, as he has not finalized those plans with the school. He did say 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 expects to negotiate a departure time with the theater's board, when a succession plan is in place.
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Actors Guild board president Jennifer Miller said 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.
"We don't want to make rapid decisions, we want to make the right decisions," Miller said.
St. Peter came to Actors Guild in 2004, after a national search for a successor to Kevin Hardesty. St. Peter 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 premieres, including Georgetown-based writer Charles Edward Pogue's adaptation of Tartuffe, Silas Houses' Long Time Traveling and Brian Hampton's Checking In, which had its New York premiere 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 chafed 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 to 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 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."