Michael Ross, the managing director of Long Wharf Theatre, will be leaving for a similar position at Baltimore’s Center Stage Theater at the end of June.
Ross has served as managing director of Long Wharf since 1997, after serving as program officer and project director for National Arts Stabilization and as general manager of the Hartford Stage Company. Ross’s departure coincides with the arrival of Gordon Edelstein, who was selected as Long Wharf’s new artistic director earlier this year.
“It’s a good time for the change for Long Wharf,” Ross said. “I think it’s the right time to let other leadership come in here.”
Barbara Pearce, the chairwoman of Long Wharf’s Board of Trustees, said Ross’s departure would give the theater the chance to find a managing director that will be a “good match” for Edelstein. But Pearce added that Ross would be missed.
“We’ll be sad to see him go,” Pearce said. “We’re very fond of Michael and he’s done wonderful work for us, and he’s built wonderful bridges to the community.”
Ross said the work Center Stage has done over the years — which he had a chance to witness when he last lived in Baltimore — influenced his decision to accept the job.
“I just think it’s one of the great regional theaters in the country, and a favorite of mine,” he said.
Nancy Roche, interim managing director of Center Stage, said Ross was selected because of his ability to be both a leader and a public representative for the theater.
“I think that we have looked with admiration with the consummate skill that Michael has had in a bumpy situation [at Long Wharf],” Roche said.
During his time at Long Wharf, Ross has made progress in the search for a new home for the theater, in addition to increasing its audience and donor base and improving the theater’s financial status. All of this was accomplished despite the theater’s recent change in artistic direction.
“He saw them through some major decisions, some difficult decisions,” said Elizabeth Monz, the New Haven Art Council’s Regional Cultural Plan Director.
This is not the first time Ross has been contacted by Center Stage about a position, nor is it the first time Ross has been interested in working at the theater.
“I’ve actually contacted them a couple of times over the years, and they’ve done the same to me,” Ross said. “This, I think, is finally when all the stars have aligned for both of us.”
Ross said he believes Long Wharf will be in good shape after his departure.
“I think we’re setting up a lot of good things,” he said. “It’s been a tough year but I think we’re coming out of the year in fairly good shape. I think I’m leaving it at a … solid starting point for the new director.”