New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre is looking to its newly-hired managing director for help in solving its financial woes, while maintaining and expanding upon the theater’s artistic vision.
After a six-month nationwide search, the Long Wharf Theatre recently hired Michael Stotts, a longtime veteran of the New England stage, who is set to succeed current director Michael Ross in January.
Stotts said he is excited about the opportunity to work in New Haven and is also looking forward to building another theater. He said he hopes the theater will be a “major edifice for New Haven and help define it as an arts city.”
Stotts’ first order of business will be to resolve the budget deficit that currently weighs on the Long Wharf. While dealing with the current financial situation, Stotts said he hopes to work together with the staff and the board of directors to decide how to establish new artistic director Gordon Edelstein’s vision as well as how to expand the theater in the future.
Stotts has a long and varied history in theater. He graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in theater management and is currently the managing director of George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, N.J. Previously, he was the managing director of the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival for nine seasons, and it was under his leadership that the multimillion-dollar F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre opened in 1998. Stotts also served as the chairman of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and was an active member of the board of ArtPride/New Jersey, an arts advocacy organization.
Mary L. Pepe, chairwoman of the managing director search committee, said this varied experience was an important factor in Stotts’ selection.
“[Stotts] balances all the qualities that we think we’re going to need,” Pepe said. “He is a strong financial manager and has significant experience in fund-raising as well as building a theater.”
Stotts himself said this wide-ranging experience in fiscal management makes him a stronger manager, and he thinks he is ready to take on the challenges of the new position.
Pepe also said another important factor in selecting Stotts was his ability to work well with his staff. She added that Stotts has a complementary relationship with new artistic director Gordon Edelstein, also recruited after the six-month nationwide search.
“They both have a vision for the theater and respect each other’s roles, so they have an artistic vision but also the fiscal accountability to go along with it,” Pepe said.
Stotts also said he hopes the community and other people involved with the Long Wharf Theatre will assist in the process of revitalizing the existing theater as well as supporting the creation of another.
“The development of theater will have to involve major stockholders, the government, Yale University, and other constituents of New Haven,” he said.
With his artistic vision and desire to create something fresh and new in New Haven’s arts scene, Stotts looks to theater for cultural improvement.
“I don’t think that any society can exist without art and culture,” Stotts said. “It is intrinsic to what humanity is all about, and the things by which we measure the success of a society. We need cultural things to feed on and make us better human beings.”