Feb 9, 2005

A Good Steward Lets Go

I'd heard murmurs about this, but now it's official: Founding artistic director Bill Rauch will leave Cornerstone, the community-building theatre company he co-founded with a bunch of Harvard grads back in 1986, as of March, 2006. Rauch—who will direct the final bridge show of the company's faith-based cycle this coming summer—took a good long sabbatical last year and solidified his resumé at such venues as the Guthrie Theatre, Yale Rep, South Coast Rep, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Recently he directed his first TV show, an episode of fellow Cornerstone founder Amy Brenneman's one-hour drama Judging Amy.

Those are promising career connections, but Bill told me he's not sure what he's going to do after he leaves Cornerstone—that is, except direct another Cornerstone show, its 2006-07 collaboration with the Guthrie, which will be his first gig as a "guest artist." He doesn't rule out running another theatre company, and I am of course intrigued that the search for a replacement for OSF artistic director Libby Appel, who has announced her departure after the 2007 season, will likely begin next year. Hmm...

I'm not particularly worried about the future of Cornerstone, which, Bill told me, is "as strong as it's ever been, in many ways." But I will miss his unique voice at the helm of that company—a "voice" that encompasses more than simply his work as a director but infuses the entire company's ethos of collaboration and unabashed world-changing ambition. I know that ethos won't leave the company with Bill—and in many ways, I salute his courage in being the kind of good steward who knows when it's time to let go.

I can't report this news without a twinge of sadness—of grief, even, at the end of an era. But congratulations are also in order for Rauch, who deserves the best his art and his life, with his husband Chris and son Liam, have to offer. Far from a retirement, this resignation signals the start of a promising new chapter in the career of one of American theatre's most essential artists.

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