Jim Ireland, the energetic and outspoken managing director of Hartford Stage from 2002 to 2005, died at Monday at the Vitas End of Life Care Hospice in Winter Park, Fla. He was 69. Cause of death was complications from lung cancer
He lived in Orlando, Fla. with his partner of 13 years, George Bridges.
Prior to Hartford, Ireland was general manager of the Houston Grand Opera for 22 years. Before that, the West Virginia native was budget director of the National Endowment for the Arts and founder-director of the agency's opera and musical theater program.
He had a business degree from the University of Cincinnati and a master'’s degree in music from its Conservatory of Music.
After Hartford he went on to become to CEO of the Orlando (Fla.) Opera in 2006. He later was director of development for her San Antonio Opera.
“It's hard to believe that a man of such ebullient energy and enthusiasm is no longer among us,” says Michael Wilson, former artistic director of Hartford Stage. “He joined Hartford Stage at a crucial point in its history, bringing a Texas-Big-City-Can-Do spirit to the Land of Steady Habits.
"During his more than three years with the Stage, we shared productions with Shakespeare Theatre of DC, the Goodman, and the Alley Theatre, among others. He enabled me to create some very distinctive productions, including Eight by Tenn, the two-part, four-hour retrospective of Tennessee Williams in 2004. In 2003, he worked with the State of Connecticut to acquire our expanded scene and paint shop, one of the few air conditioned facilities of its kind in the county.
"He set the Board on a course towards the 2010 Act: NOW campaign, which accomplished the first physical expansion of the company's main performance space since it moved from Kinsley to Church Street in 1977. But he will likely be most remembered by the staff who worked with him, for his extraordinary ability to recognize and mentor young talent among them, helping them better realize their full potential, both for themselves and for the Stage. His was a lasting legacy."
“Jim was a colorfull individual who brought a lot to the communuity during his time in Hartford,” says Jennifer Turner Smith who was chairwoman of the board during the last year of Ireland’s tenure. “
From Michael Stotts,the current managing director: "Jim Ireland was the managing director of Hartford Stage for three and a half years, from mid 2002 through the end of 2005. During that time, he oversaw the construction of the theatre’s state-of-the-art, 25,000 sq. ft. scenery and paint shop on Murphy Road, and he was instrumental in helping to obtain a $500,000 grant from the State of Connecticut to conduct a series of planning studies in anticipation of a major renovation of the theatre.
"Jim’s dry wit and over the top Texan persona belied his genuine interest in making Hartford Stage the best theatre it could possibly be in the relatively quiet state of Connecticut. During his time here, Jim wrestled with difficult budget deficits, but got the theatre on sound footing as it prepared for a capital campaign. On behalf of the Board of Director’s and staff of Hartford Stage, I am grateful for the contributions he made to our theatre, and we send our heartfelt condolences to his partner, George Bridges, upon Jim’s untimely passing”.
"Hartford Stage is one of the jewels in the crown,'' '' Ireland told Courant writer Pat Seremet. ``And it is time for whoever [are] the powers that be to show that if we want a certain arts organization to survive, we have to make sure we do it….I believe that only passion persuades, and by goodness, that's me.”
He is survived by Bridges and a sister, Betty Scott Ireland of West Virginia.
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