Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Performing Arts Center was expected to name its new executive director this week, but unexpectedly prolonged contract talks have stalled the long-promised announcement.

No date has been set for the full Center board to formally act on the appointment, according to William Lund, board president, who added that it was "now a case of a sit-and-wait" period for Center officials that might take even more weeks. Lund also said that should contract talks with the panel-recommended candidate remain prolonged, then the panel might consider "reopening" talks with other candidates.

The post is being vacated by Len Bedsow, 67, a one-time Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Assn. general manager, who is retiring after four years as the Orange County Center's first executive director. Now under construction in Costa Mesa, the Center's 3,000-seat main theater is to open in 1986 with a season that is to include the Los Angeles Philharmonic and--if current negotiations are successful--the New York City Opera Co. and the American Ballet Theatre.

Since Jan. 16, when the panel announced that it had made its choice, Lund has refused to identify the panel-recommended candidate, except to say that he is a "presently employed" arts center executive and one of the 14 administrators contacted by recruiters since the search was launched last September.

Center officials have maintained silence about job candidates, but sources close to the search said those initially approached have included Lawrence Wilker, president of the Playhouse Square Foundation complex in Cleveland; Wayne Shilkret, performing arts director at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, and Thomas Kendrick, director of operations at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

Both Kendrick and Shilkret have confirmed that they had meetings last fall with Center officials in Costa Mesa, but both have said they did not become candidates. Wilker, who said he paid a visit to the Orange County project in December, has declined to comment on the status of his Orange County candidacy. Wilker, a one-time Shubert Organization executive, is chief administrator of a renovated three-theater complex in downtown Cleveland that is considered a national model for urban-core revitalization.

Marlow Burt, executive director of the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville, has confirmed that he was approached last fall by recruiters but said that he did not become a candidate. Sidney McQueen, managing director of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, has said he withdrew from Orange County contention to accept the top administrative job for a two-theater complex to be built in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

On Monday, Lund declined to discuss details of why contract talks have remained stalled, but noted, "There's nothing signed with him (the panel-recommended candidate); there's nothing yet accepted. We've made our move (job proposal), now the ball's in his court. We thought we would have his (final) answer this week, but we haven't heard from him. We have to presume he's still talking with his people (board of directors)."

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