In more than seven years since it opened to great fanfare, the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica has presented theatrical, dance and musical artists of the highest international caliber, but the most prominent tune emanating from the hall Monday was the sound of musical chairs in its executive offices.
The Broad Stage confirmed that artistic and executive director Wiley Hausam departed the company last week, after less than a year on the job.
Jane Deknatel, who has been with the Broad Stage for six years, most recently as director of development, has been appointed interim executive director. The venue’s former top boss, Dale Franzen, is coming back to oversee a new series of programming starting next season. The content of the new series remains undetermined.
“My decision to leave the Broad Stage was for personal reasons,” Hausam said by email. “While I love Santa Monica and am very stimulated by Los Angeles’ cultural community, my husband and I have decided to return to our home in New York City sometime in May.”
Hausam added that he has not joined another organization. He will take the title of senior artistic advisor to the Broad Stage.
Hausam joined the Broad Stage in October after having served as executive director at Stanford Live and the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University. He also has held leadership roles at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University and the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in upstate New York.
“It’s a personal decision of Wiley’s,” said Richard Kendall, board chairman of the Broad Stage. “The appropriate thing for us is to respect that.”
One person who works closely with the Broad Stage but who wasn’t authorized to speak to the press said problems between Hausam and the company became apparent fairly quickly.
The board of directors has maintained a hands-on approach in artistic programming, according to others who have worked with the Broad Stage but who aren’t part of the organization. Sources said it was sometimes unclear who was making artistic decisions, and communication with outside groups was sometimes inconsistent and vague.
The Broad Stage shares the building with Santa Monica College, whose students and staff also use the main 500-seat theater and a smaller space called the Edye. That can make it difficult to entice performing arts groups looking to book a venue for longer than a few days. Short engagements can make breaking even difficult.
“I kind of really never left,” said Heskel, now interim dean of education enterprise at Santa Monica College.
He said he remains involved with programming opera at the Broad Stage because of his experience in the field, having held executive roles at Los Angeles Opera.
The search for a full-time replacement for Hausam will start soon, board Chairman Kendall said. It remains unclear if the Broad Stage will seek one person to fill both the artistic and executive director roles, as Hausam had done.
Since she first left the Broad Stage, Franzen has pursued a career producing. She is working on the new musical “Hadestown,” based on the Anaïs Mitchell album, that will open later this year at New York Theatre Workshop.
Franzen said that her new program at the Broad Stage, the Founding Director’s Series, is still being planned and the idea came from Broad leaders.
In 2008, Eli Broad announced a gift of $10 million to the company for its endowment, the final installment of which was made during the fiscal year ending 2013. The company spends about $6.5 million annually on artistic programming. For the fiscal year ending in 2014, donations and grants fell by nearly 50% from the year before to slightly more than $2 million.
Eli Broad said in a statement that the board is looking to expand its membership. He said he supports Deknatel in her role as interim director, and that he is “enthusiastic about the upcoming season and believes Dale Franzen will curate an exciting Founding Director’s Series.”
Broad isn’t a member of the company’s board of directors. Dustin Hoffman serves as chairman of the Broad’s artistic advisory board, a group of 15 prominent artists that includes Plácido Domingo and conductor Kent Nagano.
Among the notable groups to perform at the Broad Stage in the past are Shakespeare’s Globe from London, Theatre for a New Audience from New York, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and L.A.'s Diavolo contemporary dance group.
The upcoming 2016-17 season will feature Anna Deavere Smith in “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education,” the Calder Quartet and the L.A. dance group Bodytraffic.