Ross, who helmed Channel 4’s movie production arm Film 4 before joining the National, leaves the position without opening a single show from the season that she and new artistic director Rufus Norris announced in January, though she will continue in a consultancy role for the time being.
The National had not had a chief executive before Ross, and her departure will restore its management to the usual level peggings of an artistic and an executive director, with Lisa Burger working alongside Norris.
Ross had been in the building for a year, spending her first six months in a designate role before starting officially in November. Explaining her decision to step down, she said, “It has become clear to me that the new leadership structure, with a separate role of chief executive, is not right for the NT at this time.”
Reports in the Daily Mail claimed that Ross sought clarification from the National Theatre board as to whether she or Norris was ultimately in charge, with the board backing Norris.
Ross’ appointment was widely seen as a clue to the National Theatre’s future, with an increased emphasis on its broadcasting arm, NT Live. She was a head of drama at Channel 4 before taking over Film 4, where the films she developed included “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Twelve Years a Slave.”
Norris paid tribute to Ross: “Tessa’s role in the planning of my first year and beyond at the NT has been invaluable and immense. I’m sad that our partnership is ending prematurely but am grateful for everything she has done here, and happy that we’ll work together on a consultancy basis.”
John Makinson, chairman of the National Theatre, expressed his regret over the decision, describing Ross as “an outstanding producer and executive (who) has already made a significant contribution to the National.”
He added: “The NT has a strong team in place under the capable and skilful leadership of Rufus and Lisa. The National is in very good hands.”
Norris’ first season in charge at the National opens next week, with a rare revival of Caryl Churchill’s “Light Shining in Buckinghamshire,” followed by his own production of “Everyman,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, a week later.