Remy Bumppo Theatre Company said Wednesday that its new artistic director, Timothy Douglas, has resigned halfway into his first season.
Douglas, who succeeded the retiring James Bohnen, the theater's founder in 1996, was heralded as a major hire for the company, which operates with an ensemble of resident artists. One of those actors, Nick Sandys, is to take over the artistic direction of the company effective at the end of this month. Douglas won't direct any more of the shows this season.
Douglas confirmed his decision to leave Wednesday and, by way of explanation, said that he and Remy Bumppo "were not a good fit." Douglas said he had not made future plans, but was likely to return to freelance directing and coaching and pursue teaching positions.
Remy Bumppo board and ensemble members said they made a prolonged effort to get Douglas to stay. "We were surprised at his decision," said Karen Randolph, the board chairman who led the search team that hired Douglas. A Remy Bumppo spokesman said that Randolph had spent several weeks trying to resolve things with Douglas but was not successful.
Douglas' first two productions were indicative of a very different style of directing than was previously the case at Remy Bumppo. Douglas also had expressed his intent to diversify both the acting ensemble and the theater's programming. Therein, issues clearly arose. "There is a great organizational commitment to those resident artists," Douglas said, saying that he had a "different approach," even if the goals were similar. It had proved, Douglas said, organizationally and financially difficult to increase the size of the ensemble of a theater company always among Chicago's smaller Equity troupes.
Remy Bumppo performs at the Greenhouse Theater Center, but Douglas had said he planned to look for a new, better space. That will now be someone else's job.
This is not the first time in Chicago that a powerful group of ensemble actors have disagreed with the artistic director hired to run the company. Similar issues evolved at American Theater Company, resulting in the acting company leaving en mass. This time, the new artistic director is the one resigning.