Founder leaves Northern Stage unexpectedly
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | November 18,2012
Brooke Ciardelli is no longer artistic director of Northern Stage, the $2 million theater she created 16 years ago.
The woman who, from scratch, built White River Junction’s Northern Stage, one of the Northeast’s most successful professional theaters, is suddenly no longer part of it.
“The company has recently hired a new executive director, and he will be at the helm of the organization, leading Northern Stage into the next stage of its evolution,” Brooke Wetzel Ciardelli said in a surprise announcement Friday.
A joint statement scheduled for release this week states, “The Board of Directors and Founding Artistic Director Brooke Ciardelli have agreed that the current production will be her last with the company.”
In 1997, Ciardelli, a Burlington native with international theater and film credits, founded Northern Stage with $6,000 she managed to raise in the community. Unusually, Ciardelli combined professional artistic training with a native business acumen.
Over the ensuing years, Ciardelli created more than 100 Equity professional productions at Northern Stage, half of which she directed. Three of her productions won the New England Theatre Conference’s Moss Hard Award for Excellence.
At the same time, Ciardelli built the company into a thriving theater with an annual budget of well more than $2 million, remaining in the black most of the time.
The reason for Ciardelli’s leaving remains unclear and she offered no reason. The company statement continues, “This change will allow Ms. Ciardelli to pursue other artistic projects,” adding, “while Northern Stage, which enjoyed its largest-ever attendance last season, focuses on future goals, including expanding the patron base, developing a more robust education program, and continuing the work on stage that has entertained and enlightened northern New England for a decade and a half.”
In September, Russell Maitland, a theater-business professional, became Northern Stage’s executive director, hired by the board. At that point, Ciardelli was scheduled to direct two productions in 2013, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Feb. 6-24) and Ciardelli’s own adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” (May 1-19). There has been no announcement as to the future of these productions.
Northern Stage is Vermont’s largest full-season professional theater company, producing seven full productions annually at the Briggs Opera House. The company also offers myriad educational opportunities for all levels and all ages at a converted downtown car dealership the theater purchased.
Ciardelli said in the joint statement, “I will greatly miss working with the extraordinary actors and designers who have come to Northern Stage again and again, attracted by the quality of the art and the tremendous support of the Upper Valley community, as well as the dedicated and talented staff members.”
According to Board Chair Stuart Johnson’s statement, “Brooke will be missed. Although her career and Northern Stage’s paths will diverge, we will work together in making the transition a smooth one. She not only brought her talent and energy to Northern Stage, but her contacts in the theater community here and abroad allowed Northern Stage to bring a wide range of talent here for the benefit of Upper Valley audiences. … We wish her the best in her future endeavors.”