Crocker to leave Wayside Theatre

Posted: June 29, 2013

The Winchester Star

middletown — Warner Crocker, artistic director of the Wayside Theatre, resigned on Friday.

Dr. Byron Brill, president of the theater’s board of directors, said Crocker had 15 “wonderful” years at the professional theater, which has struggled financially for the past two years.

“There are many initiatives Warner started, such as online ticket sales. I want to thank him for his years of service,” Brill said.

Crocker will not leave immediately. He will direct the next production, “Boeing Boeing,” scheduled for July 14-Aug.11. It is the second production of the 52nd season of the theater.

“This is my 15th season here — the average life of an artistic director is seven years, so it is time,” Crocker said. “I am grateful for the community support and wonderful artists I’ve had the chance to work with.”

While he feels it is time for a change, Crocker is uncertain about his next endeavor, but said he looks forward to moving on. “Wayside Theatre probably needs a new voice.”

His wife Thomasin Savaiano is also employed at the theater as an actress, Young Performers Workshop coordinator and administrative assistant.

The theater was on the brink of closing during the winter, when its revenue could not cover expenses.

After an appeal to the community that raised more than $100,000, the theater stayed open and proceeded with the new season. In March, Brill announced the decision to keep the theater open, after more than $80,000 had been raised.

This was the second year such an appeal had been made, but the first time that the sale of subscriptions for the new season had been delayed.

John Westervelt, president of the board during those two years, said Crocker has been a talented artistic director with an emphasis “on the best he could get from his actors,” which resulted in the best product on stage.

“His tenacity in keeping the theater moving and open has been appreciated,” Westervelt added.

A successor will not be hired immediately, Brill said. Since the season has started and the schedule decided, he said a new director would be more instrumental in planning the 53rd season.

Guest directors will probably be used for the rest of this season, he said. “We are not rushing into a decision. There are a number of things we want to work on.”

Crocker’s open contract was awarded on a year-to-year basis, Brill said, but he would not reveal the director’s salary.

But he added that the theater’s financial problems did not prompt the resignation. “It was wonderful to have him here 15 years.”

Raising money for arts organizations is always difficult, especially during a downturn of the economy, Brill said.

— Contact F.C. Lowe atflowe@winchesterstar.com