Top Shubert official leaves post for Ohio

The list seems to grow longer every week: the Long Wharf Theatre, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the New Haven Ballet, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Yale School of Drama. Over the last year, the heads of six major arts organizations in the city have stepped down — some voluntarily, some not.

Add New Haven’s Shubert Performing Arts Center to their ranks. Douglas Kridler, president of Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, the company that runs the Shubert, is leaving his job in February. Kridler will lead the Columbus Foundation, a well-respected community organization in Ohio.

“It’s been a year of great upheaval for [New Haven arts],” said Frances “Bitsie” Clark, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.

Kridler did not return calls requesting comment.

In July, the city hired CAPA — which Kridler has run for 17 years — to manage the theater. CAPA also manages theaters in Ohio and Chicago. The decision to hire an outside management firm was made after Shubert management reported in March that they would have a $1.2 million deficit at the end of the year.

Since Kridler split his time between CAPA’s different venues, his departure may not have an immediate impact on the Shubert.

“It’s important to remember that [Kridler] was based in Ohio,” said Henry Fernandez, New Haven’s economic development administrator.

City arts leaders and employees at the Shubert had nothing but praise for Kridler’s four-month-old tenure.

“With all the changes, better things have come,” Fernandez said.

Clark called the theater’s programming under CAPA “brilliant,” even though the company took control late in the theater season and had to scramble to put together a program. Normally, theaters put together the year’s lineup in the spring, but CAPA did not take over until the summer.

While the theater has streamlined in recent years and changed management, ground-level continuity may not be a problem.

“The organization is strong on its own,” Fernandez said. “One of the things you can say about [Kridler] is that he built a strong organization around himself and left many key people there.”

Even though the Shubert Performing Arts Center, Inc. laid off workers before CAPA assumed control, most of the current staff were retained.

“His leaving does not really affect [day-to-day operations],” said Anthony Lupinacci, the director of marketing and public relations at the theater.

But according to Clark, what remains unclear is how much of a hand Kridler had in the programming.

“If he’s the genius behind the programming, then it’s a great loss,” Clark said.

Kridler’s departure also comes at what Clark calls a “terrible time for theaters.” Since Sept. 11, the Yale Repertory Theatre has seen a drastic drop in subscriptions, as have theaters across the country.

Although Shubert officials declined to provide figures, the Shubert may be no exception to this trend.

“Subscriptions are down,” said Susan Jackson, the director of ticket services at the Shubert.

Jackson added that last-minute ticket sales were largely making up the difference.

Whatever the effect of Kridler’s departure, Clark said that his new job will be “very exciting.”

“He will perhaps be a great boon to the arts in his community,” she said.

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