Replaces Esbjornson soon than expected

Artistic director David Esbjornson’s planned exit from Seattle Repertory Theater will come more quickly than expected, the Rep announced late Monday. The theater’s board of directors has asked longtime casting director Jerry Manning to take over as acting artistic director, effective immediately.

Esbjornson originally announced last April that he would not renew his contract at the end of the 2008-09 season. This came as little surprise to observers of his three-year, up-and-down tenure at Seattle’s oldest resident theater.

But Monday’s announcement of Manning’s appointment caught some unaware. Seattle Rep spokeswoman Ilana Balint said as the season got under way, “It was mutually agreed that it would be best for both of us to move things along faster.”

Balint said the theater will honor Esbjornson’s contract, which expires in 2009.

The fate of Esbjornson’s proposed Arthur Miller fest, planned for fall 2009, is unknown. The director had been a colleague of late scribe Miller, and hoped to enlist other local arts groups in a citywide tribute to him. But the future of all projects beyond the 2008-09 season “is not clear yet,” Balint said.

The Rep’s board of directors hopes to have a permanent replacement for Esbjornson in time to make artistic decisions for 2009-10, but is undertaking an “organizational evaluation” before proceeding with the search.

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