Friday, July 30, 2010

Big changes at Reagle

Word has reached The Hub Review that Stacey Stephens (at left), Artistic Director of Reagle Music Theatre, has abruptly left the company. And with little attempt at explanation for his departure - although in an email making the rounds, Stephens states quite bluntly that he didn't jump, but was pushed, from his post.

Which seems startling given that his last effort (Sondheim's Into the Woods) was probably Reagle's most artistically satisfying production in some time, and was greeted with universal raves. Stephens - who got his start in costume design - has garnered other positive notices, as well as award nominations and one IRNE win, for his direction and design at the Fiddlehead, Stoneham, and Wheelock Family Theatres. He's widely perceived as a local light in musical theatre, and with Into the Woods, he seemed to be successfully nudging the former Reagle Players to a new level of theatrical ambition.

So what went wrong? As usual, no one is talking, but perhaps it's worth noting that Into the Woods didn't appeal to the Reagle core audience, and didn't deliver big houses. Elsewhere it's being whispered that Stephens wasn't a "good fit" with the Reagle board and founder Robert Eagle ("R. Eagle" = "Reagle," btw). Of course perhaps Stephens was trying to push Reagle too hard, too fast (he was only hired in the spring!) - or perhaps he wasn't, in fact, committed to Reagle's unique blend of professional and community theatre.

We'll probably never know. But right now what looked like a promising new trajectory for the company seems to have been cut short. Robert Eagle, who has guided the theatre for over 40 years, is now 75. With Stephens gone, the search may have to quickly commence for another heir apparent.