Shakespeare & Company names new board leadership

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LENOX >> Following a series of top-level executive reshuffles, Shakespeare & Company has announced two new leaders of the board of trustees ahead of a search for an executive director to replace Rick Dildine, who resigned suddenly last month.

Succeeding Sarah Hancock as board chairman is Kenneth E. Werner, a board member since 2010 after two years on the theater troupe's advisory board. Hancock, who remains a board member, stepped aside on March 11, six days after Dildine revealed he would return to his previous post as head of the Shakespeare St. Louis theater.

At the time, Hancock told The Eagle that the board "wasn't heading in the direction I was trying to take it. It's important to let someone else take over the leadership."

Werner, 58, of West Stockbridge, said in a prepared statement that he has been attending performances by the company for 25 years. He also will serve as treasurer.

In the aftermath of Dildine's surprise exit, which he explained as a preference for artistic direction rather than administrative responsibilities, a management trio was formed — interim Managing Director Steve Ball, who had been general manager, and interim co-Artistic Directors Ariel Bock and Jonathan Croy. All are longtime members of the company.

"I look forward to continuing to work with Ariel, Jonathan and Steve in their new roles as they draw on their combined experience in acting, directing, teaching, producing and theater management to keep Shakespeare & Company running smoothly," Werner stated. He is a partner at the New York City law firm of Richards, Kibbe and Orbe and attended Amherst College and Yale Law School.

"The board is committed to continuing to work on a long-range plan to ensure that the company remains a vital and integral part of the cultural economy in the Berkshires — providing excellent performance, training and education programs as it has done for nearly four decades," Werner added.

Asked about his long-range goals as board chairman, Werner said the current focus is on pursuing the company's performance, training and education missions.

In an e-mail interview, he said the recent management shakeups have not affected the theater negatively. "Everything is on track for the upcoming season and donor support is steady," he stated.

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As for seeking out a new executive director, Werner asserted that "we don't have a timeline at this point and we haven't contracted a search firm. We will probably wait to look into this until after our summer season has ended."

Ticket sales for the season beginning in May are up 58 percent so far, compared to this time last year, according to Ball. "Our patrons have great confidence in our programs," he said. Founded in 1978, the theater now lists total patronage for its 10-month season at about 60,000.

Also appointed on Monday as the board's vice chairman and clerk is Jeffrey Konowitch, a trustee for eight years who previously worked in several management positions with the theater company. He succeeds former vice chairwoman Claudia Perles, who joined Hancock in stepping aside from the No. 2 position, though she remains a board member.

"I have been involved with Shakespeare & Company practically since its inception," Konowitch said in a statement. "Now as a board member my love for the work that I have seen on the stage and with students of all ages has never wavered."

In a reference to the troupe's financial crisis in 2009, Konowitch added: "Even when times have been difficult financially we have always come though the other side and usually better than before. I have confidence in the team we have to get us to the next level."

Konowitch, 56, of Lenox, has been employed at Canyon Ranch for 26 years and is currently the senior business systems analyst. He previously served as the high end resort's IT project manager, front office manager and reservations manager. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with a degree in communications and theater.

Dildine's departure came only seven months after he began work as executive director. His arrival was followed by the termination of founding member and Artistic Director Tony Simotes.

Simotes was named last week by Artistic Director/CEO Kate Maguire to the No. 2 executive position as managing director and artistic associate at the Berkshire Theatre Group, which operates the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and two stages in Stockbridge.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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