Cites 'artistic and professional differences'

Tazewell Thompson has ankled as a.d. of the Westport Country Playhouse due to “artistic and professional differences” with the board of the Connecticut not-for-profit theater.

Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe, who helped transform the summer theater from a state of near-demolition in the late 1990s to a modern year-round facility, were named interim co-artistic directors.

The board bought out the third year of Thompson’s three-year contract. The split arose from differences over the future direction of the theater, according to board president Elisabeth Morten, who declined to elaborate.

The first show of the theater’s 2008 season, “Vigil” (also known as “Auntie and Me”), will go on as scheduled next month, helmed by Stephen DiMenna. Daryl Roth and Angelo Fabroni are commercial partners for the production.

But the rest of Thompson’s announced season is expected to be revamped. Included in the Thompson lineup was “Sweet Bird of Youth,” with Phylicia Rashad to be helmed by Thompson.

During his two years at the theater, Thompson attracted shows with commercial attachments that looked to Westport as a tryout town, including “Thurgood,” starring James Earl Jones, and a new version of the Kander and Ebb musical “All About Us.” He also oversaw the switch to year-round programming, including spring and fall shows and a holiday “Christmas Carol.”

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