In what promises to be an unusually smooth transition, Center Stage managing director Stephen Richard will retire at the end of the season, succeeded by former managing director Michael Ross.
Richard started in 2012 after a long stint as executive director of Washington's Arena Stage and won praise for his administrative skills. He's a major force behind a $32 million capital campaign that will support substantial renovations to the Calvert Street venue of Center Stage. More than $21.5 million has been raised.
"I would not have had the confidence to be doing this but for Michael's availability," Richard said in an interview. "My retirement is something my wife and I have been thinking of for a long time. I have worked six-day weeks for 35 years. My goal is to do a little consulting six days a month."
Ross, who earned high marks as Center Stage managing director from 2002 to 2008, will start on July 1. He is currently managing director of Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut.
"Everyone here says 'Your heart is still in Baltimore,' and it's true," Ross said in an interview. "I fit in Baltimore. Center Stage has always been near and dear to my heart. I'm really excited to be coming back and working with Kwame [Kwei-Armah, Center Stage artistic director]. If one can be more extraordinary, he's more extraordinary than ever now."
Richard echoed the praise for Kwei-Armah.
"Kwame was the main attraction for me coming to Center Stage," Richard said. "He's an immensely creative, explosive joy. There has not been a boring minute since I got here."
In a statement released Monday, Kwei-Armah called Richard's retirement "a sad day for me. But my sadness is coupled with the great happiness in knowing that Michael Ross will rejoin his beloved Center Stage."