PICT fires 17-year artistic director Paul

Andrew Paul, Richard Rauh, and Eugene O'Sullivan at the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's Midnight in Paris Gala at the LeMont on Thursday evening, November 9, 2012.
Andrew Paul, Richard Rauh, and Eugene O'Sullivan at the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's Midnight in Paris Gala at the LeMont on Thursday evening, November 9, 2012.
Photo by Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 5:48 p.m.

After 17 years as producing artistic director for Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, Andrew S. Paul has been fired.

“We made the decision that we need to have a full-time artistic director here in Pittsburgh,” said Eugene O'Sullivan, Pittsburgh Irish & Classical's board chairman. “Andrew doesn't give enough attention to running an arts organization.”

“That's preposterous,” Paul said. “Basically they are saying they don't believe I can do the job effectively.”

Over the past two years, Paul, who founded the company with Stephanie Riso in 1997, has split his time between Pittsburgh and Las Vegas after his wife, Maria, relocated there for a new job.

“I'm here 50 percent of the time, and I'm not on vacation when I'm in Las Vegas,” said Paul, who believes the relocation has not affected his ability to plan seasons, cast and direct shows, raise money and arrange educational and outreach programs.

Paul believes his visions for the company were not in line with those of some board members.

Since founding the company, Paul has prided himself on producing shows that are as artistically rewarding as they are financially risky. Over the years, he has done occasional festivals that focus on playwrights such as Samuel Beckett or Harold Pinter that received critical acclaim, though not necessarily large audiences.

“I've had an incredibly long, troubled history with boards because I'm a very arts-first person and blunt. … My vision is a very high-risk vision, and boards can't wrap their minds around it. The problem is that theater companies are built off of passion,” Paul said. “I think the company is doing some of the best work it has ever done.”

Though the company had, in earlier years, struggled with financial shortfalls, Paul said the company has operated in the black for the past four seasons. Moreover, he said: “Contributed revenue is at a record high and I'm the primary fundraiser.”

The board has named Alan Stanford as interim producing artistic director.

O'Sullivan expects Stanford also will take over three of the four shows that Paul had been scheduled to direct this season. There are six plays in the group's season.

That's a move that's particularly painful for Paul, who lured the Irish actor and director here to work with the company in 2008.

Since then, Stanford has directed Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre productions that include his own adaptations of “Jane Eyre” and Oscar Wilde's play “Salome,” as well as Sarah Ruhl's “In the Next Room or the vibrator play,” and he has appeared in roles such as Lady Bracknell in “The Importance of Being Earnest” and in last season's “The Pitmen Players.”

Paul considered him a friend and said he helped Stanford obtain his green card so he could work in the United States.

“This is a mess,” says Richard E. Rauh, a Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre board member. “It's coming at a bad time, because it's the opening of the season and (Paul) is supposed to direct three-fifths of the season.”

Paul says he had no warning until O'Sullivan called him on Tuesday and fired him with three months' pay as compensation.

Only two weeks ago, he had been in New York City auditioning actors for the season's first production, “Our Class,” which he was scheduled to direct for the season's opening on April 10.

With rehearsals set to begin March 15, Paul said he offered to continue as director for “Our Class,” but O'Sullivan told him no.

“What's the point of doing a project if the person who is passionate about it is not doing it. You don't fire somebody who has programmed it and cast it. It doesn't work that way. It's destructive,” Paul said.

O'Sullivan said a new director has not yet been hired for “Our Class.”

“The season will go on,” O'Sullivan promised.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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