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SOUNDING OFF:Leaving, but not going too far

  • : The following is excerpted from a letter sent to associates and media by Richard Stein, who recently left after 17 years as executive director of the Laguna Playhouse.I’d like to thank you for the friendship and support you showed me during my 17 years at the helm of the Laguna Playhouse, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about what I’m doing.

    It has been a long and successful tenure, but after 30 years of running theater companies (with a couple of brief detours to other arts institutions), I look forward to finally shedding that enormous responsibility.

    If you’ve ever owned a business or run a nonprofit organization, you certainly understand the grueling round-the-clock effort involved in doing so, and my longevity with the Playhouse is the exception, rather than the rule, among theater executives nationwide.

    I’ve also been a little envious of my wife, Alison, who left the 9-to-5 world two years ago to work as a freelance artist, and I had been considering just such a possibility ever since. The end of the season seemed as fortuitous a time as any for taking the next step.


    I am now focusing on a select number of artistic endeavors of interest to me.

    Among these are freelance directing projects, the first of which brings me back to the Laguna Playhouse to direct the World Premiere of Bob Clyman’s “Tranced,” opening in January. It’s a fascinating piece, and other theaters are already lining up to produce it after its debut. Bob’s a writer of great intelligence and wit, and the Playhouse produced his play, “The Secret Order,” to great acclaim a few seasons ago.

    Some of my greatest satisfaction at the Playhouse has come from collaborating with playwrights and championing their new works. More effort is needed to encourage writers to continue creating works for the live stage, as so many are being lost to television and film. I intend to continue playing a role in making that happen.

    One of the things that struck me when I directed Shmuel Hasfari’s “The Master of the House” in April was that Israeli drama is virtually unknown in America and absent from our stages.


    Much of the prolific and vibrant drama being produced in Israel deserves to be seen here, and discussions I’ve had with key members of the Israeli theater community and government officials have led me to embark on a project aimed at helping to do just that.

    For a few years now, too, my brother Bob, who is a consultant to many public broadcasting stations around the country, has been goading me into accepting some projects.

    I’m a big fan of public radio, so I’ve promised to lend him a hand when I’m able.

    When I was asked to write a blog on the Playhouse website almost a year ago, I wondered if anyone would read it, care about the things I might say, or if I even had anything worth saying "” but I promised to give it a shot. To my surprise, I enjoyed writing it and discovered, to my amazement, that hundreds of people were reading it. So, I’ve resolved to continue writing my blog, and you can now log onto my ramblings at

    I’ve also “threatened” to lead a theater tour to London or New York in the not-too-distant future. I conducted a couple of London tours in the mid-'90s, and have been badgered ever since by some of those participants and others to do it again. We saw some terrific theater, enjoyed some outstanding food, and had a wonderful time. So, if you’re interested, I hope you’ll let me know.

    As you can see, I’m going to be awfully busy"”even if I’m no longer tethered to the non-stop life of leading the Laguna Playhouse.

    Before I close, I want to say a few words about the Laguna Playhouse. This is truly a great institution. It was an admired amateur theater for 70 years before my arrival and I expect it to thrive as a beloved professional theater for at least another 70 years.

    The vision that Andy Barnicle and I had for the Playhouse has taken it to a place we could hardly have imagined possible in our early years, but that’s because a dedicated staff, a loyal audience, generous donors and dozens of committed Board members over the years have contributed so much to our efforts along the way.


    I believe it will continue to grow and evolve, and I want to encourage you to continue supporting the Laguna Playhouse"”as will Alison and I.

  • RICHARD STEIN lives in San Juan Capistrano.

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