Center Stage loses its director

Resignation: Tom Pechar says his management style is at odds with the theater's. The board agrees.

Theater

November 29, 2001|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

After 17 months as managing director of Center Stage, Tom Pechar resigned yesterday, effective immediately, saying in a written statement that "my management style is different from what Center Stage is looking for at this particular point in its history."

Pechar, 49, who began work at Center Stage in July 2000 after 12 years as managing director of the Seattle Children's Theatre, declined in a brief interview to elaborate much beyond his written resignation announcement.

"Management style, corporate culture are two very difficult concepts to expand upon. You know when they click and when they don't," Pechar said. "It's just a question of mesh, fit, click, whatever verb you want to use."

The feeling was evidently mutual between Pechar and the theater's board of trustees.

"There are no smoking guns here, there was no event," said board president James T. Brady, "just a collection of experiences that suggested to Tom and to us that it wasn't working well."

Brady said it had become apparent that Pechar applies a "laid-back management style. The Center Stage need is for a more pro-active style. ... We just needed someone with a different approach."

Brady could not elaborate on that or say when discussions about these differences began. "In the last 60 days these conversations accelerated," he said. "It was a continuation of a lot of discussions."

Pechar met with senior staffers briefly yesterday morning, thanking them for their work and announcing his resignation.

"It was a moving, direct, highly intelligent presentation on his part," said artistic director Irene Lewis. "This is a judgment call on his part. I think he knows best."

Brady acknowledged the transition from Pechar's predecessor, Peter Culman, "was not going to be a walk in the park for anybody."

Culman retired in June 2000, having cultivated a reputation for inspiring leadership, passion for the stage and fund-raising prowess. In 34 years, he steered the non-profit organization through financial straits and a 1974 fire that destroyed its North Avenue theater.

The 300-seat theater on rocky financial footing that Culman took over in 1966 now has two auditoriums seating 900 people, an $18.5 million endowment and a national reputation for quality productions of classic drama and works by new playwrights. Center Stage is now in its 39th season.

It took about a year for the theater to find Culman's successor. Brady said in a statement that he has asked the board's search committee to begin considering "the short and long-term issues" raised by Pechar's resignation.

Pechar says it's too soon to say, but for the time being he is planning to stay in the Baltimore area. He lives with his wife and two children in Ruxton.

"One never knows, as has just been proven," Pechar said. "I will be open to opportunities that may arise in the Baltimore area."

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