Theater names manager

Ross to succeed Pechar at Center Stage

April 23, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

Michael Ross, who oversaw the revitalization of the highly respected Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., will be named the new managing director of Center Stage today.

Ross, 42, succeeds Thomas Pechar, who resigned in November after 17 months. Pechar last week was named managing director of the Alliance Theatre Co. in Atlanta.

In July 2000, Pechar had succeeded Peter Culman, the driving force for 34 years behind Center Stage's emergence as one of the country's most respected and financially successful regional theaters.

"I'm really honored - that's the word I keep using - to be going to Center Stage," Ross said from New Haven yesterday. "It's a place I've admired for many years."

Ross, a Wisconsin native, is no stranger to Baltimore.

Before being named managing director at Long Wharf in 1997, he was the program officer and project director here with National Arts Stabilization, which awards grants to arts organizations to help them develop better management and financial practices.

He also worked at the Baltimore Opera Company from 1984 to 1985 before serving as general manager of the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut for 10 years.

Now he returns, thrilled, he says, by the prospect of working with Center Stage artistic director Irene Lewis and the rest of the theater's staff.

"It's the culture of the place," he said. "It's really a terrific group of people - the volunteers, the professional staff, the board of trustees."

Center Stage seems equally ecstatic to have him.

"I've been through this process before, and I don't ever remember there being such unanimity that this was a perfect fit," James T. Brady, president of the Center Stage board of trustees, said of Ross' selection.

"Peter [Culman] was the external image of Center Stage to most of the community," said Brady, who envisions a similar role for Ross. "Michael's an extraordinary people-oriented person."

Nancy Roche, past president of the board of trustees, said "Michael is characterized by energy and enthusiasm." She has served as acting managing director since Pechar's departure. " ... It feels as though a friend is coming home."

Roche said one of Ross' first priorities would be to oversee Center Stage's 40th anniversary season next year.

"He will be the leader to take us through a grand and glorious celebration," she said.

In some respects, Ross says, his new job in Baltimore will be similar to the one he leaves in New Haven.

Both the Long Wharf and Center Stage enjoy solid national reputations.

The Long Wharf Theater is now in its 37th season, with a $6.5 million annual budget, roughly 10,700 subscribers and an annual audience exceeding 100,000. Last year, it staged eight productions.

By contrast, Center Stage presented six productions and has a budget of $6.4 million, 13,100 annual subscribers and an annual audience that also exceeds 100,000.

His main priority in his new job, Ross said, would be "using my passion and enthusiasm to energize the theater.

"I have so many fond memories of Baltimore," he said. "I love the city. It's a vibrant city with a small-town feel. ... I'm so looking forward to house-hunting there."

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