Stage man will return in the fall with emeritus status

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — David Hammond has ankled PlayMakers Repertory Company after 21 years, 14 as artistic director, although he will return in the fall with emeritus status and as a prof in the U. of North Carolina Dept. of Dramatic Art.

Hammond, 57, on a year’s leave from the UNC-based PlayMakers while teaching at the university for the fall semester, will take an academic sabbatical in the spring to teach Shakespeare at the American Rep Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard U. He is writing a book on Shakespeare and will work abroad in the summer on directing jobs in Italy and South America. He also teaches at the Graduate Acting Program at Tisch School of the Arts at New York U.

Hammond’s decision comes as UNC is considering how to restructure administratively around the company, a professional nonprofit enterprise within an academic setting. Thesp company’s growth and artistic advancement under Hammond presents academics with a challenge on how best to maintain the company’s achievements and fund further growth.

Direction of the discussions did not appeal to Hammond. “The parting is amicable, and I can stay to teach and direct individual productions,” he says. A national search for a producing artistic director, a new title created by PlayMakers, will begin after UNC decides about company’s future.

Five productions each academic year include creating costumes and sets. Ticket sales and contributions account for nearly half the $1.7 million budget for 2004-05. Season subscribers number near 5,000 over a broad range of price packages. Each play runs about 25 days. Attendance for a season usually exceeds 50,000.

Concurrent with Hammond’s decisions are those of Ray Dooley, veteran actor who completed a five-year term last spring as departmental chair but declined a second term. After appearing in PlayMakers’ first productions of the current season, Dooley has gone to Austria to play Father Flynn in the Vienna English Theater’s European premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning “Doubt” directed by Martin L. Platt (running Jan. 30-March 11). He returns to play the lead in Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the finale of PlayMakers’ 30th season, and then to teaching and acting at UNC in fall 2006.

PlayMakers opened its season in October with Gene Saks directing “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Michele Lowe’s “String of Pearls,” directed by Trezana Beverley, played Nov. 16-Dec. 11. Running Jan. 18-Feb. 12 is Bryony Lavery’s “Frozen,” directed by Drew Barr. David Rambo’s “God’s Man in Texas,” helmed by Anthony Powell, runs March 1-26. “Cyrano de Bergerac,” directed by Joseph Haj, is skedded for April 12-May 7.

McKay Coble is chair of the UNC Dept. of Dramatic Art, and Donna Bost Heins is executive director of PlayMakers.

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